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Adjektivendungen--Hartmut's Version 

Why "Hartmut's Version"?

The advantage of the explanation of adjective endings on this page is that instead of having to memorize three separate tables of endings, you just need to memorize one simple table with -e and -en endings, and the rest of the adjective endings follow from what you already know about the forms of der/das/die.  The disadvantage is that you have to learn a (not very complicated) new concept which you will find only on this page: the "determiner" (you may occasionally find this term in other German texts with a slightly different meaning).  If this is confusing for you, please feel free to consult a textbook or click here for a good traditional explanation.
 
Diagnostic Exercises (check if you've mastered this topic!)
  • You will be asked 20 questions. IF YOU GET A QUESTION WRONG, KEEP TRYING UNTIL YOU GET IT RIGHT. THE PROGRAM WILL ONLY CALCULATE YOUR SCORE IF YOU HAVE ANSWERED ALL THE QUESTIONS. Incorrect guesses will reduce your score. When you are finished, click "Submit" if you are satisfied with your score. Remember you need a score of at least 80% in order to get a "check" for this assignment.
  • Each question involves a German idiom or figure of speech. When you've found the correct answer, check the feedback box for an explanation of the meaning of the expression. Try to remember the ones you like, and to use them in class, on your written work, and when you're talking to yourself :)
  • If you enjoy the idioms and/or want more practice, click here to see all the items from the question bank!
Practice Exercises Quandary Mazes (Step by step practice) [coming eventually]
Determiners Weak Endings ("Determiner" Present): -e or -en
Strong Endings (No "Determiner" Present) Examples
Notes Adjective Nouns

Summary

  • In order to be able to apply what you will learn here about adjective endings, you need to know the Basic Chart of the forms of der/das/die and the ein-words, and you should be comfortable with the German case system (Nominative, Accusative, Dative, Genitive).
  • A determiner is any der-word (der/das/die, dieser, jener etc.), or any ein-word with an ending (eine, einen, einem, keine, keines, meine, seine, ihre, unsere etc., BUT NOT ein, kein, mein, sein, ihr, unser, euer).
  • If there is a determiner preceding the adjective, the adjective will end in -e or -en ("weak endings"), according to the following table:
M N F Pl
Nominative -e -e -e -en
Accusative -en -e -e -en
Dative -en -en -en -en
Genitive -en -en -en -en
  • If there is no determiner preceding the adjective, the adjective will take (roughly) the same ending that der/das/die would have had if it had preceded the noun ("strong endings").  This amounts to the following table of endings:
M N F Pl
Nominative -er (der) -es (das) -e (die) -e (die)
Accusative -en (den) -es (das) -e (die) -e (die)
Dative -em (dem) -em (dem) -er (der) -en (den)
Genitive -en (des)  -en (des) -er (der) -er (der)
  • Notes:
    • If there is more than one adjective preceding a noun, they will all take the same ending.
    • If the adjective does not precede the noun, it takes no ending!
    • Ein-word endings are not the same as  adjective endings!  Click here to review the ein-word endings.
    • There are a few special cases:
      • Viel and wenig take no adjective endings in the singular when they are not preceded by a determiner (which they usually aren't).They take regular adjective endings in the plural.
      • Hoch drops the "c" and adjectives ending in -el or -er drop their final "e" when they take adjective endings.
      • Some adjectives never take endings, e.g. prima [=great], lila [=purple], rosa [=pink], orange, beige

Practice Exercises

Determiners Determine whether or not the adjectives in these statements about determined people are preceded by determiners.
Drill Some purely mechanical practice at filling in adjective endings.  NOTE: WHERE THERE SHOULD BE NO ENDING, WRITE "x" or "X."

Frisches Brot More fairly mechanical practice.  NOTE: WHERE THERE SHOULD BE NO ENDING, WRITE "x" or "X."

Romeo und Julia I Fill in the adjective endings in this passage about Romeo & Julia.  NOTE: WHERE THERE SHOULD BE NO ENDING, WRITE "x" or "X."

Romeo und Julia II More of Romeo & Julia's exploits :)  NOTE: WHERE THERE SHOULD BE NO ENDING, WRITE "x" or "X."

Adjective Nouns Fill in the adjective endings.  NOTE: WHERE THERE SHOULD BE NO ENDING, WRITE "x" or "X."

Kunst Fill in the adjective endings in short descriptions of some famous artworks by German-speaking artists. There are 15 items, so keep clicking on "weiter" when you finish a page. This exercise will open in a new window, as its navigation buttons will take you to a web worksheet on art, and not back to this page on adjective endings.

Practice Exercises on Other Sites

History of Berlin Fill in the adjective endings in a series of statements about the history of Berlin. This exercise, compiled by Dr. Olaf Böhlke at Creighton University, includes detailed feedback for each item.

