Nouns - Declension: Genitive


The genitive is the second of the German cases. In other languages, as in English, French or Spanish, we mostly have to use prepositions if we have a genitive attribute. Here are the genitive forms of the example nouns in the singular (sg) and plural (pl) forms:

Singular Forms Noun with Definite Article Phonetic Script English Translation
masculine des Mannes m [dɛs 'manəs] of the man
feminine der Frau f [de:ɐ frau] of the woman
neuter des Kindes nt [dɛs 'kɪndəs] of the child
Plural Forms Noun with Definite Article Phonetic Script English Translation
masculine   Männer m pl [de:ɐ 'mɛnɐ] of the men
feminine der Frauen f pl [de:ɐ 'frauən] of the women
neuter   Kinder nt pl [de:ɐ 'kɪndɐ] of the children
Singular Forms Noun with Indefinite Article Phonetic Script English Translation
masculine eines Mannes m ['ainəs 'manəs] of a man
feminine einer Frau f ['ainɐ frau] of a woman
neuter eines Kindes nt ['ainəs 'kɪndəs] of a child
Plural Forms Noun with Indefinite Article Phonetic Script English Translation
masculine Männer m pl ['mɛnɐ] of men
feminine Frauen f pl ['frauən] of women
neuter Kinder nt pl ['kɪndɐ] of children

As the indefinite articles do not have plural forms, it is only possible to use genitive plural forms of nouns if we have an additional adjective which stands in front of the noun and is declined. You can recognize the genitive attribute by the declined adjective form.

There is only one plural form of the definite article ("der") for every noun, no matter if it is masculine, feminine or neuter.

Only masculine and neuter nouns have endings in the singular forms. The singular forms of feminine nouns do not get endings. If you do not know which ending is used with a noun, simply look it up in a dictionary. After the German word itself the genitive ending is indicated. If the plural form of the noun is irregular, it is also indicated after the genitive ending.

If a noun has only one syllable, it can either end in -s or -es.
Example: des Tiers nt or des Tieres = of the animal

Moreover, you can either use the ending -s or -es if the noun has more than one consonant at the end
Example: des Geschenks nt or des Geschenkes = of the present

We have to use the ending -es if we have a noun ending in s, ß, x or z.
Example: des Kusses m = of the kiss

If we have the ending -nis, the s becomes a double s.
Example: des Ereignisses nt = of the event

Forenames and family names get the ending -s.
Example: Sonjas Webseite f = Sonja's website
Example: Frau Müllers Mutter f = Mrs Müller's mother

If the name ends in s, ß, x or z, the genitive form must end in s', ß', x' or z'.
Example: Klaus' Buch nt = Klaus's book).

If we have names or proper nouns without article, we have to use the preposition "von" (= of) + dative form.
Example: die Ausfuhr f von Getreide nt = the export of corn,
Example: die Filme m pl von Spielberg = the films of Spielberg).

Some masculine nouns which end in -e and some others have the ending -n or -en in the genitive, dative and accusative forms. You can read more about the n-declension if you click on the respective button above.


Genitive object

There are some verbs which are followed by the genitive. Then we have a genitive object.

German Phonetic Script English
Ich gedenke des Freundes m. ç gə'dɛŋkə dɛs 'frɔyndəs] I remember the friend.
jemandes gedenken ['je:mandəs gə'dɛŋkən] to remember someone


Genitive attribute

The genitive attribute is a construction of two nouns of which one noun stands in the genitive case. This noun mostly indicates the owner. Here is one example:

German Phonetic Script English
Das Auto nt der Frau f ist neu. [das 'auto de:ɐ frau ɪst nɔy] The car of the woman is new.

While "Das Auto" is the subject in the nominative case because it is is the acting part of the sentence, "der Frau" is the genitive attribute. She is the owner of the car. So in this sentence, the genitive attribute also indicates a property.

The respective question would be: Whose car is new? Answer: The car of the woman.


Prepositions with genitive

There are also some prepositions which are used with the genitive form.
Example: trotz + genitive = in spite of
Example: aufgrund + genitive = because of
Example: anstelle + genitive = instead of

If you are insecure which case is used with a certain preposition, simply look it up in a dictionary.