This is a complex topic, especially for a person who hasn't been introduced to them before. Cases apply to nouns and anything associated with nouns (pronouns, adjectives, & articles). For simplicity, think of a verb and how it is conjugated
for different contexts (I, you, past, future, etc.). Cases are used to "conjugate" nouns so to speak, depending on how they are used in the sentence (I know, it's icky, but you get used to it just like anything).
But, instead of using the word conjugate
, we say decline
. It is said that a noun declines
in languages like Latin and German (and lots of others). In Latin there are 5 cases and in German there are 4 cases. You will decide which case to use based on how the noun is used in the sentence.
Here are the German cases as mentioned by Francis, and some quick guidelines:
Used when the noun is the subject of the sentence
Used when the noun is the direct object of the sentence
Used when the noun is the indirect object of the sentence
Used to show possession
Again, this just a quick overview. There will be some exceptions to the above of course, but you can rely on the above as a foundation for learning these cases.
Quick Examples (subject in bold, direct object in italics):
reads the book
has a computer
Although it's hard to see the cases in English, they do exist (we have subjective cases and objective cases). At the very least we know how to distinguish between the subject and the direct object. So when we translate into German, we must first decide what function
each noun has in the sentence, then choose the appropriate case.
Since The man
and The woman
are the subjects they will be translated using the nominative case. Since the book
and a computer
are direct objects they will be translated using the accusative case.
liest das Buch
hat einen Computer
But if you switch around the subject/DOs you can see how they change based on function (just pretend it makes sense :wink:):
liest den Mann
(The book reads the man).
hat die Frau
(A computer has the woman).
Notice the change of der
, and einen
. This is happening because the articles (and nouns, even though it's harder to tell) are responding to the case change.
Here's the definite article (a.k.a the word "the") declined in all its cases (to give you an example of how much more you have to memorize in a language with cases:
Format: masculine / feminine / neuter / plural
der / die / das / die
den / die / das / die
dem / der / dem / den
des / der / des / der
Some final examples (for the masculine noun Hund
Nom: The dog is very pretty: Der Hund
ist sehr schön.
Acc: The man has the dog:
Der Mann hat den Hund
Dat: He speaks to the dog:
Er spricht mit dem Hund
Gen: That is the dog's bed:
Das ist das Bett des Hunds
Ok, there's a lot more to it than that, but hopefully that'll help you out in getting the basics down. Cheers!
Oh, and if you manage to make him eat the things on his desk, don't forget to take a picture...very useful for blackmail purposes j/k