I came across this on some app for learning languages. Say I want to express "X of Y" or "Y's X". I saw that the app used the form

der X des Y

not restricted to der but also die and das. I just wonder if this is the standard expression for this kind of things not associated with persons. For example the expression like "car's key", "key of the car".

Thank you.

  • Sorry, but if this is exactly how it was expressed in the application, it was completely wrong. Are you sure you didn't change something when shortening the example? Could you post a complete sentence from the app?
    – rumtscho
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 14:44
  • @rumtscho it's like "das Dach des Hauses". I apologize if I made a mistake on giving out the examples. I'm not really clear on all the grammar stuff...
    – StoneBird
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 14:48
  • "des" is correct, at least when the noun is masculine or neutral, "den" is not correct. Have you learned the genitive case yet?
    – rumtscho
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 14:51
  • @rumtscho just fixed my example. I'm not sure about that grammar name. Could you form an answer to that? Thank you so much!
    – StoneBird
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 14:53
  • When reading your question initially without the comments, I thought you were talking about mathematical functions. X an y are not the best choice in my view, I think a real example would make your question a lot more understandable.
    – Gerhard
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 9:14

1 Answer 1


What you are seeing is one of the four cases in German, the genitive case. It is known as "Wes-Fall", because it is used in sentences which provide an answer to a "whose" question. To form the genitive for "the X of the Y", you follow the schema

[article in Nominativ] X [article in Genitiv] Y+s

The articles in genitive are des for masculine and neutrum, der for feminine and plural. Also, this is the only of the four cases where you attach a suffix to all masculine and neutral nouns, this is why it is "des Hauses" and not "des Haus".

See for example http://german.about.com/library/blcase_gen.htm for a somewhat longer explanation (still targeted at learners, not linguists).

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