No, it’s got nothing to do with criminal offenses, and you can’t put your phone in it. In this case, we use the word “case” to describe a case, as a grammatical term, that specifies subjects and objects in sentences, both in German and English grammar.
There are four German cases, and there are three cases in the English language, they are just being used rather undetected. Ever wondered why we use “whom”? That’s referring to a case, equal to either accusative or dative. How about “whose”? That’s more obvious, it’s genitive.
There are three cases in English, which most people don’t even know about. One of those is separated into two cases in German, dative and accusative. The other ones are nominative, which is usually the subject of a sentence, and genitive. Most people know the latter well, that’s why I’m focusing here on the more confusing cases: nominative, accusative and dative.
Let’s take a look at the words “he”, “him” and “his”. “He” is nominative, we’d know that by asking with “who”. For example, let’s take the sentence “He gave him back his hat”. “He” is the nominative case, and we can find that out by asking: “Who gave him back his hat?” Answer: “he”. The word “him” could be accusative or dative in German, so that’s a bit more tricky. We can find out, which one is accusative or dative by asking “Whom did he give back his hat?” answer: “him”. And to find out which one is the genitive case, the one that deals with belongings, can be done by asking: “Whose hat did he give him back? Answer: “his” (because it belongs to him).
All nouns are in relation to each other in a sentence and knowing how they are related, we use the cases and in order to know which case is which, we ask with “Who” “Whom” and “Whose” in English. Which is a good start for learning the German cases.
So, “he” is nominative, and you know that by asking “who”
“Him” is accusative/dative, and you know that by asking “whom”
“His” is genitive, and you know that by asking “whose”
If you’ve never been aware of that in English, that’s surely quite confusing now. But don’t worry, you can learn it. Most Germans forgot about that after learning it at school, but they still use it correctly (most of the time), so even if you don’t entirely get it, it won’t stop you from speaking German fluently.
Now, we can’t stop here quite yet. You might have heard about the three articles in German, that are the translation for “the”, which is “der, die, das”. Let’s focus on the mentioned idea of nouns being changed based on their function in the sentence and do it for all nouns (pronouns like “he”, “him, “and “his”, but also common nouns like “chair” and “glass”, etc.).
They also include changing the article it uses, change what a noun ends with, and add endings to adjectives based on the case of the word they describe. That’s probably the hardest thing about learning German, but this whole language is based on it, even if you don’t want to learn it until you got it all, you probably want to understand the basic concept.
That might be a lot to take in for now, but I’ll explain it some more, to make sure you understand the basics. And let’s start with a short definition of the four German cases:
The case of a noun in a sentence tells you what role the noun plays and its relationship to the other nouns in the sentence.
Have you learned the word for “woman”, which is “Frau”, yet? Then you might be confused now: “I thought “die” is the female article, so shouldn’t it be “die Frau”, yet in the sentence, it says “der Frau”? In the Dative and genitive case, the female singular article changes to “der”. “Die” is used in nominative and accusative singular cases.
Each and Every noun in a sentence has a case! Always!
The words that belong to the noun, such as articles, pronouns, and adjectives, take the same case.
Usually, it’s determined by:
The Nominative Case