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A noun could play one of several parts in a sentence, each represented by the word you chose for the or a: Row 1 (Nominative case) Row 2 (Accusative case) Row 3 (Dative case) In German the spelling of the word for a and the (and similar initial words) changes depending on what part the noun plays in the sentence (what case it is).
The from the top row is used to indicate the subject in the sentence. This is the doer of the sentence. That is, the person or thing doing the action described by the verb. To find what snaps with the verb always ask yourself: Who or what before the verb in English? e.g. Who or what is skiing? Der Mann fährt ski. = der Mann
Die Sonne scheint. Der Vogel singt. Der Bus fährt zur Schule. Who/what is shining? Who/what is singing? Who/what is going to school? = die Sonne = der Vogel = der Bus
Row 1 Nominative is also used BOTH before & after these verbs: sein werden heißen to be to become to be called
The from the second row is used to indicate direct object of the verb. This is often the receiver of the action or thought described by the verb. Der Junge wirft den Ball. To check always ask yourself: Whom or what after the verb in English? e.g. Throws whom/what? = den Ball
Der Mann trägt eine Tasche. Carries whom/what? = die Tasche Der Junge spielt Fußball. Plays whom/what? = Fußball Er hat einen Hund. Has whom/what? = einen Hund
The accusative second row is also required after these prepositions: f u d g e b o w = für = um = durch = gegen = entlang = bis = ohne = wider (for) (at/about) (through) (against) (along) (until) (without) (against)
The from the third row is used to to express the idea of to or for someone or something. This is usually the person or thing to whom something is offered, given, etc. Der Junge gibt dem Mann ein Geschenk. The boy gives a present to the man. The boy gives the man a present. or The English equivalent is to… but this idea is often hidden (but understood) in English.
The third row is also required after these prepositions: a b g m n s v z = aus = bei = gegenüber = mit = nach = seit = von = zu (from, out of) (at) (opposite) (with) (to, after) (since) (from, of) (to)
Gender mfnpl Nom case derdiedasdie Acc case dendiedasdie Dat case demderdemden ein eine ein eineneineein einemeinereinem