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Compound nouns in German

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Compound nouns are nouns that are composed out of two or more words and then build a new word with sometimes a new meaning.

What is a compound noun in German?

In German, it is very common to assemble several existing words to create new ones. The compound can be made from nouns, adjectives, verbs or an invariable element (prepositions). There is no limit of the number of the associated words. Following, you can find several rules to build a compound noun.

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General structure of compound nouns

Keep in mind: The last word always determines the gender, the number and the case of the compound noun. It is also the only one to decline depending on the case.

The emphasis is always on the first word of the compound noun, but not always on the first syllable.

To understand the meaning of compound word read from right to left. Here are some examples.

First nounSecond nounCompound word
die Orangen - orangesder Saft - juiceder Orangensaft - orange juice
das Wasser - waterdie Flasche - bottledie Wasserflasche - water bottle

There exist different combinations of compound words:

  1. noun + noun
  2. verb + noun
  3. adjective/participle + noun
  4. invariable preposition + noun

1) Noun + noun

Associated nouns can be understood as simple or compound nouns. Here are some examples.

First nounSecond nounCompound noun
das Hoteldas Zimmerdas Hotelzimmer - hotel room
der Zahndie Bürstedie Zahnbürste - tooth brush
der Fußballdie Weltmeisterschaftdie Fußballweltmeisterschaft - world cup

2) Verb + noun

Some compound nouns are build out of the radical of a verb and another noun. Here are some examples.

VerbNounCompound noun
essen das Zimmerdas Esszimmer - dining room
schreibendie Maschinedie Schreibmaschine - typewriter
laufender Schrittder Laufschritt - double quick

3) Adjective/participle + noun

You can also form a compound noun out of an adjective or a particle and a noun. Have a look.

Adjective/participleNoun Compound noun
großdie Stadtdie Großstadt - big city
rotder Kohlder Rotkohl - red cabbage
gebrauchtder Wagender Gebrauchtwagen - used car

4) Invariable element (preposition) + noun

Some nouns are composed of an invariable element, often a preposition, and a noun. Here are some examples.

Invariable element/prepositionNounCompound noun
vorder Ortder Vorort - suburb
aberder Glaubeder Aberglaube - superstition

Juncture of compound nouns

To connect two nouns and to build a new noun, the first one needs an additional suffix. Either you have to add -s or -es or sometimes you have to use the plural forms of the first word

Juncture with -s or -es

Here you can find some examples for the juncture with -s or -es.

First nounSecond nounCompound noun
der Staatdas Examendas Staatsexamen - state examination
der Lieblingdie Farbedie Lieblingsfarbe - favorite colour
die Arbeitdie Kraftdie Arbeitskraft - worker

enlightenedThis rule applies to all of the nouns with the suffix: -keit, -heit, -schaft, -ung, -ion, -tät, -ling, -tum.

Juncture with the plural of the noun

Often the first noun is pluralized before being associated to with another noun. Here you can find some examples.

First nounSecond nounCompound noun
die Krankendie Schwesterdie Krankenschwester - nurse
die Straßendie Lampedie Straßenlampe - street lamp
die Suppender Löffelder Suppelöffel - tablespoon

You know everything about compound nouns in German. Now you can practise them with some exercises.


  1. Exercise about compound nouns in German
  2. Define the gender of compound nouns

Exercise about compound nouns in German

Define the gender of compound nouns

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