Weird words in German

Xatufan   Friday, August 06, 2004, 02:56 GMT
I read in a book that "den", "dem" and "des" mean "the". But I thought "the" was "der", "die" and "das"...

So what do "den", "dem" and "des" mean???

Dulcinea del Toboso   Friday, August 06, 2004, 04:35 GMT
"dem" is the dative form of "der" and "das". You don't say "auf der" or "auf das", but rather "auf dem".

"des" is the genitive form of "der" and "das".

"den" is the accusative form of "der".

If you search for German grammar on the web, I'm sure you'll find some tables for the definite and indefinite article.

Although German nouns don't show much inflection, the articles and adjectives still do.
Xatufan   Friday, August 06, 2004, 14:26 GMT
Well, there's a book called "Piraten aus dem Weltraum" (Pirats from space). You can see "dem" in this sentence.

I'm just a child, so can you explain me what is genitive, dative and accusative???
Denis   Friday, August 06, 2004, 17:11 GMT

I'm not an expert in German but I can tell what it's all about.
Genitive, dative and accusative are so-called grammatical cases.
In a nutshell cases indicate how nouns ("naming words": table, chair, space, year etc.) interact with other words in a sentence. Cases correspond to the questions you would ask for the omitted words in a sentence.

For example if in the sentence bellow you omit the word "paper" you'll ask
"piece OF WHAT?"

This is a piece of paper.

Here the word "paper" is in genitive.

Different languages utilize different number of cases and different case markers.
German uses case article and noun endigs (different for singular and plural and genders) for this.


"Der" (Wer? - Who?) is the nominative case form of the definite article for nouns of masculine gender in singular.
Des - genitive
Dem - dative
Den - accusative


German speakers correct me if I'm wrong somewhere.
Goran   Friday, August 06, 2004, 17:20 GMT
Genitive, Dative and Accusative are called "cases". Many languages have them. German has four (the three mentioned above, plus Nominative), Serbian has seven, and I also know French has cases, I don't know how many though.

Here is an example for case-use (in Serbian). My name is Goran. In English my name always remains the same. You can say "I was with Goran", "I talked to Goran", "Hey, Goran, nice to see you" etc. But that's not how things work in Serbian. If a Serb met me in the street, s/he'll be like "Hey, Gorane" (the extra -e in not a typo). If s/he wants to say "with Goran" ("with" is "s" is Serbian) they'll say "s Goranom". As you can see, in the Serbian languages names are declinated (changed using the case-rules). My name is Goran in Nominative, Goranom in Instrumental (another case), Gorane in Vokative (another case) etc. This sounds complicated and unnecessary to English speakers, but it's perfectly normal to native speakers. I used the Serbian language for an example, because my native language (Macedonian) doesn't have cases (thank God!).

Now, not every language declinates the same groups of words (nouns, names, verbs). Serbs declinate the names (Goran, George, Kimberly) and the nouns (table, chair etc). So if you want to say "with dogs" in Serbian, you'll say "s psima", even though "dogs" is usually called "psi" in Serbian. once again, "psi" is used in Nominative, and "psima" is Instrumental. Everytime there's "with" ("s") before the name/noun, you must use the Instrumental form. Enough about cases in Serbian.

I already said how not every language declinates the same groups of words. German does not declinate persons' names. But they do declinate articles. Example "the sofa" is called "das Sofa" in German. But that's the Nominative form. If you want to say "with the sofa" you have to say "mit dem Sofa". ("mit"="with"). This is the Dative form. The Germans only declinate the articles (I think). Here's a list of all the articles in German (the first ones mean "the", the second ones mean "a" or "one"):

der, ein (Maskulinum)
die, eine (Femininum)
das, ein (Neutrum)
die, / (Plural)

den, einen (M)
die, eine (F)
das, ein (N)
die, / (Pl)

dem, einem (M)
der, einer (F)
dem, einem (N)
den, / (Pl)

des, eines (M)
der, einer (F)
des, eines (N)
der, / (Pl)

Nominative is the "normal" case. You say "Das ist ein Tisch" (This is a table), but if you want to say "I have a table" you use the Accusative, "Ich habe einen tisch". If you want to say "On the table" you say "Auf einem Tisch", and that's the dative. I don't think I can use the Genitive with "a table", because it means "belongs to". Woman is a feminine noun ("Frau") and "of a woman" (though "a woman's" makes more sence) is "einer Frau". This sounds complicated, but I hope you understood.

I hope now you now understand what cases in foreign languages are. Bye!
Xatufan   Saturday, August 07, 2004, 02:04 GMT
Well, I understand a bit more. In Spanish we don't change the noun, I don't know why:

"Xatufan es bello" (Xatufan is beautiful).
"Quiero a Xatufan" (I love Xatufan - you can see the "a" before "Xatufan", because Xatufan is a person).
"Estoy con Xatufan" (I'm with Xatufan)
and so on...

"Xatufan" doesn't change. And not because it is not a real name. In fact, nouns don't change. Articles don't either.
Dulcinea del Toboso   Saturday, August 07, 2004, 03:22 GMT
So, in German, the case inflections are seen mostly on the articles, pronouns, and adjectives. The most frequent instance where your name would show a case inflection would be in the genitive:

Das ist Xatufans Zimmer (that is Xatufan's room).

In Russian, however, your name would be inflected in any of six cases, depending on whether it is a subject, object, indirect object, or by which preposition is applied to it.