This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "German declension" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (October 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

German declension is the paradigm that German uses to define all the ways articles, adjectives and sometimes nouns can change their form to reflect their role in the sentence: subject, object, etc. Declension allows speakers to mark a difference between subjects, direct objects, indirect objects and possessives by changing the form of the word—and/or its associated article—instead of indicating this meaning through word order or prepositions (e.g. English, Spanish, French). As a result, German can take a much more fluid approach to word order without the meaning being obscured. In English, a simple sentence must be written in strict word order (ex. A man eats an apple). This sentence cannot be expressed in any other word order than how it is written here without changing the meaning. A translation of the same sentence from German to English would appear rather different (ex. "Ein Mann isst einen Apfel" (a man)-subject eats (an apple)-direct object) and can be expressed with a variety of word order (ex. "Einen Apfel isst ein Mann (an apple)-direct object is eaten by (a man)-subject) with little or no change in meaning.

As a fusional language, German marks nouns, pronouns, articles, and adjectives to distinguish case, number, and gender. For example, all German adjectives have several different forms. The adjective neu (new), for example, can be written in five different ways (neue, neuer, neues, neuen, neuem) depending on the gender of the noun that it modifies, whether the noun is singular or plural, and the role of the noun in the sentence. English lacks such declinations (except for rare and exceptional ones, such as blond/blonde) so that adjectives take only one form,[1] or in the case of pronouns, such as I, me, my, mine, she, her, etc., which show the remnants of nominative, accusative, and genitive case markings.

Modern High German distinguishes between four cases—nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative—and three grammatical genders—feminine, masculine, and neuter. Nouns may also be either singular or plural; in the plural, one declension is used regardless of gender―meaning that plural can be treated as a fourth "gender" for the purposes of declining articles and adjectives. However, the nouns themselves retain several ways of forming plurals which often, but not always, correspond with the word's gender and structure in the singular. For example, many feminine nouns which, in the singular, end in e, like die Reise ("the journey"), form the plural by adding -n: die Reisen ("the journeys"). Many neuter or masculine nouns ending in a consonant, like das Blatt or der Baum ("the leaf" and "the tree") form plurals by a change of vowel and appending -er or -e: die Blätter and die Bäume ("the leaves", "the trees"). Historically, these and several further plural inflections recall the noun declension classes of Proto-Germanic, but in much reduced form.


Definite article

The definite articles (der, etc.) correspond to the English "the".

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative der die das die
Accusative den die das die
Dative dem der dem den
Genitive des der des der

Indefinite article

The indefinite articles (ein, etc.) correspond to English "a", "an". Note: ein is also a numeral which corresponds to English "one" (i.e. 1).

Ein has no plural; as in English, the plural indefinite article is null, as in "There are cows in the field." ("Es gibt Kühe auf dem Felde."). Instead, the declension of the pronoun kein (no, not any, not one) is given, which follows the plural paradigm.

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural*
Nominative ein eine ein keine
Accusative einen eine ein keine
Dative einem einer einem keinen
Genitive eines einer eines keiner

Adjectival pronouns

Certain adjectival pronouns also decline like der: all-, dies-, jed-, jen-, manch-, solch-, welch-. These are called der-words (Der-Wort).

The general declension pattern is as shown in the following table:

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative -er -e -es -e
Accusative -en -e -es -e
Dative -em -er -em -en
Genitive -es -er -es -er


Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative dieser diese dieses diese
Accusative diesen diese dieses diese
Dative diesem dieser diesem diesen
Genitive dieses dieser dieses dieser
Case jeder (singular) alle (plural)
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative jeder jede jedes alle
Accusative jeden jede jedes alle
Dative jedem jeder jedem allen
Genitive jedes jeder jedes aller

Adjectival possessive pronouns (or possessive determiners) and kein decline similarly to the article ein. The general declension pattern is as shown in the following table:

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative -e -e
Accusative -en -e -e
Dative -em -er -em -en
Genitive -es -er -es -er


Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative kein keine kein keine
Accusative keinen keine kein keine
Dative keinem keiner keinem keinen
Genitive keines keiner keines keiner
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative dein deine dein deine
Accusative deinen deine dein deine
Dative deinem deiner deinem deinen
Genitive deines deiner deines deiner
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative ihr ihre ihr ihre
Accusative ihren ihre ihr ihre
Dative ihrem ihrer ihrem ihren
Genitive ihres ihrer ihres ihrer
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative euer eure euer eure
Accusative euren eure euer eure
Dative eurem eurer eurem euren
Genitive eures eurer eures eurer

Euer is slightly irregular: when it has an ending, its stem may be reduced to eur-, e.g. dative masculine eurem (also euerem).


