Eins vs. Eines vs. Ein: A Guide to German Articles – Shallow German Deep Dive

eins, zwei, drei. Ich habe ein Buch. Er hat auch eins. Sie wird eines Tages eins haben. Meine Schwester hat eine Eins in Mathe. Seriously, German? Sometimes I think this language is simply designed to confuse people. Eins? Eines? Eine? Eine Eins? Huh? 

Hallo, Deutschlerner! Today, we’re diving into a topic that often confuses my students in German 1 and 2: the difference between “eins” and “eines.” So, grab your notebooks and let’s unravel this linguistic mystery together.

Eins vs. Eines vs. Ein: A Guide to German Articles - Shallow German Deep Dive

If you are really wanting to put your German learning on track, consider joining Herr Antrim’s Deutschlerner Club! For just $14.99 per month you will get access to his full A1 and A2 courses plus new materials as he creates them. You will go from knowing zero German to being able to have a short conversation in a short few weeks. Before you know it, you will be conversational in German on a variety of important topics, all while mastering German grammar.

Basics

  • “eins” and “eines” translate to “one”
  • usage varies on context. 
  • “Eins” is the cardinal number – counting or stating a quantity
  • “ein” is an article – used to say “a” or “one” followed by a noun 
  • sometimes this article is used as a kind of pronoun = no noun behind it
  • endings on “ein” depend on a variety of factors
    • case & gender of noun that follows
    • if no noun is present, this version of the chart is used
      • differences in the nominative & accusative = masculine – einer, neuter – eins
    • all of this means there are 4 places to use “eines” and 2 for “eins”
      • masculine or neuter in the genitive case with or without a noun all use “eines” (total 4)
      • neuter nominative or accusative without a noun use “eins” (total 2)

Ein-Words used with nouns

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativeeineineein(k)eine
Accusativeeineneineein(k)eine
Dativeeinemeinereinem(k)einen
Genitiveeineseinereines(k)einer

Ein-Words used as pronouns

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativeeinereineeins(k)eine
Accusativeeineneineeins(k)eine
Dativeeinemeinereinem(k)einen
Genitiveeineseinereines(k)einer

When to use “eins”

  • Wie spät ist es? Es ist um eins. – What time is it? It is one. (cardinal number) (Caution: Es ist ein Uhr.) 
  • Wie viele Pferde hast du? Ich habe eins. – How many horses do you have? I have one. (refers back to the neuter noun “Pferd”, but doesn’t have the noun there.)
  • Wer braucht das Arbeitsblatt? Ich habe schon eins. – Who needs the worksheet? I already have one. (refers back to the neuter noun “Arbeitsblatt”, but doesn’t have the noun there.) 
  • Sie hat fast immer eine Eins in der Schule. – She almost always has a one in school (German grade for an A) (used as a noun, but still the cardinal number)

When to use “eines”

  • Das ist für die Entwicklung eines Kindes sehr wichtig. – That is very important for the development of a child. (genitive case with a neuter noun showing possession)
  • Eines Tages kommt ein Prinz und rettet Rapunzel. – One day a prince comes and rescues Rapunzel. (genitive case with a masculine noun for indefinite time)

When to use “ein”

  • Ein Mann/Eine Frau ist ins Zimmer gekommen. – A man came into the room. (nominative followed by a masculine noun)
  • Ein Pferd gehört nicht im Aufzug. – A horse does not belong in an elevator. (nominative followed by a neuter noun)
  • Ich kaufe morgen ein neues Bett. – I am buying a new bed tomorrow. (accusative followed by a neuter noun)

I hope this clears up when to use eins, eines and ein. If you want to practice what you learned in today’s lesson, you can get worksheets and other extra materials for every lesson I upload by joining the Deutschlerner Club.

If you want to take a deeper dive into this topic, you might enjoy my hour long Genitive case master class. It reviews a few things about the other cases, but also includes literally everything you will ever need to know about the genitive case. 

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