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How to speak German

German Adjective Endings

German adjective endings are unique and, for almost everyone, confusing. They can feel impossible to learn and lead to a lot of frustration when you’re trying to practice your written and spoken language skills. Although mastering adjective endings in German may seem like a small detail, doing so is crucial to overall fluency and communication.

Luckily, there are a few tricks and tips to help you confidently navigate nouns and their respective German adjective endings. In this article, we’ll provide a general overview of everything you need to know to successfully utilize the correct German adjective endings and boost your conversational skills.

What Are Adjective Endings?

Adjective endings are extra syllables of the German alphabet that are placed on the end of a word to help provide clarification for the noun. Remember, adjectives are used to describe a noun (people, place, thing) or a pronoun. They’re essential for adding detail to a conversation and can help accentuate German verbs in a sentence.

To understand adjective endings, it’s important to understand the two types of German adjectives: predicative adjectives and attributive adjectives. Predicative adjectives come after a noun or German verbs, while attributive come before. The only version of the two that receive a new German adjective ending is attributive adjectives. This helps to indicate gender, number, and case of the noun that they precede.

German Adjective ending

When Do We Need Adjective Endings in German?

Adjective endings in German inform people in a conversation about who is who in a sentence. They give further information regarding the relationship between the subject of a sentence and the object or other subject. German is unique in that the changes in adjective endings allow for flexibility in sentence structure, as long as the noun case is properly identified and German adjective endings reflect this. Simply put, German accent endings help to signal the case of a noun, which can define the entire meaning of a sentence.

The case of the noun basically describes how it’s being used in a sentence (i.e., subject, object, indirect object, etc.). In English, this refers to the positioning of a noun in a sentence. Nouns can either be nominative (subject; takes action), accusative (direct object; receives action), dative (indirect object; to/for whom action is taken), or genitive (possessive; indicates ownership of something or someone).

How to Learn German Adjective Endings

There are two steps to learning German adjective endings: establish the correct form of the article and then match the adjective ending in German. As an overview, there are five different potential adjective endings in German (-r, -n, -m, -e, and -s). This can seem like an overwhelming process, but the more you practice, the easier it will be. To help you practice your adjective endings in German, download Tandem today and match with a native speaker. In the meantime, let’s walk through this process below.

How to Choose the Correct German Article

A German article is a type of modifier that’s used before a noun or a noun phrase to help clarify meaning. German articles depend on two things: the noun’s gender and the noun’s case. Each noun in German has a different gender, so you’ll need to work on memorizing your German nouns, or have a dictionary handy when you’re trying to work out adjective endings. The noun cases can be defined based on the information we went over above. Remember, German accents matter when pronouncing nouns, so try to speak like a native would in order to help communicate clearly.

There are two different ways to conjugate German articles based on whether they’re definite or indefinite. The following tables will provide you with the correct form of the article for all German nouns.

Definite Articles (der)
Indefinite Articles (ein)

Determining the correct article, as mentioned, will be easier once you memorize the gender of German nouns and how they’re used in a sentence. For now, save these tables to use as a quick reference when you’re formulating German adjective endings.

Determining the Correct Adjective Ending

Once you have figured out the article, you can move on to using the correct form of the adjective endings in German. All German adjectives either have a strong declension (German adjective ending) or weak declension. Although conventionally there is also a category for mixed declensions, these can be combined with either weak or strong endings, as they utilize the same patterns.

Strong German adjective endings are used in the case of indefinite articles OR when there is no determiner at all. Weak German adjective endings are used with definite articles. In most instances, the endings will directly correspond to the tables we just outlined above. Let’s go over strong endings first.

Strong Adjective Endings in German

German adjective endings that are considered “strong” are associated with indefinite articles, possessives, and any time a derivative of kein is used. Like the articles, the endings change based on the noun case. However, using strong declensions allow for the article in a sentence to be removed, which can make them a little tricky to master. Start by memorizing the following table that defines how to use strong adjective endings in German.

Definite Articles (der)

When you compare this table to the above definite articles table, you can see the clear similarities. To further help visualize this, consider the following examples, which will usually be written without the article (der).

die gute Katze — the good cat gute Katze —good cat

dem guten Kind — the good kid gutem Kind —good kid

Weak Adjective Endings in German

Whenever you use a weak German adjective ending (for definite articles), refer to the following table. Notice that there are only two potential endings for weak declensions (-e/-en).

Definite Articles (der)

As you can see, both forms of the German adjective endings for dative and genitive nouns are the same and so are the plural versions of each! This makes things a little bit easier when trying to memorize and conjugate on the spot. Remember, practice makes perfect so whenever you see a German sentence, try to identify the article and the German adjective ending to bring more awareness to how each is used throughout conversation. Memorization of German adjective endings and the rules surrounding them is really the only way to make sure that you’re using the correct form during conversation.

Gaining a strong understanding of German adjective endings is one of the things that many German language learners struggle with the most. However, try not to get hung up on memorizing tables and charts out of the context of spoken language and practical sentences. It’s important to combine educational materials with the opportunity to practice if you want to make the biggest impact on your journey to fluency. To help you get the most out of this process, join one of the world’s most unique language communities by downloading Tandem.

Tandem is a worldwide community with millions of like-minded individuals working towards fluency by exchanging languages with native speakers. All you need to do is download the app, answer a few questions, and match with a German speaker who has similar interests. This allows members of our community to foster a deeper understanding of language while improving fluency and building long-lasting friendships. To join our community and work on your language skills, sign up for Tandem today.

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