Did you start studying German? Now you probably face everybody’s darling “Nominative”. Often, German cases unsettle students as they do not fully understand their meaning. After reading this article, you will be a pro in terms of “Nominative” and ready for our upcoming adventure called “Accusative”.
German sentences are built up by four cases. Depending on your first language or the ones which you have already studied, it will be easier or harder for you to understand the concept of German grammar. However, you should be aware of the fact that you cannot (!) run away from studying the four cases (4 Fälle) if you wish to accomplish a level anywhere higher than A1. Also, you should know that once you have understood their concept, you have already won half the battle.
What is Nominative?
Nominative is the first case in the German cases system. It describes the subject of the sentence. The subject of a sentence always and in any language describes the person or thing that is doing something.
For instance: Der Mann ist nett. – The man is nice.
As you can see, the man is the person who is doing something – he is nice. Now, you can always ask for the subject in your sentence by merely using the question word “wer” (who). In classical German, it can also be asked “was” (what) to ask for a subject that is not something alife. Now, during my time teaching German, I realized that this is very confusing because other cases also use “was”. This is why I would suggest you to only use “wer” in the beginning, until you are more confident and therefore will not get lost within the cases.
For our example above the question would be: Wer ist nett?
And the answer would be: der Mann
As you have already learned, the German language offers its speakers three Genders: male, female and neuter which all can be the subject (Nominative) of your sentence.
Genders in Nominative
|Defined article||Undefined article|
|Male||der (the)||ein (a)||Der / ein Mann tanzt Tango.|
|Female||die (the)||eine (a)||Die / eine Frau isst Pizza.|
|Neuter||das (the)||ein (a)||Das / ein Kind spielt Fußball.|
|Plural||die (the)||/||Die / – Autos sind schön.|
But as like as in English, there are also plenty of sentences in German, where the subject is not necessarily “the” something but “I”, “he” or “we” as to mention some of them. These little words are called “Personalpronomen”.
Personal pronouns in Nominative
|ich||I||Ich trinke Wasser.|
|du||you||Du lernst Deutsch|
|er||he||Er spricht Spanisch.|
|sie||she||Sie liebt Paul.|
|es||it||Es ist teuer.|
|wir||we||Wir leben in Berlin.|
|ihr||you||Ihr singt Lieder.|
|sie||they||Sie machen Essen.|
|Sie||you (formal)||Sie finden Geld.|
The last possibility to name a subject is the help of “Possesivpronomen” (possessive pronouns). As their name already reveals, they show the relation or respectively the possession of a noun.
Possessive pronouns in Nominative
|mein||meine||My||Meine Tasche ist schön.|
|dein||deine||Your||Dein Vater liebt die Oper.|
|sein||seine||His||Seine Schwester macht Hausaufgaben.|
|ihr||ihre||Her||Ihr Hund heißt Bello.|
|sein||seine||Its||Sein Fahrrad ist grün.|
|unser||unsere||Our||Unsere Kinder sind klein.|
|euer||euere / eure||Your||Eure Eltern arbeiten viel.|
|ihr||ihre||Their||Ihre Autos parken hier.|
|ihr (formal)||ihre||your||Ihre Familie wohnt in Rom.|
Summary of Nominative
- It is always the subject of your sentence, and this can be:
|Male||Robert ist net.||Der Junge ist nett.||Er ist nett.||Mein Junge ist nett.|
|Female||Sabine kocht gern.||Die Frau kocht gern.||Sie kocht gern.||Meine Frau kocht gern.|
|Neuter||Jan spielt mit Autos.||Das Kind spielt mit Autos.||Es spielt mit Autos.||Mein Kind spielt mit Autos|
|Plural||Marie und Paul lernen Deutsch.||Die Schüler lernen Deutsch.||Sie lernen Deutsch.||Meine Schüler lernen Deutsch.|
Now, that you understood Nominativ, you can form simple sentences. If you want to prepare a bit for the next round, you can practice the right choice of Gender here: “When to use “der, die or das” in German” as this will be crucially important when we will discover the secrets of “Accusative” soon.
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