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Nominative Case in German

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The nominative case identifies the subject of a sentence or a predicate nominative. The subject is the noun or pronoun that is carrying out the action of the verb in the sentence. For example:

Jhalak küsst Kanchan.   Jhalak kisses Kanchan.   The subject is Jhalak.

A predicate nominative is the noun that follows a verb like sein (to be) or werden (to become). There is a method for determining whether a word is being used as a predicate nominative. If the positions of the subject of the sentence and the presumed predicate nominative of the sentence can be switched and still make sense, the noun that follows sein or werden is undoubtedly a predicate nominative.

For example:
In dieser Schule ist ein Lehrer auch ein Studienberater. In this school, a teacher is also a counselor.

In dieser Schule ist ein Studienberater auch ein Lehrer.
In this school, a counselor is also a teacher.

The nominative forms for the masculine, feminine, neuter, and plural are illustrated below with the definite article (der, die, das), indefinite article (ein, eine), and kein.

masculine            feminine                 neuter               plural
der Junge          die Katze                  das Pferd         die Kinder (boy, cat, horse, children)
ein Junge          eine Katze                ein Pferd           Kinder*
kein Junge        keine Katze             kein Pferd         keine Kinder

*The indefinite article does not exist in the plural. Using the plural noun alone derives the indefinite meaning.

Subject of the sentence and verbs 

When a nominative noun or pronoun is the subject of a sentence, it determines what kind of conjugational ending the verb needs. All nouns require either a singular or plural third-person verb ending, depending upon whether the noun is singular or plural. Third-person pronouns have the same verb endings as nouns. First- and second-person pronouns require their own conjugational endings. Some examples with the verbs kennen and sein in the present tense follow.

singular nouns

der Mann kennt              der Mann ist                  the man knows, the man is
die Frau kennt                 die Frau ist                     the woman knows, the woman is

plural nouns

die Kinder kennen          die Kinder sind             the children know, the children are
die Leute kennen            die Leute sind                the people know, the people are

singular pronouns

first person                       ich kenne, ich bin           I know, I am
second person                 du kennst, du bist           you know, you are
third person                    er kennt, er ist                  he knows, he is
third person                    sie kennt, sie ist               she knows, she is
third person                    es kennt, es ist                  it knows, it is

plural pronouns

first person                     wir kennen wir sind         we know, we are
second person               ihr kennt ihr seid               you know, you are
second person               Sie kennen Sie sind            you know, you are
third person                  sie kennen sie sind             they know, they are

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As verbs change, the endings required for the nouns and pronouns stay, for the most part, the same.

 der Mann kennt, der Mann singt, der Mann hat (sings, has)
die Leute kennen, die Leute warten, die Leute tun (wait, do)
ich kenne, ich halte, ich komme (hold, come)
du kennst, du willst, du machst (want, make)

er kennt, er sagt, er spricht (says, speaks)
sie kennt, sie trägt, sie versteht (carries, understands)
es kennt, es bleibt, es riecht (remains, smells)
wir kennen, wir hören, wir trinken (hear, drink)
ihr kennt, ihr lacht, ihr geht (laugh, go)
Sie kennen, Sie senden, Sie kaufen (send, buy)
sie kennen, sie weinen, sie laufen (cry, run)


When asking a question that can be answered with either ja or nein (yes or no), the subject of the sentence (the nominative) becomes the second element in the sentence. The conjugated verb precedes the subject.

Ist dein Vater wieder gesund?                      Is your father well again?
Ja, mein Vater ist wieder gesund.               Yes, my father is well again.

If the question begins with an interrogative word, the verb will again precede the subject.

Wann kommt der nächste Zug?                  When does the next train arrive?

However, if the subject is the interrogative word wer or was, it will stand in front of the conjugated verb.

Wer hat diese Blumen gekauft?                  Who bought these flowers?

The conjugated verb will also precede the subject when some element other than the subject begins the sentence. For example:

Heute fahren wir nach Goslar.                     We’re driving to Goslar today.
Als Martin in Amerika wohnte, sprach er kein Englisch. English.  
When Martin lived in America, he didn’t speak any English.

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