How to Talk About Doing Things to Stuff in German (aka German Accusative Case Articles)

Did you know that der, die, and das aren’t the only ways of saying “the” in German? (I didn’t) Sometimes, instead of der, you’re supposed to use den. As I learn more and more verbs, I come across this bit of grammar more and more frequently, and I’ve finally decided to learn more about it. Here’s what I found:

It’s called the accusative case, and it kicks in when something is being acted upon. For example, the sentence, “I drink the coffee”is accusative. In it, the coffee is being acted upon by me, when I drink it. In German, when a masculine noun is being acted upon its articles (the, a/an) change.

I’ve already talked a little bit about German articles, and now it’s time to add a couple more: the accusative den (the) and einen (a/an). For example, we can look at the word Kaffee (coffee), which is masculine and normally takes the articles der and ein. In the accusative case, those change.
If I want to say “I drink the coffee”, it’s “Ich trinke den Kaffee,” not “Ich trinke der Kaffee.” That’s because Ich (I) am acting on (drinking) the Kaffee.

Likewise, to say “I drink a coffee,” it’s “Ich trinke einen Kaffee”, rather than “Ich trinke ein Kaffee.”

Sie trinkt den Kaffee und sie trinkt einen Kaffee. I hope she likes coffee!

It’s important to note that this only happens to masculine nouns, so remembering the gender of a word is important. I have no idea why the masculine nouns are the only ones to change, and it’s going to bother me no end. Gender roles? Ease of pronunciation? To distinguish ein masculine from ein neutral? I guess that’s material for another post!


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