While I'm studying German vocabulary from a dictionary, I constantly see that the definitions of verbs have abbreviations next to them, such as "jdm: jemandem" and "jdn: jemanden" and "etw: etwas". I learned the words, but I still do not know their significance in a dictionary. For instance, what is the difference between "jdm" and "jdn"?

My best guess is that they indicate the case of the object, like accusative or dative. But dictionaries don't provide the exact meaning, so I couldn't be sure. Even if that is the case, how can we understand the cases of verbs having just "etw" ? And if I'm wrong, how can we understand the cases of verbs anyway?

  • 2
    related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/979/…
    – Takkat
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 14:45
  • 1
    Typical printed dictionaries have a section explaining the used abbreviations at a prominent place.
    – guidot
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 10:40
  • you have this also in english ... so's sb's and so on ...
    – user5715
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 4:05
  • Same questions running in my mind , thanks for asking
    – katmanco
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 8:11

2 Answers 2


Your guess about the cases is correct. "Jemandem" and "jemanden" are different inflections of "jemand". "Jemandem" is dative, "jemanden" is accusative. You find this with verbs because many verbs take objects, which have to be in a certain case -- depending on the verb in question.

"Jemand" means someone, and thus refers to a person. "Etwas" means something and refers to a thing. "Etwas" doesn't change its form when it's inflected.

A few examples:

jemanden sehen -- to see someone

etwas sehen -- to see something

"Sehen" demands accusative, hence "jemanden".

jemandem helfen -- to help someone

"Helfen" requires dative, hence "jemandem".

jemandem etwas geben -- to give something to someone

"Geben" takes both an accusative object ("etwas"), the thing you give, and a dative object ("jemandem"), the person you give it to.

  • in other words, they indicate transitivity of a verb, and what cases follow.
    – Matthaeus
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 20:19

And we have also "jemandes" inflection if it is Genitive Case (Role) which is jds.

jemandes Fähigkeiten -- someone's skills

  • 1
    Actually these are more exotic cases e.g. jemandes Nachfolge antreten, in jemandes Schuld stehen. If it is an object as in jemanden etwas bezichtigen, a separate explanation concerning the cases would be required anyway.
    – guidot
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 10:57

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