Noun Cases in German Grammar

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What is declension in German?

Ever wondered why it’s die Straße in some sentences but der Straße in others? The reason is declension (Deklination).

In German, we have to decline articles and nouns; this means changing their endings depending on whether they appear in the nominative, accusative, dative or genitive case.

You can recognise the case based on the noun’s role in the sentence, but also via certain verbs and prepositions that act as signal words. You can learn more about the cases and their signal words in our essential guide to German declension.

In this article, we’re going to cover noun and article endings in detail. You can practise everything in the exercises.

How to decline German articles

First of all: articles are the small words that come before the noun (der, die, das; ein, eine …).

Their form is declined (changed) depending on the case (nominative, accusative, dative or genitive). The noun itself generally stays the same.

Der Vater ist nett.The dad is nice. (nominative)
→ Ich kenne den Vater.I know the dad. (accusative)
der becomes den; Vater stays the same
Die Tochter ist vierzehn.The daughter is 14. (nominative)
→ Ich gehe mit der Tochter zur Schule.I go to school with the daughter. (dative)
die becomes der; Tochter stays the same

See below to learn how each article changes in each case.

How to decline the German definite article

The definite article (der, die, das …) is equivalent to the in English.

The table below shows how to decline the definite article in all cases.

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
N der Vater die Mutter das Kind die Eltern
A den Vater
D dem Vater der Mutter dem Kind den Eltern
G des Vaters des Kindes der Eltern

How to decline the German indefinite article

The indefinite article (ein, eine …) is equivalent to a/an in English.

The table below shows how to decline the German indefinite articles in all cases.

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
N ein Vater eine Mutter ein Kind Eltern
(no article)
A einen Vater
D einem Vater einer Mutter einem Kind
G eines Vaters eines Kindes

Note the following:

  • only the masculine articles change in the accusative (der/ein → den/einen)
  • the feminine articles are the same in the dative and the genitive (der/einer)
  • the dative article is the same for masculine and neuter (dem/einem)

When to decline nouns in German

In addition to changing the article, we also change the endings of certain nouns in the accusative, dative and/or genitive cases.

Plural -n in the Dative

Nouns whose plural form doesn’t end in -s or -n take the ending -n in the dative case.

die Händehands (plural in nominative)
→ mit den Händenwith your hands (plural in dative)

Genitive s

In the genitive, we add an -s to masculine and neuter nouns. Feminine nouns have no genitive ending.

des Vaters

When the noun ends in s, ß, x or z, we add -es in the genitive to aid pronunciation. Sometimes we also need to double the final -s.

der Einfluss → des Einflusses
der Bus → des Busses
(exception: das Herz → des Herzens)

With some nouns, both -es and -s are correct (-es sounds a bit more formal).

das Jahr → des Jahr(e)s

Genitive endings with proper nouns

Proper nouns (names) also take an -s in the genitive.

Mozarts Opern

If a name ends in s, ß, x or z, we just add an apostrophe.

Strauss Opern


Many masculine nouns form their plurals with the ending -n/-en.

These nouns also take this ending in the singular in the accusative, dative and genitive cases.

This phenomenon is known as n-declension (n-Deklination).

Ich habe dem Pianisten zugehört.I listened to the pianist.
nominative singular: der Pianist; dative singular: dem Pianisten

Check out our page on n-declension in German grammar to learn more.

Nominalised Adjectives

When we use an adjective as a noun, this is known as a nominalised adjective (substantivierte Adjektiv).

gut → das Gute

Like nouns, they are written with an article and a capital letter, but they are declined like adjectives.

Head to our page all about declining nominalised adjectives to learn more.