Welcome to our final lesson on adjectives! Today, we’re going to learn how German cases combine with adjectives.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… Didn’t we already do this? Wasn’t there something about adjective endings for all of the different cases and then another thing about cases that go with different prepositions for adjectives?
German adjectives with cases


I’m glad you remembered, good work! That was only part of it, though. Who wouldn’t want some more after such a fun lesson? This, right here, is the grammatical version of dessert!


What do German cases have to do with adjectives?

If you remember our lesson about cases, you know that they're used to tell us about nouns, not adjectives. So, what more could there be to worry about?

Well, sometimes adjectives go with specific cases, even without any prepositions there to tell us what to do. 

Cool, right? I knew you’d be excited!


Where to put adjectives when cases get involved

When an adjective goes with a specific case, the noun that has the case will normally be in front of the adjective. That’s important because it’s different from how it looks when a preposition is in charge of setting up the object’s case. 

That might be a little confusing, so let’s do a few examples.

Adjectives with prepositions

  • gut sein in (to be good at) - Sie ist gut in Mathematik. (She is good at math.)
  • fertig sein mit (to be done with) Bald ist er fertig mit der Reparatur. (Soon he will be done with the repairs.)
  • begeistert sein von (to be thrilled about) - Katie ist von dem Essen begeistert. (Katie is thrilled about the meal.)


As you can see in the first one, the object noun (Mathematik) is right after the preposition (in) that that tells us what case to use. Since the preposition is doing all the hard work, the adjective can go just about anywhere, before or after the object.

Adjectives without prepositions

  • sicher (certain) - Er ist des Sieges sicher. (He is certain of victory.)
  • dankbar (thankful) - Sie ist ihr dankbar. (She is thankful to her.)
  • gewohnt (used to) -  Katie ist das Wetter gewohnt. (Katie is used to the weather.) 


When we don’t have a preposition, the object with the associated case goes before the adjective, though not always right in front. For example:

  • Sie ist ihr dankbar. (She is grateful to her.)
  • Sie ist ihr sehr dankbar. (She is very grateful to her.)
  • Sie ist ihr überhaupt nicht dankbar (She is not at all grateful to her.)


The more basic sentence has “ihr” right in front of “dankbar”. However, any additional words that modify “dankbar” will go between the two.


How to figure out which case to use

When you’re trying to think and make sentences directly in German, you’ll mostly just need to memorize what cases an object should have with a certain adjective.

That’s the bad news.

Fortunately, if you’re reading this article, you also speak English, and that can help us a little bit.

If you know the English sentence for what you want to say in German, you can often guess which case you need to use. Convenient, right? We’ll add the tricks for each grammatical case below, along with the examples. 

Of course, these only help us to make better guesses, and they only work when the German and English sentences are built in a similar way. 

Ok, now that you’ve had the disclaimer, let’s get to the examples! 


Adjectives with the Dative Case

Adjectives are most often combined with an object in the dative case, and they’re very commonly used in everyday conversation.

 

  • bekannt (familiar) - Die Geschichte ist allen bekannt. (The story is known to everyone.)
  • behilflich (helpful) - Kaffee ist mir beim aufwachen sehr behilflich. (Coffee is always very helpful to me when waking up.)
  • bewusst (aware) - Ihr war es nicht bewusst. (She wasn’t aware of it.)
  • angenehm (comfortable) - Die Situation war mir nicht angenehm. (I wasn’t comfortable with the situation.) 
  • böse (evil) - Sie war ihm nicht böse. (She wasn’t mad at him).
  • egal (irrelevant) - Ihr ist es egal. (It doesn't matter to her.)
  • wichtig (important) - Familie ist ihm wichtig. (Family is important to him.)
  • nah (close) - Das Restaurant ist nah am Wasser. (The restaurant is close to the water.)
  • dankbar (thankful) - Sie ist ihr dankbar. (She is thankful to her.)
  • klar (clear) - Die Konsequenzen sind ihm klar. (The consequences are clear to him.)


Sneaky trick: If the English version of your sentence has prepositions about direction (like at, to and from) after the adjective, then you’ll often need to use the dative case in the German version. 


Adjectives with the Accusative Case

There are relatively few adjectives that go with accusative objects, but most of them are also frequently used.

 

  • voraus (ahead) - Sie ist immer einen Schritt voraus. (She is always a step ahead.)
  • hinterher (behind) - Der kranke junge ist beim Sport immer noch etwas hinterher. (The sick boy is a bit behind at sports.)
  • leid (fed up) -  Er ist es leid, immer früh aufzustehen. (He is fed up with always getting up early.)
  • gewohnt (used to) -  Katie ist das Wetter gewohnt. (Katie is used to the weather.) 
  • wert (worth) - Das Auto ist das Geld wert. (The car is worth the money.)
  • los (rid) - Gogo ist den alten Rechner endlich los. (Gogo is finally rid of the old computer.)
  • schuldig (due, owed) - Gogo ist Bobbi einen Kaffee schuldig. (Bobbi is due a coffee from Gogo.)


Sneaky trick: If the English version of the sentence has no preposition after the adjective, then the object noun is likely to be in the accusative case.


Adjectives with the Genitive Case

Many of the adjectives that are used with a genitive object are very formal, poetic, or so old and outdated that you only need to recognize them to read old texts – something like an old Bible translation. Normal Germans do not use them in conversation. We’ll mark those with an asterisk (*).

  • *habhaft (in possession) - Der Dieb wollte des Goldes habhaft werden. (The thief wanted to take possession of the gold.)
  • *ansichtig (in view) - Er wurde der Sonne ansichtig. (He caught sight of the sun.) 
  • *kundig (skilled) - Er ist des Lesens nicht kundig. (He isn’t skilled in reading.)
  • *bedürftig (in need) - Pflanzen sind des Regens bedürftig. (Plants are in need of the rain.)
  • *würdig (worthy) - Er ist ihrer Aufmerksamkeit nicht würdig. (He isn’t worth her attention.)


Others are more common, but usually still more formal than other ways of expressing the same idea.

  • bewusst (aware) - Sie ist der Gefahr bewusst. (She is aware of the danger.)
  • sicher (certain) - Er ist des Sieges sicher. (He is certain of victory.)
  • mächtig (mighty) - Sie ist der Aufgabe mächtig. (She is up to the task.)
  • gewachsen (grown) - Sie sind der Herausforderung nicht gewachsen. (They aren’t up to the task.)
  • gewiss (certain) - Sie ist dessen gewiss. (She is certain of it.)


Sneaky trick: If the English version of our sentence tends to use “of”  with the adjective, then the German version often uses a Genitive object instead.

Man reaching the finish line

Whew! Congratulations, you’ve made it all the way to the end. Now, 30 examples is quite a bit, so make sure to come back and go through them a few more times to help you remember how they work. Sneaky tricks can be good to know, but it’s always best not to rely on them.

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