Are these the correct syntactical parts of the sentence “ich bin ein Berliner”?

  • Ich — subject;
  • bin — verb;
  • ein Berliner — direct object.

But if they are, shouldn’t ein Berliner have declination, making it einen Berliner?
If it is the direct object, should it not be in Akkusativ?

… is the verb sein maybe one of those exceptions where the Akkusativ does not match the direct object?

  • 2
    "Ich bin ein Berliner" means you are such a sweet. alnatura.de/~/media/Images/Content/Kochen%20und%20Geniessen/… If you want to say, that you are from Berlin/living in Berlin, you would say "Ich bin Berliner/ Ich komme aus Berlin/ Ich wohne in Berlin"
    – Iris
    Jun 8, 2016 at 11:42
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    @Iris: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ich_bin_ein_Berliner
    – tohuwawohu
    Jun 8, 2016 at 11:49
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    @Iris Why would "Ich bin ein Erfurter" not be correct German? Just because "Berliner" happens to be a pastry, too, doesn't make that wrong. At least it doesn't feel obviously wrong. Jun 8, 2016 at 12:39
  • 2
    @Iris Magst Du dann bitte den verlinkten Wikipedia-Artikel korrigieren? Der widerspricht Dir und Canoo, und damit auch der Antwort in der anderen Frage. "Der Satz ist also korrekt und wurde auch vor der Rede entsprechend geprüft." - bit.ly/1Y8RnBs Jun 8, 2016 at 13:02
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    I will not edit "ein Berliner". Both the forms with and without article seem to be correct (see german.SE #1 and german.SE #2), and I need an article for my question to make sense.
    – ANeves
    Jun 8, 2016 at 13:44

4 Answers 4


You made a mistake. "ein Berliner" here is no direct object, it is an attribute.

The difference is that a state verb (bleiben, heißen, sein, werden, genannt werden, gerufen werden) introduces an attribute, while other verbs introduce the direct object. Since it is certain (because of the state verb) that the attribute refers to the same person/thing as the subject, it uses the same declination as the subject, which is the Nominative instead of the Accusative.

Ich bin ein Berliner. (attribute)

Ich sehe einen Berliner. (object)

An attribute can be a noun (der attributive Name), or an adjective (das attributive Adjektiv) :

Ich bin ein Berliner. (name)

Ich bin froh. (adjective)

An example of the use of the state verb (example with blieben) :

Ich bleibe ich.

Ich bleibe ein Berliner.

And examples using regular verbs that call for direct object:

Ich sehe mich.

Ich sehe einen Berliner.

  • This answer is wrong (or at least heavily misleading). Berliner here is exactly not attributiv, but prädikativ (the exact opposite). Berliner is the Subjektsprädikativ to "ich" - like in "Ich bin ein Bäcker*. Some grammars define this as "nominative object".
    – tofro
    Feb 14, 2023 at 8:25

ein Berliner is in Nominativ since it is a Gleichsetzungsnominativ (predicate noun).

You don’t ask

Wen oder was bin ich?

but instead you do ask

Wer oder was bin ich?

Have a look at Nominativ on the German Wikipedia

Gleichsetzungsnominativ can follow the verbs sein, werden, heißen, scheinen (zu sein), bleiben, gelten (als), (sich) fühlen (als), (sich) dünken (als), (sich) erweisen (als), (sich) entpuppen (als), sich glauben (als)

  • 1
    ... or ich bin wer oder was, if you want to stick to the word order of the original sentence. Jun 8, 2016 at 11:21
  • Auf eine Frage im Deutschunterricht "Gleichsetzungsnominativ" zu antworten bringt Pluspunkte. ;-) Wir haben ihn glaube ich auch noch Prädikativ genannt. duden.de/rechtschreibung/Praedikativ
    – palsch
    Jun 8, 2016 at 12:17
  • Der Gleichsetzungsnominativ ist ein Prädikativ, nicht jedes Prädikativ aber ein Gleichsetzungsnominativ. Jun 8, 2016 at 12:24
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    I wrongly upvoted this answer. You cannot give as solution for a lerner the questions that you pose, when you, German-speaker, ask when you want to know the case. A German learner just doesn't know which question should be posed. E.g. suppose I don't know that zuhören goes with dative: why should I know that I have to ask Wem höre ich zu? if I don't know that zuhören goes with dative, I could just as well have asked wen höre ich zu?.
    – c.p.
    Jun 8, 2016 at 20:25
  • @RalleKalle 1) Is my syntactic analysis otherwise correct? 2) In Gleichsetzungsnominativ can follow the verbs, does "can" mean that it's possible to use sein (etc.) without a predicate noun, which would then perhaps take something in Akkusativ instead of Nominativ?
    – ANeves
    Jun 9, 2016 at 9:22

No, that is not correct. The direct object refers to grammar of other languages. In German there is no such thing.

On the other hand, you are right in wondering why Berliner is not in accusative. The solution to the analysis inside the German grammar would be that sein (just as heißen, usw.) allows two (pro)nouns in nominative.

Ich — subject;
bin — verb;
ein Berliner — noun in nominative (predicative noun).


If the item comes after a state verb, it will always be a nominative and not an accusative. This is not particular to German but applies in Latin, Ancient Greek and all other languages that use declension.

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