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When I write German, I rarely have a confident feeling whether to put an "n" or "r" at the end the adjectives and/or the noun, e.g.:

Dieses Wochenende wird auf allen Ihren Rechnern(?) Windows 7 installiert.

I can, however, recognize Nominativ, Dativ, Genitiv, and Akkusativ.

I've googled and found explanations such as this but as this one they are written in terms of an hour-long explanation of the rule set instead of a pragmatic, quick reference guide.

Where can I find a simple yet exhaustive cheat sheet which I can refer to while I write so that I can be 100% sure which adjective and noun ending to use?

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These are all related to German cases, what do you mean by cheat sheet? –  user508 Aug 18 '11 at 14:44
    
I remember back in 1989 when I started to learn German I wrote on one piece of paper in very small print all the rules that I didn't have in my head, and I remember I had a table that helped me get 90% of these adjective endings correct just by glancing at the nom/dat/gen/akk table. That's what is known as a "cheat sheet". –  Edward Tanguay Aug 18 '11 at 15:21

4 Answers 4

The key to this problem's answer is to learn the case that goes with all the different prepositions/verb combinations.

Most prepositions require an object in Dativ or Akkusativ.

Prepositions with

  • Dativ: aus, außer, bei, entgegen, entsprechend, gegenüber, gemäß, mit, (mit)samt, nach, nahe, seit, von, zu
  • Akkusativ: bis, durch, für, gegen, je, ohne, um, wider

Though some prepositions, like "auf" in your example are used with both cases depending on the kind of action the verb expression.

An example:

Ich sitze auf dem Stuhl.

The question which helps you is: "Wo sitze ich?" → Dativ

Ich setze mich auf den Stuhl.

Because the verb setzen indicates a movement with a direction the question is: "Wohin setze ich mich?" → Akkusativ

This is just one rule. Wikipedia's German article about prepositions contains a list of all rules.


Regarding the ending of nouns and adjectives. You have to learn the gender and declination of genders:

Im Allgemeinen gelten folgende Grundsätze für die Deklination aller Substantive:

  • Feminina sind im Singular stets unveränderlich.
  • Im Plural sind Nominativ, Genitiv und Akkusativ stets identisch: die Tage, der Tage, die Tage.
  • Bei allen Feminina und Neutra sind, in Singular und Plural, jeweils Nominativ und Akkusativ stets identisch.
  • Die Dativ-Singular-Endung -e in einigen Klassen wird heute kaum noch verwendet.
  • Es gibt folgende Endungen: -(e), -(e)n, -(e)r, -(e)s. – Bei starken Substantiven sind Dativ Plural und, bei Maskulina und Neutra, der Genitiv Singular am deutlichsten erkennbar.

Für Substantive, deren Wortstamm auf unbetontes -e, -el, -en, -er endet, gilt Folgendes: - Diese Substantive werden nie nach S2 dekliniert, haben also nie die Endung -er. -Alle angehängten Endungen verlieren ihr „e“, die Endungen sind also: -, -n, -s.

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yes, I remember on that sheet I had, there were exactly that kind of "list of words that take the dativ", I would think that 22 years later with all the Google Translates, Linguees, and LEOs on the net that someone would have make a reference guide that simplifies these rules down to a list and a table that allows you to get adjective endings 95% just by glancing at the it. –  Edward Tanguay Aug 18 '11 at 15:24

You really have two questions: "How are adjectives declinated?" and "When do you append an 'n' at the end of nouns?". I will treat these questions separately.


Adjective declination in German is difficult since it depends on the definiteness of the noun. In simple English that means that in German you would decline "attractive" differently in the three phrases "an attractive man", "the attractive man" and "attractive man", but on top of that you also need to take care of the case. That means that you need three different tables to compile a complete cheat sheet of adjective declination.

Let me first give some examples which might elucidate how you are supposed to use the cheat sheet.

Say, for example, that you need to write about an attractive man in the nominative case.. Then the following three inflections exist:

Indefinite form (with "ein" words)
Ein attraktiver Mann stolzierte die Straße entlang.
Definite form (with "der" words)
Der attraktive Mann erregt die Aufmerksamkeit der Frauen.
Unpreceded form (with no article)
Attraktiver Mann sucht eine Frau, die ihm das Herz strahlen lässt.

But in the dative case things look quite different:

Indefinite form (with "ein" words)
Einem attraktiven Mann wurde gestern aus dem kalten Wasser geholfen.
Definite form (with "der" words)
Die Frau mit dem roten Kleid gehört dem attraktiven Mann.
Unpreceded form (with no article)
Hübsche Frau von attraktivem Mann gesucht.

I copy-paste the complete declination table (or cheat sheet) that can be found in the middle of this site. The order is, from top to bottom: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive.

After "DER"-words
M   F   N   PL
-e  -e  -e  -en
-en -e  -e  -en
-en -en -en -en
-en -en -en -en

After "EIN"-words
M   F   N   PL
-er -e  -es -en
-en -e  -es -en
-en -en -en -en
-en -en -en -en

Unpreceded
M   F   N   PL
-er -e  -es -e
-en -e  -es -e
-em -er -em -en
-en -er -en -er

The rule for nouns are easier. In the dative case (almost) every noun gets an 'n' at the end.

There are also some irregular nouns which have further inflections, but these do not belong on a cheat sheet. Let me in any case mention some for completeness:

  • You say ein Beamter, but der Beamte.
  • Many masculine words which end on -ent (like "Student" and "Präsident") are irregular
  • The word "Herz" is irregular
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Please correct my German examples, I'm sure they are (not only corny, but also) abound with errors. –  Stovner Aug 19 '11 at 18:11
    
ok, so I understand from your table that I should write Preis für das innovativste Produkt 2009 and not Preis für das innovativsten Produkt 2009 (because für is followed by akkusativ), is that correct? –  Edward Tanguay Aug 20 '11 at 12:19
    
Yes, exactly! :-) –  Stovner Aug 20 '11 at 15:28
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Thanks Stovner, that is the kind of list I was looking for, BUT I actually found my old list from 1989 and scanned it in here, which is exactly what I was looking for, I think it is 100% correct, it's taken from all of the resources I had available at the time, glad to have it again, a larger copy is available here.

enter image description here

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There's a little mistake in your table. Beispiels instead of Beispiel. –  c.p. Jun 12 at 15:13

One important aspect here is the difference between "wo?" and "wohin?".

(Where is the action done? Dative. Where is the action directed to? Accusative)

Dieses Wochenende wird auf allen Ihren Rechnern Windows 7 installiert.

In your particular example the action is interpreted as "The installing takes place on your computers."

But in this example, it is absolutely possible to think of installing as a directed action: "Windows is installed towards your computers."

Dieses Wochenende wird auf alle Ihre Rechner Windows 7 installiert.

So, you might be confused by examples where actually both interpretations are possible.

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yes, I indicate this rule on my grammar reference sheet above as prepositions which take either (1) location or (2) motion, but I find that even native speakers are not certain of the gray area here, as you pointed out, is the software being installed onto the computers or being installed on the computers, even in English both "on" and "onto" would work in this example –  Edward Tanguay Aug 24 '11 at 10:48

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