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Accusative Case

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The accusative case requires a declensional change with masculine nouns and most pronouns. Compare the differences between the nominative case and the accusative case with a masculine noun, a feminine noun, a neuter noun, and a plural noun with a definite article (der, die, das), an indefinite article (ein, eine), and kein.

nominative

masculine         feminine               neuter                    plural
der Hund         die Katze              das Buch               die Bilder (dog, cat, book, pictures)
ein Hund         eine Katze            ein Buch                 Bilder
kein Hund       keine Katze         kein Buch               keine Bilder

accusative

masculine         feminine               neuter                    plural
den Hund         die Katze             das Buch               die Bilder
einen Hund      eine Katze           ein Buch                Bilder
keinen Hund    keine Katze        kein Buch              keine Bilder

Most pronouns make a change from the nominative case to the accusative case.

nominative                  accusative
ich                                 mich                               I, me
du                                 dich                                 you, you
er                                  ihn                                   he, him
sie s.                             sie s.                                she, her
es                                  es                                     it, it
wir                              uns                                   we, us
ihr                               euch                                 you, you (plural informal)
Sie                               Sie                                    you, you (singular or plural formal)
sie pl.                         sie pl.                                they, them

niemand                  niemand/niemanden    no one
jemand                   jemand/jemanden            someone

The accusative case in German has three primary functions:

1. It identifies the direct object in a sentence.
2. It identifies the object of an accusative preposition.
3. It identifies certain time expressions.

Direct objects

Direct objects in English and German are identical. In English, you can ask whom or what of the verb in the sentence. The answer will be the direct object. It works the same way in German.

Mein Vater besucht einen Freund.                             My father visits a friend.
(Whom does my father visit?)                 The direct object is einen Freund.

Er lernt Deutsch.                                                             He is learning German.
(What is he learning?)                               The direct object is Deutsch.

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Sample sentences that contain accusative pronouns.

Kennst du mich nicht?                                           Don’t you know me?
Niemand kann dich verstehen.                           No one can understand you.
Der Lehrer tadelt ihn.                                            The teacher criticizes him.
Herr Bauer hat sie gegrüsst.                                 Mr. Bauer said hello to her.
Meine Schwester hängt es an die Wand.          My sister hangs it on the wall.
Unsere Eltern lieben uns sehr.                             Our parents love us a lot.
Eure Mutter hat euch gut erzogen.                    Your mother has raised you well.
Professor Schmidt wird Sie jetzt prüfen.          Professor Schmidt will quiz you now.
Wer hat sie gekauft?                                              Who bought them?

Accusative prepositions

Also use the accusative case with noun or pronoun objects of accusative prepositions. The accusative prepositions are:

bis                                                         till, until, as far as
durch                                                   through, across
entlang                                                along(side), down (the middle)
für                                                         for
gegen                                                    against
ohne                                                     without
um                                                        around, at (time on a clock)
wider                                                   against, contrary to (usually poetical)

The preposition bis is never followed by an article or other determiner. Therefore, it tends to be
used with proper nouns. In all other instances, bis combines with other prepositions. For example, with proper nouns:

Ich bleibe bis nächsten Freitag.                        I’m staying until next Friday.

Compare with bis combined with other prepositions:

Sie spazieren bis zum Stadtpark.                                 They’re strolling as far as the city park.
Ich ging mit ihr bis an das Ende der
Straße.              I went with her up to the end of the street.
Der Weg führte bis ins Tal.                                            The lane led as far as the valley.

The preposition entlang is also a special case. It always follows the object in the accusative prepositional phrase.

Die Feiernden gingen die Straße  entlang.                   The revelers went down the street.
Dieser Weg führt den Bach entlang.                             This path goes along the brook.

Entlang is sometimes combined with the preposition an. For example:

Dieser Weg führt am Fluss entlang.                                This path goes along the river.

Sample sentences with the other accusative prepositions.

Ein Mann schwimmt durch den Fluss.                       A man is swimming across the river.
Ich habe ein Geschenk für dich.                                   I have a gift for you.

Der Junge versucht gegen den Strom  zu schwimmen. The boy is trying to swim against  the current.
Ich kann nicht ohne sie leben.                                        I can’t live without her.
Die Planeten bewegen sich um die 
Sonne.                 The planets move around the sun.

When a pronoun that refers to an inanimate object is used in a prepositional phrase, a prepositional adverb is formed in place of the preposition followed by the pronoun. For example:

prepositional adverbs

(für) + ihn = dafür                                     for it
(durch) + sie = dadurch                           through it
(um) + es = darum                                     around it

Adverbial phrases that express time and tell when something occurs at a particular point in time appear in the accusative case.

Ich habe sie letzte Woche besucht.                        I visited them last week.
Er wird nächsten Sonntag
vorbeikommen.         He’ll drop by next Sunday.

 

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If the adverbial phrase describes a longer period of time, the accusative case is used again, but the word lang is often placed at the end of the adverbial phrase. The English translation of such a phrase often begins with for.

Wir blieben einen Monat (lang) in der Schweiz.       We stayed in Switzerland for a month.
Der Kranke muss die ganze Woche (lang) im Bett liegen.  
The patient has to stay in bed the whole week.

Wer and was

The interrogative pronouns wer and was become wen and was in the accusative case. Both can be used as direct objects, but only wen can follow a preposition. Some examples with direct objects.

direct objects

Wen siehst du da?                                   Whom do you see there?
Was haben Sie gefunden?                     What did you find?

As pointed out earlier, wer and was are affected by prepositions. Take special note of the pronoun was, which forms a prepositional adverb.

accusative prepositions

Für wen ist dieser Brief?                                       For whom is this letter?
Gegen wen haben sie gekämpft?                       Against whom did they fight?

prepositional adverbs

(für) + was = wofür?                                            for what?
(durch) + was = wodurch?                                 through what?

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