I recently read that some German dictionaries list the genitive case ending for an entry but no explanation was given as to why some publishers choose to do this. Anyone happen to know?

  • 2
    Could you please elaborate and give an example?
    – Gerhard
    Mar 19, 2016 at 16:07
  • @Gerhard For example, in the Duden, the definite article is followed by the genitive and plural endings for the noun as explained in the guide to the use of the dictionary: „Bei einfachen Substantiven sind mit Ausnahme der Fälle unter b der Artikel (das Geschlechtswort), der Genitiv Singular (Wesfall der Einzahl) und, soweit gebräuchlich, der Nominativ Plural (Werfall der Mehrzahl) angeführt.“
    – user9551
    Mar 19, 2016 at 16:23
  • 4
    okay, if that is what Lisa meant, then I probably just don't get the question. Or does "they put it there, because people want to know it and are prepared to pay for it" count as an answer?
    – Gerhard
    Mar 19, 2016 at 16:35
  • 1
    Yeah, I’d understand it if someone wondered why a dictionary geared at non-native speakers would omit the genitive …
    – chirlu
    Mar 19, 2016 at 17:26

2 Answers 2


The genitive singular ending, together with gender and plural ending, provide strong, often definite information about all inflections of the noun.

Although there are four cases and two numbers, German nouns have at most four different forms. For masculine and neuter nouns, genitive singular (“strong” -(e)s or “weak” -(e)n) is almost always different from nominative singular, while accusative singular and dative singular are usually the same as nominative singular and sometimes (if “weak”) the same as genitive singular. Rarely, “strong” dative singular (-e) may deviate from accusative singular nowadays.
Nominative plural, accusative plural and genitive plural are always the same form and, unless they already end in -n (or -s), dative plural is different by adding -(e)n.

  • I'm guessing that any who had difficulty understanding my question are at a much higher level of German than mine. It is difficult to understand the mind of the beginning language student if you've long surpassed that level or learned the language from birth. There are so many things we native speakers know about our mother tongue and even the tools we used to learn it along the way, without even being consciously aware of them. Regardless, you've answered my question best, @Crissov. Danke schön.
    – Lisa
    Mar 20, 2016 at 23:47

The genitive (and possibly the plural) is added to give a first idea of the declination, which applies. Typically an abbreviation of the declination follows, so the other cases can also be looked up. But since this is mostly found in an appendix with some knowledge of the genitive the cross-reference is not necessary.

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