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
  • 5
    @Iris: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ich_bin_ein_Berliner
    – tohuwawohu
    Jun 8, 2016 at 11:49
  • 6
    @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
  • 4
    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 bliebe ein Berliner

And examples using regular verbs that call for direct object:

Ich sehe mich

Ich sehe einen Berliner

  • 1
    I understand what you mean, but I think it is incorrectly explained. If I say "ich liebe mich", mich refers to the same person/thing so according to your explanation it should be an attribute and not a direct object, and thus get the same declination as the subject... but it's wrong to say "ich liebe ich".
    – ANeves
    Jun 11, 2016 at 0:42
  • Right, I did not think about this, thanks. The missing information is that "sein" is a state verb, like "bleiben" for example (I don't know the complete list): "Ich bleibe ich". I'll ad this to the answer. Thanks.
    – Vulpo
    Jun 13, 2016 at 8:50

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 Nominative 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)

  • ... 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
  • 4
    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).

  • @ANeves What do you mean by Gleich-thingie? Sure it can be S+V+Akk, e.g. Ich esse einen Berliner. But there essen, unlike sein, needs accusative. It could also be Akk+V+S like Einen Berliner esse ich. You just need to know which case correspond to each verb. The rest is artificial comparison (or not needed).
    – c.p.
    Jun 9, 2016 at 10:25
  • 1) So you mean that in some other sentence with sein (or heißen, etc) it could be S+V+Akkusativ, even though in this case it's S+V+Gleichsetzungsnominativ? 2) You write that direct object does not exist, but you don't tell me what else it is. Can you complete your answer by correcting my syntactical analysis of the sentence?
    – ANeves
    Jun 9, 2016 at 11:01
  • @ 1) No and 2) I did tell you in my comment answering to your first comment. You have another nouns and pronouns in your sentence, but the slots assigned to them are not organized in German as DO, ID and other complents in, say, English, but rather by grammatical cases. In short, there is no 1-1 correspondence DO <-> valid German-grammar-term. If not clear, open a new question, I'm myself interested.
    – c.p.
    Jun 9, 2016 at 12:12
  • 2) thanks; I wanted it in the answer, because comments are volatile. It's clear, but a surprise.
    – ANeves
    Jun 9, 2016 at 13:02

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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