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German nouns

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What is a noun in German? 

In general, nouns are describing creatures, plants, terms and similar things. Hauptwort or Substantiv are other words, for describing a noun in the German language. Nouns come along with their articles, definite and indefinite articles, in most of the time. Additionally, nouns belong to the declinable part of speech. 

enlightenedKeep in mind: German nouns are always written with a capital letter. 

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Masculine, feminine or neuter nouns in German? 

There are three different genders in the German grammar. A noun can either be masculine (der Mann), feminine (die Frau) or neuter (das Kind). There are some hints, how to guess the gender of nouns

Here you can find some examples for masculine, feminine and neuter nouns. 

 MasculineFeminineNeuter
Articlesder / eindie / einedas / ein 
Examples
  • der/ ein Mann - man
  • der/ ein Löwe - lion
  • der/ ein Schlüssel - key 
  • die/ eine Frau - woman
  • die/ eine Werbung - advertisment
  • die/ eine Universität - university
  • das/ ein Kind - child
  • das/ ein Märchen - fairytale
  • das/ ein Buch - book

Plural form of German nouns

What is the plural of Auge (eye) ? Augen or Auges ? There are several rules in order to guide you on plural froms of German nouns. 

German nouns in the plural are preceded by the definite article die, or by no article because in German there is no indefinite article in plural

There are five types of transformation from the singular to the plural. Have a look into this table below.

Transformation in Plural Example
  • no change

 

  • only Umlaut (ä,ö,ü) on the radical 
  • die Onkel - uncles
  • die Messer - knives

 

  • die Väter - fathers
  • die Äpfel - apples
  • -e ending

 

  • -e ending + Umlaut
  • die Besuche visits
  • die Jahre years

 

  • die Ängste fears
  • die Ärztedoctors
  • -er ending

 

  • -er + Umlaut
  • die Kinder - children
  • die Geister - ghosts

 

  • die Bücher - books
  • die Häuser - houses
  • -n ending

 

  • -en ending
  • die Straßen - streets
  • die Farben - colours

 

  • die Menschen - people
  • die Betten - beds
  • -s ending
  • die Autos - cars
  • die Fotos - photos

German declension of nouns (N-declension)

Nouns in German are declined according to their case. Most of the nouns remain unchanged and only the article and the adjective to designate the case and gender.

The four cases in German are:

  1. Nominative
  2. Genitive
  3. Dative
  4. Accusative

Table of declension of the four cases

This table is a summary of the declension of the four cases in German according to the number and gender with the definite and indefinite article.

 MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativeder/ein Hunddie/eine Katzedas/ein Pferddie Mäuse
Genitivedes/eines Hundesder/einer Katzedes/eines Pferdesder Mäuse
Dativedem/einem Hundder/einer Katzedem/einem Pferdden Mäusen
Accusativeden/einen Hunddie/eine Katzedas/ein Pferd

die Mäuse


Translation:

  • der Hund - dog
  • die Katze - cat
  • das Pferd - horse
  • die Mäuse - mice

 

enlightenedRemember: there is no indefinite article in Germal plural.

N-declension in German

Weak and mixed masculine nouns follow a special declension: the N-declension.

They always take the suffix -n/-en in all cases, except in the nominative singular. The mixed masculine names always take the suffix -n/-en in all cases(except nominative singular), but in addition the suffix -s in genitive singular is added.

Masculine nouns with the following endings are following the N-declension

  • -e
  • -ent
  • -ant
  • -and
  • -at
  • -ad
  • -urg
  • -oge
  • -ist

Here you can find some examples in sentences.

Noun in nominativeExample
der Junge - boyIch frage den Jungen, ob er Hunger hat. - I ask the boy, if he is hungry.
der Stundent - studentDas Buch des Studenten liegt auf dem Boden. - The book of the student is on the floor.
der Tourist - touristWir geben dem Touristen die Information.Wir geben dem Touristen die Information.

Diminutive in German

What does Frau have to do with Mädchen? What is the difference between Haus and Häuslein

A diminutive is a transformed noun, which expresses a smaller, cuter or younger of the noun. The nouns are transformed by the suffixes -lein or -chen. The diminutive is an informal way of expression. Learn something about the Diminutive in German on our Grammar pages.

Here you can find some examples.

  • das Haus (house) - das Häuslein (cutehouse)
  • die Maus (mouse) - das Mäuschen (little mouse)
  • die Dose (can) - das Döschen (little can)

Compound nouns in German

What happens when two nouns are compounded? Is the gender changing?

It's quite common in German to form nouns by joining several already existing words (nouns, adjectives, verbs, prepositions). Find out more about it by looking at our Grammar pages for Compound nouns in German. 

Examples: 

  • der Hausschlüssel (das Haus + der Schlüssel) - latchkey
  • die Weinflasche (der Wein + die Flasche) - wine bottle
  • der Rotkohl (rot + der Kohl) - red cabbage
  • die Lesebrille (lesen + die Brille) - reading glasses
  • der Vorort (vor + der Ort) - suburb

Sometimes the compound nouns are formed by connecting them with -s or -es or with the plural of the first noun.

Here you can see some examples:

  • die Mitgliedskarte (das Mitglied + die Karte) - membership card
  • der Geburtstag (die Geburt + der Tag) - birthday
  • das Tagebuch (die Tage + das Buch) - diary
  • der Sonnenstrahl (die Sonnen + der Strahl) - ray of sunlight

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.

Adjectives and verbs as nouns (substantivized adjectives and verbs) 

It is possible to form nouns from verbs or adjectives. Just add a capital letter and an article. These type of nouns are called substantivized adjectives and verbs.

Substantivized adjectives

Substantivized adjectives are nouns formed from adjectives, without their prefix or suffix. All German adjectives can be used as nouns.

Here are some examples:

  • das Große - (the) big
  • die Schöne - (the) beautiful
  • der Rote - (the) red

Substantivized infinitives 

The substantivized infinitive is formed from the infinitive of a verb. They take a capital letter. The substantivized infinitive describes an action, the act of doing something.

Substantivized infinitves are always neuter.

Here are some examples:

  • laufen - das Laufen - (the) walking
  • schreiben - das Schreiben - (the) writing
  • essen - das Essen - (the) eating, food

Substantivized past and present participle

You can form a noun out of the present or past participle of a verb. 

Here are some examples:

  • reisend - der Reisende - traveller
  • schlafend - der Schlafende - sleeper
  • gekauft - das Gekaufte - (the) bought
  • gegeben - das Gegeben - (the) given

 

smileyThis lesson is closely related to the lesson of German articles.  

Start improving your German grammar skills with our courses! 


Exercises

  1. Fill in the correct form of the German noun!
  2. Form the correct plural form of the German nouns!
  3. Fill in the correct definite and indefinite article!
  4. Translate these nouns into German
  5. Match the right German word to the sentences

Fill in the correct form of the German noun!


Form the correct plural form of the German nouns!


Fill in the correct definite and indefinite article!


Translate these nouns into German


Match the right German word to the sentences


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Next lessons

1 Gender of German nouns (substantives) - der, die, das Learn how to choose the gender of a noun in German.
2 Plural of German nouns Guidelines for the German plural.
3 German declension (N-declension) Discover the German declension of nouns and the N-declension
4 Diminutive (-lein, -chen) in German Learn about the German diminutives.
5 Compound nouns in German Discover the compound nouns in German
6 Adjectives and verbs as nouns in German Discover the substantivized adjectives and verbs in German