Er ist ein sehr lustiger Clown.

I am confused by the above sentence. Why is "lustiger Clown" in nominative case? I think it should be einen lustiger Clown because "lustiger Clown" is the object of ist.

Am I missing something?


1 Answer 1


Because that piece ein sehr lustiger Clown isn't an object. It's a predicative expression. Some verbs as sein, werden, bleiben, gelten als, scheinen, erscheinen, wirken and a few more are so called Kopulaverben.

They take a predicative, which is a description of the subject, and thus, has to be in the same case.

In German, you have to learn for each and every verb which cases it takes. The majority of verbs take an accusative object and may take an optional dative object, but there's also verbs which take no accusative object but only an optional dative object, some verbs which take accusative and optional genitive, some verbs with genitive, and some verbs even have two accusative objects. And, there's also those verbs which take predicatives, either in nominative or caseless.

  • Good explanation. Maybe it makes sense to motivate this behavior. I always thought, the reason for sein to not take an object is that you could swap the predicative expression and the subject: Ein sehr lustiger Clown ist er. But I am not 100% sure if this is the "real" reason for this behavior.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 18:54
  • The first piece in a German main clause is the topic. Anything may go there so you can't deduce anything from that.
    – Janka
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 19:35
  • Isn't Ein sehr lustiger Clown the subject in that phrase?
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 19:40
  • No. The subject is still er. You can deduce that in this case because a pronoun cannot be a description of the subject.
    – Janka
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 19:43
  • Thanks! Learnt a lot today :)
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 0:03

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