Related Topics





Adjectival Nouns


Grammar Review Home

Dartmouth German
    Studies Department

  Cool story. Cool music. Cool thing.
Beyond the Horizon - the Musical

German puts endings on articles, adjectives that precede nouns, and, occasionally on the nouns themselves in order to mark gender, case, and number. (The four cases, the nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive, are discussed elsewhere). Examples of the endings:

  A strong back knows no pain.

          Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural

 nom. der rote Stuhl  die neue Lampe  das alte Buch  die roten Stühle 
  * kein roter Stuhl  keine neue Lampe  * kein altes Buch  keine neuen Lampen 
  roter Stuhl  neue Lampe  altes Buch  alte Bücher 

 acc.  den roten Stuhl  die neue Lampe  das alte Buch  die roten Stühle 
  keinen roten Stuhl  keine neue Lampe  * kein altes Buch  keine neuen Lampen 
  roten Stuhl  neue Lampe  altes Buch  alte Bücher 

 dat.  dem roten Stuhl  der neuen Lampe  dem alten Buch  den roten Stühlen 
  rotem Stuhl neuer Lampe  altem Buch  alten Büchern 

 gen.  des roten Stuhles  der neuen Lampe  des alten Buches  der roten Stühle 
  roten Stuhles neuer Lampe  alten Buches  alter Bücher 

  The Palace. One of the first addresses for your exclusive rental desires.

There are also a number of "weak nouns" that take an "-n" (or "-en") in all cases but the nominative. Some examples:

 der Mensch
 den Menschen
 dem Menschen
 des Menschen
 der Nachbar
 den Nachbarn
 dem Nachbarn
 des Nachbarn
 der Herr
 den Herrn
 dem Herrn
 des Herrn
 [lord; gentleman] 
 der Held
 den Helden
 dem Helden
 des Helden
 der Bote
 den Boten
 dem Boten
 des Boten
 der Kunde
 den Kunden
 dem Kunden
 des Kunden
 der Junge
 den Jungen
 dem Jungen
 des Jungen
 der Experte
 den Experten
 dem Experten
 des Experten
 der Jude
 den Juden
 dem Juden
 des Juden
 der Russe
 den Russen
 dem Russen
 des Russen
 der Kollege
 den Kollegen
 dem Kollegen
 des Kollegen
 der Riese
 den Riesen
 dem Riesen
 des Riesen

A number of weak nouns have the suffixes "-ant", "-arch", "-ege", "-ent", "-ist", "-oge", "-om", "-oph", and "-ot". Some examples:

 der Buddist
 der Katholik
 der Protestant
 der Pilot
 der Student
 der Komödiant
 der Astronom
 der Patriarch
 der Philosoph
 der Fotograf
 der Enthusiast
 der Anthropologe

Note that all of these nouns are masculine. Furthermore, their plural forms are the same as their accusative, dative, and genitive singular forms: e.g., den Studenten, dem Studenten, des Studenten; [plural:] die Studenten, den Studenten, der Studenten. ("Herr" is an exception: den Herrn, dem Herrn, des Herrn; [plural:] die Herren, den Herren, der Herren).

A few weak nouns add "-ns" in the genitive, for example:

 der Glaube
 den Glauben
 dem Glauben
 des Glaubens
 der Wille
 den Willen
 dem Willen
 des Willens
 der Gedanke
 den Gedanken
 dem Gedanken
 des Gedankens
 der Name
 den Namen
 dem Namen
 des Namens

One neuter noun is also weak in the dative and takes an "-ens" in the genitive:

 das Herz
 das Herz
 dem Herzen
 des Herzens

Uninflected adjectives:

Predicate adjectives, like adverbs, take no endings:

Das Haus ist schön. The house is beautiful.
Alles bleibt ruhig. Everything remains quiet.

With the exception of ein (one"), cardinal numbers take no endings:

Ich habe eine Schwester und einen Bruder. I have one sister and one brother.
Ich habe drei Schwestern. I have three sisters.

  The best solution? Every second person has already found it. Berliner Sparkasse [Berlin Savings Bank]. Every second Berliner is already our customer. Demand more.

Ordinal numbers, on the other hand, act like normal adjectives:

Er ist der siebte Sohn eines siebten Sohnes. He is the seventh son of a seventh son.
Das erste Mal ist immer schwierig. The first time is always hard.
Der einunddreißigste Juni ist der letzte Tag des Finanzjahres. The thirty-first of June is the last day of the financial year.

Adjectives formed from city names always end in "-er", no matter what the number, gender, or case. They are also capitalized:

das Münchner Bier Munich beer
der Mainzer Dom the Mainz Cathedral
die Berliner Modeschöpfer the Berlin fashion designers
also: Schweizer Schokolade  Swiss chocolate

Adjectives that designate decades also end in "-er":

Brecht schrieb es in den zwanziger Jahren. Brecht wrote it in the 20's.
Die fünfziger Jahre waren die Zeit des Wirtschaftswunders. The 50's were the time of the "economic miracle."

  As famous as a brightly-colored dog. [colloquial phrase]

A few adjectives that end in "-a" take no endings:

Sie trägt ein lila Kleid. She's wearing a purple dress.
Sie trägt ein weißes Kleid mit rosa Schleifen.  She's wearing a white dress with pink bows.
Das war eine prima Idee! That was an excellent idea!

"genug" (enough), "super", and "lauter" (unmixed, unalloyed) also take no endings:

Es gibt genug Plätze hier.  There are enough seats here.
Du hast ein super Auto gekauft!  You've bought a fabulous car.
Das sind lauter Lügen.  Those are nothing but lies.

When preceding the name of a country or city and meaning "all of," "ganz" takes no endings:

In ganz Deutschland ist es so.  That's how it is in all of Germany.
Ganz Berlin feiert.  All of Berlin is celebrating.

When "voll" means "full," it takes the usual endings, but when it means "full of", it becomes "voller", with no further endings:

Ich übernehme die volle Verantwortung.  I'll take on the whole responsibility.
Er hatte einen Sack voller Geld.  He had a bag full of money.
Ich war voller Tatendrang.  I was full of a zest for action.

  Berlin is full of contrasts. That's one of our greatest strengths.

When "viel" and "wenig" are not preceded by articles, they take no endings in the singular.

Wir haben es mit viel Fleiß gemacht. We did it with a lot of applied effort.
Er ist mit vielen Freunden gekommen. He came with a lot of friends.
Du brauchst wenig Hilfe. You don't need much help.
Wenige Deutsche trinken gern amerikanischen Kaffee.  Few Germans like to drink American coffee.


* The nominative masculine and neuter and the accusative neuter are different when the article is an "ein-word." The articles in this category are ein, kein, and the possessive pronouns: mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, Ihr, ihr

The so-called "der-words" are the articles der, die, das, dies-, jed-, jen-, manch-, solch-, welch-.

back to text