Verbs with Nominative Complements

On this page you'll learn everything about verbs with nominative complements. Complements are really important to help you know whether you should use the nominative, accusative, dative, or genitive case. But first, you have to know what a complement is. If you aren't sure, take a look at this page on complements in the German language.

Nominative Complements

Verbs always require a noun in the nominative case

The verb can‘t function by itself and needs a subject → The subject is in the nominative case, so we call this a nominative complement.

The subject can be a person or a thing.

Examples

  • Der Mann geht mit ihr spazieren.“
    „Der Mann“  is the subject ⇒ Nominative
  • Wir sind mit dem Zug nach Berlin gefahren.“
    „Wir“ is the subject ⇒ Nominative
  • Das Haus steht direkt am Strand.“
    „Das Haus“ is the subject ⇒ Nominative

Verbs with 2 Nominative Complements

The verbs "sein," "werden," "bleiben," and "heißen" require a second nominative complement (in addition to the subject):

  • Der Mann ist ein Idiot.“
  • Mein Sohn wird ein Pilot.“
  • Er bleibt ein Lehrer.“

When these verbs are used without a preposition, the corresponding object is always in the nominative form.

Achtung Hinweis

Warning!

If these are followed by measurements (weight, length, time, …), we need to use the accusative case! (The question is "how?" → No nominative case possible.)

Der Schrank ist einen Meter  hoch.“

But: Der Schrank ist ein alter Schrank.“ 

Er bleibt einen Monat im Krankenhaus.“ 

Der Tisch ist einen Meter Achtzig lang.“

Sentences Without the Nominative Case

If we give a command (imperative) we don’t need a nominative complement because we speak to the subject (the subject is implied, just like in English):

  • "Komm sofort nach Hause!"

When using the impersonal passive, there is sometimes no subject / nominative case (other times there is the impersonal pronoun "es"). 

  • „Auf den Mann wurde geschossen.“

Summary

In general, every verb needs a subject → Every verb has a nominative complement.

Only imperative and impersonal passive can be used without a nominative complement.

Related Topics:

All the info you need for the various complements in German:

If you aren't confident in using cases, look at these lessons again: Nominative, Accusative, Dative and Genitive.

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