See also: German nouns § Declension for case

This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: "weak nouns" & "strong [...] nouns" -- that has to be explained (maybe by a link to somewhere, where it is explained). Please help improve this article if you can. (April 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Only the following nouns are declined according to case:

There is a dative singular marking -e associated with strong masculine or neuter nouns, e.g. der Tod and das Bad, but this is rarely regarded as a required ending in contemporary usage, with the exception of fossilized phrases, such as zum Tode verurteilt ("sentenced to death"), or titles of creative works, e.g. Venus im Bade ("Venus in the Bath"): In these cases, the omission of the ending would be unusual. It also retains a certain level of productivity in poetry and music where it may be used to help with meter and rhyme, as well as in extremely elevated prose (such as might be found on memorial plaques).


Personal pronouns

The genitive case for personal pronouns is currently considered archaic[2] and is used only in certain archaic expressions like "ich bedarf seiner" (I need him). This is not to be confused with possessive adjectives.

Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive
ich – I mich – me mir – to/for me meiner – of me
du – you (familiar singular) dich – you dir – to/for you deiner – of you
er – he ihn – him ihm – to/for him seiner – of him
sie – she sie – her ihr – to/for her ihrer – of her
es – it es – it ihm – to/for it seiner – of it
wir – we uns – us uns – to/for us unser – of us
ihr – you (familiar plural) euch – you euch – to/for you euer – of you
Sie – you (formal singular and plural) Sie – you Ihnen – to/for you Ihrer – of you
sie – they sie – them ihnen – to/for them ihrer – of them

Note that unlike in English, "er" and "sie" can refer to any masculine or feminine noun, not just persons, while "es" can refer to a person described by a neuter noun: "das Kind, es..."; "das Mädchen, es..."

Interrogative pronouns

Main article: Interrogative word

Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive
Personal ("who/whom") wer wen wem wessen
Impersonal ("what") was was
  1. Generally, prepositions that need to be followed by either case merge with "was" to form new words such as "wovon" ("whereof"), "woher" ("whence", "from where") or "weswegen" ("for what reason").

Relative pronouns

Main article: Relative pronoun

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative der die das die
Accusative den die das die
Dative dem der dem denen
Genitive dessen deren dessen deren
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative welcher welche welches welche
Accusative welchen welche welches welche
Dative welchem welcher welchem welchen
Genitive welches welcher welches welcher

Possessive pronouns

Main article: Possessive pronoun

Possessive pronouns are treated as articles in German and decline the same way as kein; see Indefinite article above.

Demonstrative pronouns

Main article: Demonstrative pronoun

These may be used in place of personal pronouns to provide emphasis, as in the sentence "Den sehe ich" ("I see that"). Also note the word ordering: den corresponds to "that", and ich corresponds to "I". Placing the object at the beginning of the sentence places emphasis on it. English, as a generally non-declined language, does not normally show similar behavior, although it is sometimes possible to place the object at the front of a sentence for similar emphasis, as in: "Him I see, but I don't see John".[3]

The table is the same as for relative pronouns.

Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used when a subject and object are the same, as in Ich wasche mich "I wash myself".

Nominative (Subject) Accusative (Direct Object) Dative (Indirect Object)
ich – I mich – myself mir – to/for myself
du – you dich – yourself dir – to/for yourself
er/sie/es/man – he/she/it/one sich – himself/herself/itself/oneself sich – to/for himself/herself/itself/oneself
wir – we uns – ourselves uns – to/for ourselves
ihr – you (pl.) euch – yourselves euch – to/for yourselves
Sie – you (formal) sich – yourself/yourselves sich – to/for yourself/yourselves
sie – they sich – themselves sich – to/for themselves

Indefinite pronouns

The pronoun man refers to a generic person, and is usually translated as one (or generic you). It is equivalent to the French pronoun on.

