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I always have difficulties distinguishing between the four cases Nominativ, Akkusativ, Genitiv and Dativ.

Could you help me by telling me what their equivalents in the English language are? Or, if there are no equivalents to them in English, could you hint me at how to distinguish between them?

A few notes:

• Firstly, I have no idea of cases. So, please don't ask me «What do you think?» or «First tell us what you do understand.». I hope I gave the information you need to help me.

• Secondly, my mother language is Arabic and there are no grammatical cases in this language.

closed as too broad by Beta, Eugene Str., c.p., Carsten S, Jan Aug 28 '16 at 11:43

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I'll give you a short overview. For understanding the cases it is vital to know about the constituents in classical syntax: Subjekt, Prädikat, Objekt, Attribut, Adverbiale.


The nominative is always the case of the Subjekt.

Der Mann gibt ihm einen Apfel.

It is used for reflections of the Subjekt too. That happens when a so-called copula verb occurs (sein, werden, bleiben):

Der Mann ist Lehrer.

Der Mann ist schön.


The genitive is the only case that has survived in English. In modern German he's nearly limited to occur in the Attribut:

English: He got the man's apple.

German: Er bekam den Apfel des Mannes.

The genitive is the case of indefinite relatedness. You can put a genitive beneath a noun which will create some kind of relatedness between them. As in our case, it's possession.

That's the main function of today's genitive. He can also appear after adverbs which sometimes seem to be prepositions:

Der Mann gab ihm den Apfel mittels seiner übersinnlichen Kräfte.


The dative signals in favor of whom something happens:

Der Mann gab ihm einen Apfel.

Er schrieb seinem Freund einen Brief.

The man gave the apple to his benefits. He wrote the letter to his friend's benefits.

The dative is kind of the main case after prepositions.


The accusative is the case of the Objekt. That's how classical syntax approaches this. The object is the victim of the subject's actions:

Der Mann gab ihm einen Apfel.

The accusative also appears after a lot of prepositions.


Probably you should just learn the declension tables.

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