ein, eine, einen – The forms of „a/an“ in German

Nominative Case

The word for the indefinite article, „a/an“, is „ein“ or „eine“.  

When the noun is in the nominative case, the forms of the indefinite article in German are as follows:

dog-1349074812Hpj

Das ist ein Hund.

•masculine•

This is a dog.

cat-13710479238hd

Das ist eine Katze.

•feminine•

This is a cat.

book-textbook

Das ist ein Buch.

•neuter•

This is a book.

The rules in the nominative are quite simple.  

All masculine and neuter nouns are preceded by ein. All feminine nouns are preceded by eine.

The term „nominative“ means that the noun is the subject of the sentence, that is, the doer of the verb. A noun is also in the nominative case if it follows the verb to be – in German, sein

  • Mein Bruder ist ein sportlicher Mann. (Mann is in the nominative.) – My brother is an athletic man.
  • Meine Mutter ist eine nette Frau. (Mutter and Frau are both in the nominative.) – My mother is a nice woman.
  • Mein Lieblingstier ist ein Pferd. (Both Lieblingstier and Pferd are in the nominative.) – My favourite animal is a horse.

 

Accusative Case

Once a sentence becomes more complex, with both a subject and an object, the rules also become slightly more complex. A noun that is an object of a verb is in the accusative case. This kind of noun is having something done to it: it is being possessed (as in the examples below), being worn, bitten, hit, read… It is no longer simply existing! The forms for the indefinite article in the accusative case are shown below.

dog-1349074812Hpj

Ich habe einen Hund.

•masculine•

I have a dog.

cat-13710479238hd

Ich habe eine Katze.

•feminine – no change•

I have a cat.

book-textbook

Ich habe ein Buch.

•neuter – no change• 

I have a book.

The rules in the accusative require you to focus on the masculine nouns, since ein in the nominative changes to einen in the accusative.

The forms for feminine and neuter nouns do not change in the accusative case.

Two Quizzes on the Indefinite Article

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