Nominative Accusative Dative Genitive
man – one/you/they einen[citation needed] – one/you/them einem – to/for one/you/them sein – one's/your/their


Predicate adjectives

Predicate adjectives (e.g. kalt in mir ist kalt "I am cold") are undeclined.[4]

Attributive adjectives

Strong inflection

Strong adjective declension is used when:[5][6]

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative -er -e -es -e
Accusative -en -e -es -e
Dative -em -er -em -en
Genitive -en -er -en -er

Here is an example.

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative schwieriger Fall rote Tinte schönes Haus alkoholfreie Getränke
Accusative schwierigen Fall rote Tinte schönes Haus alkoholfreie Getränke
Dative schwierigem Fall(e) roter Tinte schönem Haus(e) alkoholfreien Getränken
Genitive schwierigen Fall(e)s roter Tinte schönen Hauses alkoholfreier Getränke

Note that the ending for genitive masculine and neuter is -en. This is a source of confusion for learners, who typically assume it is -es, and also native speakers, who interpret the pronouns called der-words (Der-Wort), for example jed-, as adjectives with no article, to be declined strongly.

Weak inflection

Weak adjective declension is used when the article itself clearly indicates case, gender, and number.[5][6][7]

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative -e -e -e -en
Accusative -en -e -e -en
Dative -en -en -en -en
Genitive -en -en -en -en
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nom. welcher schwierige Fall solche rote Tinte dieses schöne Haus alle alkoholfreien Getränke
Acc. welchen schwierigen Fall solche rote Tinte dieses schöne Haus alle alkoholfreien Getränke
Dat. welchem schwierigen Fall(e) solcher roten Tinte diesem schönen Haus(e) allen alkoholfreien Getränken
Gen. welches schwierigen Fall(e)s solcher roten Tinte dieses schönen Hauses aller alkoholfreien Getränke

Mixed inflection


Mixed adjective declension is used when there is a preceding indefinite article (e.g. ein-, kein-), or possessive determiner (mein-, dein-, ihr-, etc.). It is like the weak inflection, but in forms where the weak inflection has the ending -e, the mixed inflection replaces these with the forms of the strong inflection (shown in light blue).

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative -er -e -es -en
Accusative -en -e -es -en
Dative -en -en -en -en
Genitive -en -en -en -en
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative mein schwieriger Fall seine rote Tinte euer schönes Haus keine alkoholfreien Getränke
Accusative meinen schwierigen Fall seine rote Tinte euer schönes Haus keine alkoholfreien Getränke
Dative meinem schwierigen Fall(e) seiner roten Tinte eurem schönen Haus(e) keinen alkoholfreien Getränken
Genitive meines schwierigen Fall(e)s seiner roten Tinte eures schönen Hauses keiner alkoholfreien Getränke

Undeclined geographic attributive words

Many German locality names have an attributive word associated with them which ends in -er, for example Berliner for Berlin and Hamburger for Hamburg, which are not marked for case but always end in -er. Die Berliner Mauer (‘the Berlin Wall’) and das Brandenburger Tor (‘the Brandenburg Gate’) are prominent examples of this. Note the -er ending despite the neuter gender of the word Tor. If the place name ends in -en, like Göttingen, the -er usually replaces the terminal -en.

See also


  1. ^ Blond vs. blonde Archived 2017-07-06 at the Wayback Machine,
  2. ^ Rankin J. & Wells L. D., Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, p. 209
  3. ^ Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, p. 213
  4. ^ Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, p. 169
  5. ^ a b c "Canoo guide to adjective inflection". Archived from the original on 2017-05-30.
  6. ^ a b Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik, Third Edition, p. 170
  7. ^ a b Zorach, Cecile; Melin, Charlotte (1994). Morton, Jacqueline (ed.). English Grammar for Students of German (3d ed.). Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Olivia and Hill Press. pp. 125. ISBN 0934034230.