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Exploring "wessen?" - What is the German genitive case all about?


Today, let's look at the genitive case in German which is signified by "wessen". This word is used when asking the question "whose" in English. The genitive case is predominantly used to denote possession or ownership, and it plays a significant role in German grammar. For those familiar with English, this would be equivalent to asking a question that requires the response of "_____'s" or "of _____". The word "wessen" is an essential interrogative pronoun used to ask about the owner or possessor of an object or thing.

Let's take a look at some examples:

  1. "Wessen Buch ist das?" (Whose book is this?)

  2. "Wessen Auto hast du gesehen?" (Whose car did you see?)

  3. "Wessen Mantel liegt dort?" (Whose coat is lying there?)

In these sentences, "wessen" stands at the beginning of the question, which is also the genitive case's typical position in the sentence structure. The noun that follows "wessen" is the thing or object in question, and this noun is in the nominative case.

When responding to these questions, the possessive adjective (e.g., "mein" for "my," "dein" for "your," etc.) should match the gender and number of the noun in question. For example, the response to "Wessen Buch ist das?" could be "Das ist mein Buch" (That is my book).

"Wessen" can also be used in combination with prepositions that require the genitive case, such as "wegen" (because of), "während" (during), "trotz" (despite), and "anstatt" (instead of). Here are some examples:

  1. "Wegen wessen bist du zu spät?" (Because of whom are you late?)

  2. "Trotz wessen hast du das gemacht?" (Despite whom did you do that?)

  3. "Anstatt wessen gehst du zur Party?" (Instead of whom are you going to the party?)

It's essential to remember that the genitive case, and by extension "wessen", is less common in colloquial German. It's more frequently used in formal or written German. In casual conversation, Germans often replace the genitive case with the dative case.

With that, we have covered all four cases in German (check the other blog posts!): nominative (wer), accusative (wen), dative (wem), and genitive (wessen). Mastering these cases is key to understanding and speaking German fluently, so take your time to practice and understand the role each case plays in a sentence.


If you're interested in learning more, get in touch with us, we teach you useful phrases while covering the fundamentals of German grammar.


See you in the next lesson. Bye! Bye!

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