Einheit 2.2 (online)

grammar icon Grammatik

Cases: The Nominative

You already know that all nouns in German are classified grammatically as masculine, neuter, or feminine, which is indicated by a form of the definite article: “der” (masculine), “die” (feminine), or “das” (neuter), all meaning “the”.

When we use a noun or pronoun in a sentence, we also assign specific cases to those nouns and pronouns to signal their function in the sentence. There are four cases in German. Today, we are focusing on the nominative case. Look at the following example sentences:

Die Tafel ist weiß.

Meine Partnerin heißt Karla.

Das ist ein Buch.

Es ist blau.

Monique wohnt in Montreal.

The bolded parts are in the nominative case, because they are the subjects of the sentences.

*ACHTUNG* The subject of a sentence is always in the nominative case.

H5P activity icon Übung 1. Drag the noun to the correct article. 

grammar icon Grammatik

Definite and Indefinite Articles

German uses three definite articles, “der” (masculine), “die” (feminine), or “das” (neuter), all meaning “the”, to show the gender of a noun.

There are also indefinite articles in German, meaning “a” or “an” in English, for the three grammatical genders: “ein” (masculine), “eine” (feminine), and “ein” (neuter). Obviously, there is no indefinite article for the plural (just like in English, you couldn’t say “a books”).

Singular Plural
masculine der Tisch

ein Tisch

die Tische


feminine die Lampe

eine Lampe

die Lampen


neuter das Buch

ein Buch

die Bücher


der (m.)  –> ein      die (f.) –> eine      das (n.) –> ein       die (pl.) –> ∅

*ACHTUNG* In German, when stating someone’s nationality, place of residence or occupation no indefinite article is used.

Fatih Akin ist Deutscher.        Fatih Akin is a German.

Maren ist Studentin.               Maren is a student.

Ich bin Berliner.                       I am a Berliner.

[Remember when J.F. Kennedy visited Berlin in 1963, he said: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Had he learned German with us, he would have known not to use the indefinite article. Literally, he said “I’m a jelly donut”. However, the historical significance of his statement, though not entirely correct, was not lost on the people of Berlin.]

H5P activity icon Übung 2 (Reminder: If you get it wrong you can correct it right away. Just continue typing in the “red” box to make your correction.)

grammar icon Grammatik

Negation with “kein”

There are several ways to express negation in German. Look at the following three sentences:

Ist das ein Tisch? Nein, das ist kein Tisch.

Ist das eine Lampe? Nein, das ist keine Lampe.

Sind das Amerikaner? Nein, das sind keine Amerikaner, das sind Kanadier.

The negative form of the indefinite article “ein” is “kein” (for masculine and neuter) and the negative form of the indefinite article “eine” is “keine” (for feminine). There is also a plural form “keine”. In English, they mean “not a”, “not any”, “no”.

masculine ein –> kein
feminine eine –> keine
neuter ein –> kein
plural ∅ –> keine

If you are not negating a noun preceded by an indefinite article (“ein”/”eine”) in the sentence, you use “nicht” (not). The “nicht” goes in front of the element you want to negate, for example:

Die Tafel ist nicht weiß. 

Monique wohnt nicht in Deutschland. 

When you don’t want to negate a particular word or expression, you place “nicht” at the end of the sentence. 

Heute regnet es nicht

Stefan kommt auch nicht

“Nicht” is much more complicated to use than “kein” and you will continue to see examples of where to place it in a sentence in the next few units.

H5P activity icon Übung 3

grammar icon Grammatik

Plural Forms of Nouns

screenshot of dict.cc showing where to find the plural form (right beside the noun in the singular)

In English, most plurals are formed by adding an “-s” or “-es” to the noun (e.g., students, classes, pens), although there are some irregular plural forms in English (e.g., women, children, geese).

Forming the plural of nouns in German is a bit more complicated than in English. There are several rules one could memorize, but that wouldn’t account for the exceptions. We recommend that you learn the plural form of each noun when you are learning the noun itself: das Bücherregal, die Bücherregale.

Some dictionaries (like dict.cc as shown in the screenshot) write out the plural forms. Other dictionaries only indicate the plural form by abbreviations; you need to understand how to form a plural when you see those abbreviations, for example:

die Lampe, -n  (this means: you just add -n to the noun; die Lampen is the plural form)

das Fenster, – (this means: you don’t add an ending to the noun; die Fenster is the plural form)

die Mutter, -¨  (this means: you don’t add an ending to the noun, just the Umlaut on the vowel; die Mütter is the plural form)

internet search icon Online Wörterbuch. Use the online dictionary dict.cc to look up the plural forms of the following nouns. Put in the German word in order to get the plural form indicated as above. Or, if you put in an English word (if you need a translation first), click on the German translation provided and you will get the plural form on a separate page.

Be sure to write down the forms as you will need them in the quiz.

der Computer die Wand das Tablet der Bleistift die Uhr
der Stuhl das Papier die Tafel das Auto das Haus

external link icon Wortschatz in Quizlet:


Seminarraum (plurals)


Quiz icon Was wissen Sie jetzt? Klicken Sie hier für Quiz 2.2.

Extra Practice (optional):

video icon Video Serie – Nicos Weg
Click on the
link and watch the video. Then click on “start” under the video and do the exercises.


video icon Extra Hilfe – lingoni GERMAN
Click on thi
s link if you have any questions or want more examples of “Das ist… /Das sind…“.

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Willkommen: Deutsch für alle by Claudia Kost and Crystal Sawatzky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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