I've been dabbling in German again, and trying to learn the declensions for the articles, adjectives and other modifiers. These are some notes I made in the process.
German has three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), and two numbers (singular and plural). There is a single plural declension for all genders, so, for didactical purposes, we can think of plural as a fourth gender.
German has four cases (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive), which indicate the role of the noun phrase in the sentence. In general lines:
All cases but the nominative are also used as objects of certain prepositions. Each preposition defines which case it wants its object to appear in. Spatial prepositions typically take the dative to indicate place and the accusative to indicate movement:
In the tables in this text, genders will appear in the order masculine, neuter, feminine, plural. This is not the usual order they are presented, but masculine and neuter often have similar forms, and so do feminine and plural. I chose this order to leave similar forms close to each other. The order of cases was also chosen for similar reasons.
The definite article forms in the nominative are: masculine der, neuter das, feminine die, plural die. It took me a while to memorize which gender is which form, until I realized:
The declined forms are:
There are a lot of patterns to observe here, and they will often apply to other parts of the declension system too:
At this point I would like to present the declension for the indefinite article (ein). The problem is that it does not have a plural, so the table would not show all the forms I want to show. Instead, I will present the declension table for kein, which is the same except it has a plural.
Many of the patterns repeat themselves here.
There are three places in the table where kein has no ending: the masculine nominative and the neuter nominative and accusative. These three places will be important later.
German adjectives have three different kinds of declension:
In the following tables, we will use the adjective groß (big, large) as an example.
The endings look a lot like those of the indefinite article, with some important differences.
The other difference is that the masculine and neuter genitive ending is -en, not -es.
Otherwise, all the patterns repeat themselves here.
The weak declension is used with the definite article. Actually, to quote Wikipedia, "weak declension is used when the article itself clearly indicates case, gender, and number". It is used not only with the definite article, but also with other determiners like welcher (which), solcher (such), dieser (this), aller (all).
|Nom.||der große||das große||die große||die großen|
|Acc.||den großen||das große||die große||die großen|
|Dat.||dem großen||dem großen||der großen||den großen|
|Gen.||des großen||des großen||der großen||der großen|
Most of the endings are -en in the weak declension. The exceptions (which have -e instead) are:
The mixed declension is used with the indefinite article and the possessive determiners.
|Nom.||ein großer||ein großes||eine große||keine großen|
|Acc.||einen großen||ein großes||eine große||keine großen|
|Dat.||einem großen||einem großen||einer großen||keinen großen|
|Gen.||eines großen||eines großen||einer großen||keine großen|
The mixed declension is identical to the weak declension, except at those three places where kein has no ending: masculine nominative and neuter nominative and accusative. In those places, it has the strong declension endings instead (-er for masculine nominative, and -es for neuter nominative and accusative).
You can think of it as the adjective having the strong endings to compensate for the lack of endings of the article in those cases, e.g., because masculine nominative ein has no ending, the großer following it gets more distinctive endings.
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