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German declension (N-declension)

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What kind of declension does exist in German?

In German there exists 4 cases of declension:

  1. Nominative
  2. Genitive
  3. Dative
  4. Accusative
 FunctionQuestionWhat kind of verbs do use the case?What kind of prepositions do use this case?
Nominative
  • Subject of the sentence
  • Attribute of the subject
  • Wer oder was? - Who or what?
  • sein
  • werden
  • bleiben
  • aussehen
 
Genitive
  • specificatiom
  • complement
  • Wessen? - whose / of what? 
  • anklagen
  • bedürfen
  • gedenken
  • sich einer Sache bewusst sein
  • aufgrund
  • während
  • wegen
  • trotz
  • außerhalb
  • innerhalb
  • infolge
Dative
  • Indirect obejct
  • Wem? - Whom?
  • danken
  • begegnen
  • glauben
  • gratulieren
  • helfen
  • folgen
  • aus
  • bei
  • mit
  • nach
  • seit
  • von
  • zu
Accusative
  • Direct object
  • Wen oder was? - Who oder what?
  • haben
  • fragen
  • sagen
  • anrufen
  • suchen
  • brauchen
  • für
  • gegen
  • durch
  • ohne
  • um

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Summary table of the declension in the four cases

Here you can find a summary of the declension of the four cases in German according to the number and gender with the definite and indefinite article.

 MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativeder/ ein Hunddie/ eine Katzedas/ ein Pferddie Mäuse
Genitivedes/ eines Hundesder/ einer Katzedes/ eines Pferdesder Mäuse
Dativedem/ einem Hundder/ einer Katzedem/ einem Pferdden Mäusen
Accusativeden/ einen Hunddie/ eine Katzedas/ ein Pferd

die Mäuse

Translation:

  • der Hund - dog
  • die Katze - cat
  • das Pferd - horse
  • die Mäuse - mice

enlightenedRemember: there is no indefinite article in the German plural.

N-declension

Nouns that take an -n/-en as an ending in every case (except in nominative plural) are declined according to the N-declension.  

Nouns that follow the N-declension are weak and mixed masculine nouns.

Weak masculine nouns

This table shows all the endings that help you to identify the weak masculine nouns that follow the N-declension. They take the suffix -n/-en in all cases (except the singular nominative) and never take the -s in genitive singular

Ending NounsExample
-e

Some animals:

  • der Löwe - lion 
  • der Hase - rabbit

Male person:

  • der Zeuge - witness
  • der Junge - boy
  • der Kollege - colleague
  • der Neffe - nephew
  • der Kunde - client

Nationalities:

  • der Grieche - Greek
  • der Franzose - French
  • Im Zoo sehe ich einen Löwen. -In the zoo I see a lion.
  • Sie haben dem Kunden ein kaputtes Zeug verkauft. - You have sold the customer a broken stuff. 
  • Der Führerschein des Jungen ist abgelaufen. - The driver's license has expired.
  • Ich gehe mit meinem Kollegen aus. - I am going out with my colleague.
  • Das Auto des Franzosen gefällt mir sehr. - I like the car of the French.
-andder Doktorand - postgraduateDas Thesis des Doktoranden ist sehr lang. - The PhD's thesis is very long.
-ant

der Praktikant - intern

der Elefant - elephant

Der Chef erklärt dem Praktikanten seinen Job. - The boss explains his job to the trainee. 
-at

der Automat - automatic

der Soldat - soldier

Ich gehe zum Automaten, um die Fahrkarte zu bezahlen. - I go to the automatic to pay for the ticket.
-adder Kamerad - mateDie Mutter meines Kameraden kommt aus Polen. - The mother of my mate is from Poland. 
-ent

der Student - student

der Assistent - assistant

Das Buch des Studenten liegt auf dem Boden. - The book of the student is on the floor.
-istder Tourist - touristWir geben dem Touristen eine Landkarte. - We give the tourist a map.
-afder Fotograf - photographerDie Bilder des Fotografen sind sehr schön. - The pictures of the photografer are very nice.
-oge

der Gynäkologegynecologist

der Biologe - biologist

Ich werde vom Gynäkologen untersucht. - I am examined by the gynecologist.
-sophder Philosoph - philosopherFrag den Philosophen über die Theorie von Kant. Ask the philosophers about the theory of Kant.
-urgder Chirurg - surgeonDie Operation wird von dem Chirurgen durchegführt. - The operation is accomplished by the surgeon.
Nouns of foreign origin

der Pilot - pilot

der Architekt - architect

der Favorit - favourite

Das Flugzeug gehört nicht dem Piloten. - The  plane does not belong to the pilot.

 

Of course there always exception to these rules. Here are some of the nouns that are also declined according to the N-declension, but have different endings:

  • der Held - hero
  • der Bär - bear
  • der Mensch - human
  • der Prinz - prince
  • der Nachbar - neighbor
  • der Herr - sir/Lord

Examples:

  • Der Hund des Herrn ist ein Labrador. - The dog of the Lord is a labrador.
  • Ich fahre mit meinem Nachbarn in die Stadt. - I'm going to town with my neighbor.
  • Die Frau des Prinzen ist die Prinzessin. - The wife of the prince is the princess.
  • Als ich am Nordpol war, habe ich einen weißen Bären gesehen. - When I was at the north pole, I saw a white bear.

Mixed masculine nouns (-s in genitive singular)

Mixed masculine nouns also follow the N-declension. They take the suffix -n/-en in every four cases (except nominative singular), but also a  -s in genitive singular.

Here are some mixed masculine nouns, that follow this rule.

  • der Buchstabe - the letter (alphabet)
  • der Name - name
  • der Wille - will
  • der Friede - peace
  • der Gedanke - thought
  • del Glaube - faith
  • der Samen - seed
  • der Funke - spark

Examples:

  • Ich habe deinen Namen vergessen. - I have forgotten your name.
  • Der Vokal des Namens ist ein E. - The vowel of the name is an E.
  • Das Symbol des Friedens ist eine weiße Taube. - The symbol of peace is a white pigeon.
  • Wir hoffen auf den Frieden. - We hope for peace. 

enlightenedBe careful: das Herz is neuter, but behaves like a masculine mixed noun. 

yes Now you can practise these rules by doing our exercises. If you still have doubts, you should study case by case. Find links to the German cases at the top of this page.


Exercises

  1. Exercise of the genitive case
  2. Exercise of the dative case
  3. Learn how to use the accusative case
  4. Exercise of the N-declension

Exercise of the genitive case


Exercise of the dative case


Learn how to use the accusative case


Exercise of the N-declension


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