What’s mine is yours — German Possessive Articles
This past week in one of my classes we were looking at possessive adjectives, which are exactly what you need to express ownership in German. Possessive adjectives are the: my, your, his, her etc.
When you see something that you want, you want it to be yours. Sometimes you want it to be someone else’s. Being able to express ownership in languages is important. Making sure that you telling your friend that your calling your wife and not his wife is equally important.
With this week being Valentine’s Day (Valentinstag) you’ll need to know these two phrases in which we use possessive adjectives: “Willst du mein Valentin seine?” and “Sei mein Valentin.”
German, being the grammatical language that it is, makes possessive adjectives a little harder than in English. Don’t let this scare you though. The most important thing is that you get the right “stem”. If we recall our discussion on adjective endings, we’ll remember that the endings change to show us the the number, gender and case.
Possessive adjectives convey two pieces of information. The first who ‘owns’ the noun being talked about (you, me, him etc.). The second piece of information is the number, gender and case of the noun we are talking about.
Here’s the secret that you need to remember!!! Possessive adjectives behave like “ein-words”.
*Note that depending on the ending, we drop the ‘e’ in unser and euer.
Like I said above, getting the ‘stem’ right is the most import part. You don’t want to say dein, when you mean sein.
Let’s look at the different endings.
Just a quick reminder about what these cases are:
- The subject of the sentence. The thing in the nominative is the doer of the verb. Like in English subject-verb agreementis important. Let’s look at how this works for possessive adjectives:
- Mein Bruder arbeitet als Ingenieur bei der Stadt. (My brother works as an engineer for the city.)
- Let’s examine the sentence. Bruder is masculine (der Bruder). My brother is the engineer and hence the verb is conjugated to third person singular — arbeitet.
- Were it my sister, it would have to be:
- Meine Schwester arbeitet als Ingenieurin bei der Stadt. (My sister works as an engineer for the city.)
- The direct object of a sentence. It is the person, place or thing receiving the action of the verb. Don’t forget the accusative prepositions: bis, durch, entlang, für, gegen, ohne, um. If we use possessive adjectives in the accusative it looks like this:
- Hast du mein Buch gesehen? (Have you seen my book?)
- Why is it mein? Answer: das Buch.
- Were it my dog that I was looking for, it would look like this:
- Hast du meinen Hund gesehen? (Have you seen my dog?)
- The indirect object of a sentence is the person, place or thing receiving the object. There are certain verbs that take the dative (danken, helfen, gehören etc.). There are also the dative prepositions: ab, aus, ausser, bei, gegenüber, mit, nach, seit, von, zu. One thing to remember about German is that the dative case means that unlike in English we can often avoid using the preposition ‘to’.
- Ich gebe meinem Bruder das Buch. (I’m giving the book to my brother.)
- If we look at the sentence we see that the direct object is the book and it is being given to my brother. Be is receiving the book.
- Were it my sister, to whom I was giving the book, the sentence would look like this:
- Ich gebe meiner Schwester das Buch. (I’m giving the book to my sister.)
- The genitive is the possessive case. What? The possessive case of a possessive article? Sure, what if my brother or sister own something. Then I need to use the genitive. Of course there are also the genitive prepositions: anstatt, ausserhalb, innerhalb, statt, trotz, während, and wegen.
- Die Freundin meines Bruders fährt einen roten Audi. (The girlfriend of my brother drives a red Honda.)
- The girlfriend ‘belongs’ to my brother, but she is the subject. If it was my sister’s boyfriend, the sentence would look like this:
- Der Freund meiner Schwester fährt einen roten Audi. (The boyfriend of my sister drives a red Honda.)
If we want to add adjectives between the possessive article and the noun, like let’s say “my younger sister” we need to add our adjective endings, which follow the rule of the adjectives after “ein-words”.
Again the most important thing to remember is that choosing the correct ‘stem’ is the most important thing, especially when it comes to spoken communication. In spoken German the endings will come the more you speak.
Try these exercises:
- Die Eltern achten viel besser auf __________ Kind. (their)
- Ich wohne bei __________ Eltern. (my)
- Gestern wollte ich mit __________ Vater sprechen. (her)
- Die Menschen wollen __________ Leben geniessen. (their)
- In __________ heutigen Gesellschaft gibt es viele Probleme. (our)
- Ich habe ihm ein Geschenk zu __________ Geburtstag gekauft. (his)
- Kannst du mir mal __________ Auto für heute Abend leihen. (your, formal)
- Ich bin mit __________ Entscheidung nicht einverstanden! (your)
- Hast du dich schon für __________ Geschenk bei __________ Tante bedankt? (your)
- Morgen will ich __________ Bruder in __________ Ferienhaus besuchen. (your, his)
- Ich kann __________ Problem mit __________ Schwester gut verstehen. (his, his)
- Willst du dir mal __________ Auto ansehen, das wir bei __________ Bruder in __________ Autohaus gekauft haben? (our, my, his)