The Genitive Case

What is the Genitive Case?

  • The genitive case shows belonging or possession.
  • It is used in noun-noun constructions.
  • The genitive is used after certain verbs, prepositions, and adjectives.
  • The question for the genitive case is „Wessen?“

Genitive Case – Examples

  • „Das Pferd des Reiters ist weiß.“

⇒ Whose horse is white? – Des Reiters!

⇒ Noun-noun construction ⇒ Genitive

  • „Während des Spiels verletzt er sich.“

The preposition „während“ requires the genitive case ⇒ des Spiels

Declension in the Genitive Case

The article must match the case:

Definite Article
Indefinite Article
Masculinedes MannMasculineeines Mann
Feminineder FrauFeminineeiner Frau
Neuterdes KindNeutereines Kind
Pluralder ElternPlural- Eltern

Characteristics of the Genitive Case

Masculine und neuter nouns require the ending „s“ or „es“

One-syllable nouns and nouns that end in s, ß, x or z require an „es“ ending.

  • One-syllable nouns: (Just an „s“ is ok, but „es“ usually sounds better)

„der Mann“ – „des Mann(e)s

  • Nouns that end in s, ß, x, z („es“ MUST be used)

„der Platz“ – „des Platzes

Use of the Gentive Case

Use: Showing Belonging

The belonging will normally be shown by using a noun-noun constructionGenitive.

Tip: You can cheat on the genitive case used in a noun-noun construction by adding the preposition “von” between both nouns. “Von” requires dative case, which means genitive case is not necessary anymore.

  • Das Pferd des Reiters ist weiß.“ = Das Pferd von dem Reiter ist weiß.“

Noun-noun construction with proper nouns

Without an article, we form the genitive in a different way:

  • Holgers Pferd ist weiß.“

The proper noun goes to the front and requires the ending „s“

If the proper noun ends in s, ß, x oder z, it needs an apostrophe:

  • Hans´ Pferd ist weiß.“

Use: After Prepositions

  • Wegen der Krankheit kann er nicht arbeiten.“

The preposition „wegen“ requires the use of the genitive case

The most important genitive prepositions:

„Während“, „wegen“, „trotz“, „innerhalb“, „außerhalb“, „oberhalb“, „unterhalb“, „aufgrund“, „anstelle“, „(an)statt“

Info: Like the accusative case and dative case: if there is a preposition the rule of the preposition applies, no matter which case the verb requires without a preposition.

Use: After Certain Verbs

Something, someone (Etwas oder jemanden): gedenken, bedürfen, Herr werden

  • „Wir gedenken der Toten.“
  • „Wir bedürfen der Hilfe.“
  • „Wir werden der Situation Herr.“

To someone, something (Jemanden einer Sache): anklagen, bezichtigen, überführen, beschuldigen, verdächtigen

  • „Man klagt ihn der Korruption an.“
  • „Man verdächtigt ihn des Verbrechens.“
  • „Man beschuldigt ihn des Verrats.“

Something (reflexive) (sich einer Sache): brüsten, erinnern, erfreuen, enthalten, schämen

  • „Ich erinnere mich der alten Zeiten.“
  • „Ich schäme mich meiner schlechten Aussprache.“
  • „Ich erfreue mich des Lebens!“

More about that in the lecture Verbs with genitive complement.

Use: With Certain Adjectives

  • Bewusst: „Ich bin mir meines Fehlers bewusst.“
  • Fähig: „Du bist des Mordes nicht fähig.“
  • Gewiss: „Sie ist sich des Erfolges gewiss.“
  • Sicher: „Du kannst dir meiner Unterstützung sicher sein!“

Also: „überdrüssig“, „verdächtig“, „würdig“, „bedürftig“

The adjective always comes after the noun and stays in its base form.

Good news for German students:

If you are now thinking:  how can I learn all of this stuff?  Adjectives, verbs, prepositions,…

  • The genitive case isn‘t used very often in the German language anymore.
  • You can often avoid the use of the genitive (and therefore having to know the genitive rules) by using prepositions instead

„Ich erinnere mich der alten Zeiten„Ich erinnere mich an die alten Zeiten.“

We can use the preposition „an“ to outsmart the genitive case. The preposition is then followed by the noun in the accusative case. The case always depends on which word (here the preposition) comes before the noun.

You can also avoid the noun-noun constructions by using the preposition „von“ to get around it.

„Das Pferd des Reiters ist weiß.“„Das Pferd von dem Reitern ist weiß.“

But careful: In noun-noun constructions the genitive is still used. Except for proper nouns, the sentence sounds better using the genitive case. But both are grammatically correct!

Further Information:

The Dative Case
Cases │ Dative case │ Usage, Declension, examples and an easy explanation about dative case. │ When do we use dative case? │ Irregularities? │ EasyDeutsch
Accusative Case
Cases │ Accusative Case │ Usage, Declension, examples and an easy explanation about accusative case. │ When do we use accusative case? │ Irregularities?
Nominative Case
Cases │ Nominative case │ Usage, Declension, examples and an easy explanation about nominative case. │ When do we use nominative case? │ Irregularities?

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