German Cases & Adjectives


  1. Exercise: German Nominative Case
  2. Exercise: German Accusative Case
  3. Exercise: German Dative Case

Below you will find tables and explanations regarding the use of the four German cases (Nominative, Accusative, Genitive & Dative). In order to be able to use these tables correctly, it is important for you to know the gender of the German nouns you learn (German nouns can be feminine, masculine or neuter). Knowing the gender means that you know which article to use in the table. Articles change depending on which of the four the cases is being used.

German adjectives are learned in their simple form (alt, jung, laut, klein), but become influenced by various factors when used in a sentence. These factors include the gender of the noun they are describing, and the case that is applied to them (depending on the context of the sentence). These changes involve adding certain endings to the adjectives, which are marked in the tables below in bold.

Nominative Case

Definite Article:

The nominative case in German is used for the subject of the sentence. The subject of the sentence is the person or thing doing something. For example:

Der Hund isst das Brot. – [The dog eats the bread]

Der alte Hund isst das Brot. – [The old dog eats the bread]

Who is doing the action in this sentence? The dog. This makes “Der Hund” the subject of the sentence, meaning that the article belonging to “Hund” (der because it is a masculine noun) and any adjectives describing “Hund” (alt) must comply with the rules for the nominative case. These rules can be seen in the table below:

der alte Hunddie kleine Katzedas große Hausdie bunten Blumen

Indefinite Article:

The same rules apply if the subject of the sentence has an indefinite article (ein / eine / ein): For example:

Eine Katze trinkt die Milch. – [A cat drinks the milk].

Eine kleine Katze trinkt die Milch. – [A small cat drinks the milk].

The cat is doing the action (it is drinking the milk), so the article belonging to “Katze” (eine because it is a feminine noun) and any adjectives describing “Katze” (klein) will follow the rules of the nominative case:

ein alter Hundeine kleine Katzeein großes Hauskeine bunten Blumen

No Article:

If the subject of the sentence has no article, the following changes happen to the adjective:

Frisches Brot schmeckt gut. – [Fresh bread tastes good].

The adjectives will take on the endings of the missing articles, as you can see in the following table:

heißer Kaffeekalte Milchfrisches Brotwarme Brötchen

**Note: The verb “sein” acts like an equals sign (=) in a sentence, which means that anything on the other side of “sein” is still in the same case as the subject:

Der Hund ist ein alter Freund von mir. – [The dog is an old friend of mine].

Both “Der Hund” and “ein alter Freund” are the subjects of the sentence because the dog is both; it is a dog and it is an old friend of mine. Therefore both nouns, their articles, and their adjectives must follow the rules of the nominative case.

Accusative Case

den alten Hunddie kleine Katzedas große Hausdie bunten Blumen
einen alten Hundeine kleine Katzeein großes Hauskeine bunten Blumen
heißen Kafeekalte Milchfrisches Brotwarme Brötchen

Genitive Case

des alten Hundes*der kleinen Katzedes großen Hauses*der bunten Schuhe
eines alten Hundes*einer kleinen Katzeeines großen Hauses*keiner bunten Schuhe
heißen Kaffees*kalter Milchfrischen Brotes*warmer Brötchen

Dative Case

dem alten Hundder kleinen Katzedem großen Hausden bunten Schuhen*
einem alten Hundeiner kleinen Klatzeeinem großen Hauskeinen bunten Schuhen*
heißem Kafeekalter Milchfrischem Brotwarmen Brötchen