Determiners

  • Please note that you will not generally find this terminology oustside of this webpage, e.g. in German textbooks or on other websites.  The term "determiner" is occasionally used in some textbooks, but usually in a slightly different sense than here, so be careful!
  • A determiner is any der-word (der/das/die, dieser, jener, welcher, jeder etc.), or any ein-word with an ending (eine, einen, einem, keine, keines, meine, seine, ihre, unsere etc., BUT NOT ein, kein, mein, sein, ihr, unser, euer).
  • Note that a determiner may occasionally be concealed in a contraction, e.g. "im" = "in dem" conceals the determiner "dem"; "zur" = "zu + der" conceals the determiner "der."
  • If a determiner is present, it already conveys the essential information about the gender and case of the noun, so the adjective can take relatively uninformative "weak" endings, -e or -en.  If no determiner is present, the adjective has to convey the information about the gender and case of the noun, so it will take (roughly) the same ending that der/das/die would have had if it had preceded the noun.
  • Try the first one of the practice exercises above to practice recognizing determiners.

Weak Endings ("Determiner" Present): -e or -en

If there is a determiner preceding the adjective, the adjective will end in -e or -en ("weak endings").  The ending is -e in the nominative singular and in the feminine and neuter accusative [an area shaped like Oklahoma in the table below ==> "inside of Oklahoma," the adjective ending is -e]. Otherwise, the adjective ending is -en ==> it is -en in the plural, the dative, the genitive, and the masculine accusative.
 
 
M N F Pl
Nominative -e -e -e -en
Accusative -en -e -e -en
Dative -en -en -en -en
Genitive -en -en -en -en
  • Another way of thinking about the information in this table: Once you've figured out that the adjective is preceded by a determiner, you know it will end in -e or -en.  From the above table, you can see that if the noun is in the dative or genitive, or if it is in the plural, the adjective ending will be -en.  If the noun is in the nominative singular, the adjective ending will be -e.  In the accusative singular, masculine nouns will require an -en adjective ending, and neuter and feminine nouns will require an -e adjective ending.

Strong Endings (No "Determiner" Present)

If there is no determiner preceding the adjective, the adjective will take (roughly) the same ending that der/das/die would have had if it had preceded the noun ("strong endings").  In other words, if no determiner is present, figure out what form of der/das/die you would put in front of the noun if you wanted to put it in, and use that as the ending for the adjective.This amounts to the following table of endings:
 
M N F Pl
Nominative -er (der) -es (das) -e (die) -e (die)
Accusative -en (den) -es (das) -e (die) -e (die)
Dative -em (dem) -em (dem) -er (der) -en (den)
Genitive -en (des)  -en (des) -er (der) -er (der)
  • Since you can figure out the adjective ending in each case by figuring out what the form of der/das/die would be as described above, you don't need to memorize this table of endings, and indeed the point of learning adjective endings with this method is not to have to memorize this table, but it is given here for completeness' sake.
  • Note the exception to the rule described in this section for the Masculine and Neuter Genitive, but note also that you will almost never come across an adjective in the Masculine or Neuter Genitive without a determiner.

Examples

1. Ich spiele gern mit klein___, süß___ Babys.
There is no determiner present here.  If you were to put in a form of der/das/die, it would be "den" in this case, since "mit" requires the dative, and the babies are plural, and the dative plural form of der/das/die is "den" [==> Ich spiele gern mit den klein___, süß___ Babys].

==> The adjective ending is -en: Ich spiele gern mit kleinen, süßen Babys.

1a. Ich spiele gern mit einem klein___, süß___ Baby.
There is a determiner present here: "einem," an ein-word with an ending.  ==> The adjective ending will be -e or -en.  In this case, we are in the dative,

==> the adjective ending will be -en: Ich spiele gern mit einem kleinen süßen Baby.  [Same ending as in the previous example, but for a different reason.]

1b. Sie spielt gern mit ihrem klein___, süß___ Baby.
There is a determiner present here: "ihrem," an ein-word with an ending.  ==> as above,

==> the adjective ending will be -en: Sie spielt gern mit ihrem kleinen süßen Baby.

2. Wir lieben klein___ Babys.
There is no determiner present here.  If you were to put in a form of der/das/die, it would be "die" in this case, since the babies are in the accusative (we love them, i.e. they are the object of the verb "lieben"), and they are plural, and the accusative plural form of der/das/die is "die" [==> Wir lieben die klein___ Babys].

==> The adjective ending is -e: Wir lieben kleine Babys.

2a. Wir lieben die klein___ Babys.
There is a determiner present here: "die."  ==> The adjective ending will be -e or -en.  In this case, we are in the plural,

==> the adjective ending will be -en: Wir lieben die kleinen Babys.

2b. Wir lieben unsere klein___ Babys.
There is a determiner present here: "unsere,"  an ein-word with an ending. ==> as above, we are in the plural,

==> the adjective ending will be -en: Wir lieben unsere kleinen Babys.

3. Sie isst frisch___ Brot.
There is no determiner present here.  If you were to put in a form of der/das/die, it would be "das" in this case [==> Sie isst das frisch___ Brot].

==> The adjective ending is -es: Sie isst frisches Brot.

