The definite article
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The definite article helps us to establish the gender (masculine, feminine, neuter), the number (singular, plural) and the case (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive) of the noun.In order to express a sentence the right way we need to frame the article in a certain case. This can be done with the help of questions which are specific for each case.
Declension of the definite article:
Who? What? (Wer?)
Who?, What? (Wen?)
to Who? (Wem?)
As mentioned before the definite article helps us to integrate the noun in a case, gender and number (the definite article is also called “Nomenbegleiter”). This is why we need a table with nouns of different genders and numbers which should show the shape of the article and also the endings added to the noun for each case.
What means “Nomenbegleiter”? It is a compound noun formed with the help of two nouns: „die Nomen“ (the nouns) and „der Begleiter“ (the follower). We could also translate it as “the noun follower” ▶
Helping questions for determining the cases:
Nominative case: (wer?), (was?), – The subject of a sentence, that which carries out the action
Accusative case: (wen?) who?, (was?) what? – The direct object, that which is acted upon; (wohin?) where to? where from?
Dative case. (wem?) to who?, whom? (wo?) where?
Genitive case. (wessen?) whose?
As you noticed the genitive case asks for the article “des” and the ending “-es” within the masculine and neuter gender.
In plural, the dative case asks for the article “den” and the ending “-n” within the masculine and neuter gender.
Sentences that ask for nominative:
▶ Das Auto ist rot. (The car is red.)
What is red? The car.
▶ Das Zimmer ist groß. (The room is big.)
What is big? The room.
▶ Die Frau ist nett. (The woman is nice.)
Who is nice? The woman.
▶ Das Wetter ist gut. (The weather is good.)
What is good? The weather.
Sentences that ask for accusative:
▶ Ich gehe in die Schule. (I am going to school.)
Where to am I going? To school.
▶ Die mutter liebt das Kind. (The mother loves the child.)
Who loves the mother? The child.
▶ Wir sehen den Mann. (We see the man.)
Who do we see? The man.
▶ Ich habe den Lehrer gern. (I like the teacher.)
Who do I like? The teacher.
▶ Mein Vater geht in den Garten. (My father goes into the garden.)
Where to goes my father? Into the garden.
Sentences that ask for dative:
▶ Ich bin in der Schule. (I am in school.)
Where am I? In school.
▶ Ich gebe dem Lehrer meine Hefte. (I give my notebooks to the teacher.)
To who am I giving my notebooks? To my teacher.
▶ In dem Garten sind viele Blumen. (In the garden, there are many flowers.)
Where are many flowers? In the garden.
Sentences that ask for genitive:
▶ Die Hefte des Kindes sind rot. (The child’s notebooks are red.)
Whose notebooks are red? The child’s.
▶ Die Frau des Mannes heißt Anne. (The man’s wife is named Anne.)
Whose wife is named Anne? The man’s.
▶ Die Bücher der Schüler liegen neben den Heften. (The student’s books lie next to the notebooks.)Whose books lie next to the notebooks? The student’s.