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In grammar, nominative (from Latin nominare ' to name') is the term used for a case , which primarily serves to identify the subject in the sentence, but for which it is also typical that it can appear in the free use of a noun (ie unregulated ), for example in German in the salutation. The nominative is then also used as a citation form or "basic form" of a noun. In German school grammar , the nominative is also called the first case or who-case .

When comparing languages, the nominative usually appears as part of a case system, which is also called the nominative-accusative system , and which is primarily compared to languages ​​with an ergative system. The basic case form in ergative systems is usually referred to as absolute , but sometimes also called nominative.

The nominative in the German language

The nominative as the case of the subject

The nominative is the most frequently used case of the four cases used in German grammar and is the regular case in which the subject (subject of the sentence) is used. It can only be placed next to a verb that is inflected in person and number (Latin numerus ) ( finite verb ). In German, the nominative has its own unique form in the masculine form of articles and personal pronouns of the singular, ie "der" or "he", as well as in the question word for people "who". Therefore, replacing a clause with a Who? -Question used as a test to find the subject of the sentence (all other forms, including the What? Question for inanimate subjects, are ambiguous).


  • The grandson plays in the garden.” - “Who plays in the garden?” - “ The grandson. "
  • The roof structure is burning.” - “What is burning?” - “ The roof structure. "

It should be noted here that the subject always corresponds to the finite verb in person and number. Therefore, one speaks of the congruence (agreement) between subject and predicate .

  • "The children are playing in the garden." - "The child is playing in the garden."
  • "The house is on fire." - "The houses are on fire."

All declinable words can be used in the nominative , with the exception of the reflexive pronoun . The indefinite pronoun man, on the other hand, only occurs in the nominative.

The equation nominative (predicate nominative)

The equation nominative is called differently. In the grammar dictionary it is called the "predicative nominative". The term “subject predicative ” is also common .

  • "My father is a teacher."
  • "My sister's name is Stephanie."
  • "She is an artist."

The equation nominative only follows the verbs to be , will , be called , seem (to be), remain , apply (as), (to) feel (as), (to) think (to), (to) prove (to), (to) turn out (as). These verbs can appear with two nominatives in a sentence.

The equation nominative also takes its case from the subject, although it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the equation nominative and the nominative. It is then helpful to replace the verb with one that is marked as , e.g. B. give as

  • " He 's a great artist ." (Only in the case of the masculine can you see that it is nominative.)
  • " She turns out to be a great artist ."

She is the nominative and a great artist is the equation nominative .

The absolute nominative

This means a nominative that stands “on its own”, detached from a sentence context.

  • "The whole city was on fire - a terrible sight ".

The nominative in language typology

In language typology , one is interested in whether a language characterizes the nominative morphologically or not, especially in contrast to the accusative. If only the nominative is marked, one speaks of a marked nominative . B. occurs in a number of Cushitic , Nilotic and Surmic languages ​​of East Africa .


  • Duden. The grammar. 8th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2009, especially pp. 810–814.

Web links

Wiktionary: nominative  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Example from: Dudengrammatik 2009, p. 814.