German Tips & Tricks

The Reason for German Cases

German cases are the reason why most people dread learning the language. But, I bet that if they knew the reason for German Cases, they would be much more eager to learn the language.

I assume that you have already read my post on the dative case or that you can already identify the dative case in normal situations. If not, I’ll be right here waiting for you…

Here is a simple example:

Das Mädchen geht hinter den Tisch. – The girl walks behind the table. (Accusative)

Das Mädchen steht hinter dem Tisch. – The girl stands behind the table. (Dative)

With this the change is between accusative and dative.

Remember accusative is the case stating the object, the person or thing, affected by the action the subject carries out. The moment that there is movement involved you will use the accusative case. The dative case is the object showing the interaction between the objects.

So, if the girl stands behind the table, indicating her location, you will use the dative case. The sentence shows the location of the girl in relation to the table. Static relation? Dative case.

If the sentence shows the direction the girl is walking in, the accusative case will be used. The sentence isn’t about where the girl is, but rather where she is going.

There are many other ways cases can change the meaning of the sentence. This actually is one of the beauties of German in my eyes. In English, one needs context to know the difference but in German the words in the sentence changes, showing the change of meaning.

German is beautiful, but if this case still doesn’t prove this to you, ask me, I’ll explain some more!


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The Reason for German Cases: Title Image

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  1. Hi, I’ m kinda simple minded. I am trying to distinguish between Dativ and accusative as I picture in my mind a girl walking behind a table. If accusative you are not telling which direction she is walking and if Dativ her positional relationship is constantly changing as in the accusative. I am confused. How should I picture the distinction?

    1. I’ll try to explain it again. If it doesn’t make sense, please tell me and I will attempt until you understand.
      In my mind I see a huge table, in the dative case the girl already is behind the table and walking there. In the accusative case the girl is now at the corner of the table walking into the direction which will lead her to be behind the table.
      The dative case stresses the fact that she is behind the table. It tells you that it is important to notice that she IS behind the table.
      The accusative puts more emphasis on the fact that the girl is walking.
      If I understand the concept correctly, the difference is between what is important in the sentence. Where she is, or what she is doing.

      1. Well, in fact “Das Mädchen geht hinter den Tisch. – The girl walks behind the table. (Accusative)” is correct.

        But “Das Mädchen geht hinter…” must be accusative because of place changing verb “geht” to make “dem” changed to “den”.
        We only get dative by changing the movement verb “geht” into a static verb “steht= stands” – The girl stands behind the table. (Dative = correct) not “Das Mädchen geht hinter dem Tisch. – The girl walks behind the table. (Dative)

        And this rule applies to all so called “Wechselpräpositionen” (= prepositions that change between
        – accusative according to “place changing verbs”: gehen, fahren, fallen, legen, springen etc. = from point A to B
        – and dative for static verbs such as: bleiben, sein, arbeiten, wohnen, liegen, spielen ( you play at the save place, not from Accra to Lomé)…

  2. Thank you so much for this. I enjoy these explanations because they reflect the nuance of the language.

    1. Thank you so much for this feedback. It makes my hart warm to know that I can help someone!


  3. I do like the manner in which you have presented this specific concern and it really does present me personally some fodder for thought. Nonetheless, because of just what I have personally seen, I only wish when the comments pack on that people today keep on issue and in no way get started upon a soap box of the news of the day. Yet, thank you for this excellent piece and while I can not really go along with the idea in totality, I regard the standpoint.

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