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The Genitive Case: Showing Possession, part 1 Posted by on Jun 11, 2012 in Grammar, Language, Practice

Most learners of German seem to fall into despair when it comes to the language’s grammar cases. And when I read explanations in grammar books how to construct a German sentence with the correct cases, I can understand your discontent.

The problem with grammar and its explanations is that they are just condensed information about the grammatical aspect of the language you are about to learn. And those explanations are mostly difficult to follow because they are ponderously put into words, using many technical terms and discussing the aspect thoroughly, so that all existing rules or aspects are packed together and your mind has a difficult job to do to unravel all these information. So, let’s tackle the genitive case bit by bit.

The genitive case is the case in language that shows possession. If you are a native speaker of English you are already familiar with this case, for example, as in “Maria’s father” (Marias Vater), “David’s car” (Davids Auto), “Melanie’s bag” (Melanies Tasche), “Alexander’s book” (Alexanders Buch).

As you can see, there is a so-called genitive –s in German, just like in English. So, when you are using proper names and particular objects in your statements, you can opt for this rule, and simply add an –s to the proper name (which is here: Maria, David, Melanie, and Alexander) and then put the particular object behind the name (which is here: father-Vater; car-Auto; bag-Tasche, and book-Buch). The only difference between German and English is that you do not have to add an apostrophe between the name and the –s. Compare: Maria’s vs. Marias; David’s vs. Davids; Melanie’s vs. Melanies, and Alexander’s vs. Alexanders.


Time to practice you new acquired knowledge!

Before I go on explaining other details of the genitive case, you should have the chance to practice what you have just leaned. Below you find some dialogs. A is always asking a question, and you, B, has to answer these question. Good luck.



A: Wessen Stift ist das? (Whose pen is it?)
B: (Michael) Das ist Michaels Stift. (That is Michael’s pen.)
A: Wessen Stifte sind das? (Whose pens are these?)
B: (Michael) Das sind Michaels Stifte. (That are Michael’s pens.)

The correct question word for asking to whom something belongs is “Wessen” (whose), then you put in the object (thing or particular person) and end your question with “ist das?” (is that?) for singular nouns and “sind das?” for plural nouns.

“Wessen” + object + “ist das?”



A: Wessen Handy ist das? (Whose cellphone is that?)
B: (Doreen)



A: Wessen Tasse ist das? (Whose cup is that?)
B: (Rocco)



A: Wessen Schuhe sind das? (Whose shoes are these?)
B: (Marco)



A: Wessen Handschrift ist das? (Whose handwriting is this?)
B: (Silvana)



A: Wessen Hosen sind das? (Whose pants are these?)
B: (Christopher)



A: Wessen Jacke ist das? (Whose jacket is that?)
B: (Steffen)



A: Wessen Kleider sind das? (Whose clothes are these?)
B: (Clara)



A: Wessen Kinder sind das? (Whose children are these?)
B: (Petra)



A: Wessen Uhr ist das? (Whose watch is that?)
B: (Franziska)



A: Wessen Schlüssel sind das? (Whose keys are these?)
B: (Susanne)
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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Marc:

    You should proofread you stuff… lotta mistakes in there… also instead of explaining for one whole paragraph how other do it wrong, use the time to do it better.