3a. Sie isst das frisch___ Brot.
There is a determiner present here: "das."  ==> The adjective ending will be -e or -en.  In this case, we are in the accusative, and the noun is neuter,

==> The adjective ending is -e: Sie isst das frische Brot.

4. Da ist ein klein___ Mann.
There is no determiner present here: "ein" is present, but it does not have an ending, so it is not a determiner.  If you were to put in a form of der/das/die, it would be "der" in this case [==> Da ist der klein___ Mann].

==> The adjective ending is -er: Da ist ein kleiner Mann.

4a. Da ist der klein___ Mann.
There is a determiner present here: "der."  ==> The adjective ending will be -e or -en.  In this case, we are in the nominative singular,

==> The adjective ending is -e: Da ist der kleine Mann.

4b. Ich sehe einen klein___ Mann.
There is a determiner present here: "einen," an ein-word with an ending.  ==> The adjective ending will be -e or -en.  In this case, we are in the masculine accusative (the small man is the direct object of the verb "sehen"),

==> The adjective ending is -en: Ich sehe einen kleinen Mann.

Notes

  • If there is more than one adjective preceding a noun, they will all take the same ending.
    • An der Michigan State University studieren viele süße kleine Kinder.  Die Michigan State Studentin liest ein lustiges altes Buch von Dr. Seuss.
  • If the adjective does not precede the noun, it takes no ending!
    • This happens when the adjective follows the "linking verbs" sein, werden [=to become] and bleiben [=to stay], as in the examples below.  Adjectives following the verbs sein, werden and bleiben are called predicate adjectives, as opposed to attributive adjectives, which precede the noun they describe and take adjective endings.
      • Examples of predicate adjectives: Das Bett ist warm. Der Mann wird alt. Michigan bleibt [=stays] kalt.
    • Thinking about whether the adjective precedes the noun will also help you avoid the temptation to give adjective endings to adverbs, such as "schnell" in the sentence "Der Hund rennt schnell." [Note that there is nothing absolute about "schnell" that makes it an adverb; as with most adjectives in German, "schnell" can be an adjective or an adverb depending on its function in the sentence.  ==> e.g. in the sentence "Der schnelle Hund fängt die Katze," "schnell" is an adjective.]
    • There are, however, exceptions where the adjective takes an ending even though it does not precede a noun; in particular, adjective nouns (see the following section), and the superlative form "am ___sten," e.g. "Die Deutschstudenten sind am intelligentesten" & "Die Französischstudenten sind am hilflosesten."
  • Ein-word endings are not the same as  adjective endings!  Click here to review the ein-word endings.
    • In particular, if you are writing a sentence with an ein-word followed by an adjective, you can know you are making a mistake if you are giving them both an -er, -es or -em ending: Das ist einer netter Mann should be Das ist ein netter Mann; Ich möchte eines schnelles Auto should be Ich möchte ein schnelles Auto.
    • On the other hand, it is possible for them both to end in -e (feminine nominative or accusative), or for them both to end in -en (masculine accusative and dative plural): Das ist eine nette Frau; Ich kenne eine nette Frau; Ich kenne einen netten Mann [masc. acc.]; Ich fahre mit meinen guten Freunden [Dat. Pl.] in die Schweiz.
  • There are a few special cases:
    • Viel and wenig take no adjective endings in the singular when they are not preceded by a determiner (which they usually aren't): "Ich habe viel Zeit und viel Geld, aber wenig Schokolade." [But: Wo ist das viele Geld, das ich dir gegeben hatte?"]  They take regular adjective endings in the plural: "Ich habe viele Elvispuppen."
    • Hoch drops the "c" and adjectives ending in -el or -er drop their final "e" when they take adjective endings.
      • hoch ==> hohe Preise, ein hoher Berg, teuer ==> teure Bücher, dunkel [=dark] ==> ein dunkles Zimmer
    • Some adjectives never take endings, e.g. prima [=great], lila [=purple], rosa [=pink]
      • Das war ein prima Konzert; Was kostet die lila Hose?; Die Französischstudenten tragen lila Schuhe mit rosa Strümpfen.

Adjective Nouns [Substantivierte Adjektive]

  • When adjectives are used as nouns (e.g. der/die Deutsche, der/die Kriminelle), they continue to take adjective endings according to the above rules.
  • There are some common adjective nouns referring to people, which are listed below.  In addition, abstractions such as "the good" or "the new" can be formed from adjectives.  These will be neuter, and often follow words like nichts, etwas and wenig, after which they take the ending -es (nichts Neues, etwas Gutes), or the word alles, which acts as a determiner, so that after it they take the ending -e (Alles Gute!).
  • The following are a few common adjective nouns:
der/die Angestellte employee
der Beamte [fem. die Beamtin] civil servant
der/die Bekannte acquaintance
der/die Deutsche German person
der/die Erwachsene adult
der/die Fremde  stranger
der/die Jugendliche young person, teenager
der/die Kriminelle criminal
der/die Tote dead person
der/die Verlobte fiancé(e)
der/die Verwandte relative
der/die Vorgesetzte supervisor, superior

 



   
 

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