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Plural of German nouns

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What is the plural of the nouns in German?

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.

This table below shows some examples:

Singular Plural Translation
das Autodie Autoscar - cars
das Bilddie Bilderpicture - pictures
die Fraudie Frauenwoman - women

 

Unlike in English, the plural in German is very irregular. Although it is essential to learn the form of the plural by learning vocabulary words, there are some tips for recognizing the plural form of certain words.

We distinguish between five different endings to form the plural.

  • no change of the ending with and without Umlaut
  • -e and -e + Umlaut
  • -er and -er + Umlaut
  • -n and -en
  • -s

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German plural without change of the endings

Some nouns do not have any plural endings. Among this category, some radicals remain unchanged, while others take a mutated vowel (Umlaut ä,ö,ü). Most of these names have an ending in -er, -el, -en.

German plural without change and without Umlaut (")

This table shows the type of nouns that are not changed in the plural and have no mutated vowel.

 What type of nouns?Example
MasculineAll the nouns with the endings -el, -er and -en
  • der Onkel - die Onkel (uncles)
  • der Lehrer - die Lehrer (teachers)
  • der Braten - die Braten (roasts)
Feminineno female noun follows this pattern 
Neuter

some neuter nouns with the endings -el, -en and -en

 

 

German diminutives, ending on -chen or -lein

  • das Rätsel - die Rätsel (puzzels)
  • das Messer - die Messer (knives)
  • das Kissen - die Kissen (pillows)

 

  • das Mädchen - die Mädchen (girls)
  • das Fräulein - die Fräulein (young ladys)

German plural without change but with Umlaut

There are nouns in German whose endings do not change in the plural but they have an Umlaut on the vowel of their radical.

 What type of noun?Examples
Masculine nouns with the endings -en, -el and -en
  • der Apfel - die Äpfel (apples)
  • der Vater -  die Väter (fathers)
  • der Boden - die Böden (grounds)
Femininethere are two nouns with an Umlaut in plural
  • die Mutter - die Mütter (mothers)
  • die Tochter - die Töchter (daughters)
Neuterthere is one noun with an Umlaut in plural
  • das Kloster - die Klöster (monasteries)

Plural ending -e in German

Many German nouns form their plural by adding an -e at the end of the noun. Some of them use an Umlaut, others have their radical unchanged.

Plural ending -e without Umlaut

The radical of some nouns remain unchanged in the plural but they take the suffix -e. Most of them are in masculine, rarely in feminine or neuter.

 What type of noun?Example
Masculine

Most of the masculine nouns and some nouns with the endings -ling, -ig and -eur

  • der Ruf - die Rufe (calls)
  • der Besuch - die Besuche (vists)
  • der Flüchtling - die Flüchtlinge  (refrugees)
  • der Friseur - die Friseure (hairdressers)
FeminineNouns with the ending -nis. In this case the s is doubled (-nisse)
  • die Kenntnis - die Kenntnisse (knowledge)
  • die Erlaubnis - die Erlaubnisse (permission)
NeuterMost of the neuter noun and nouns with the endings -nis or -sal. For the neuter nouns with the ending -nis the is doubled (-nisse)
  • das Ergebnis - die Ergebnisse (results)
  • das Schicksal - die Schicksale (fate)
  • das Jahr - die Jahre (years)
  • das Gedicht - die Gedichte (poems)

Plural ending -e with Umlaut

The plural of certain nouns is formed with the suffix -e and an Umlaut on the vowel of the radical. Among these names are the majority of male names and some feminine and neutral nouns.

 What type of noun?Example
MasculineThe plural of most of the masculine nouns are formed like this
  • der Sohn - die Söhne (sons)
  • der Zug - die Züge (trains)
  • der Arzt - die Ärzte (doctors)
  • der Baum - die Bäume (trees)
FeminineMost of the monosyllabic female nouns use this rule
  • die Angst - die Ängste (fears)
  • die Frucht - die Früchte (fruits)
  • die Macht - die Mächte (power)
  • die Stadt - die Städte (cities)
NeuterIt exists one neuter noun for this rule
  • das Floß - die Flöße (floats)

Plural ending -er in German

Some German nouns use the suffix -er to form the plural. The radical can sometimes take an umlaut on the vowel. Among these names, we find the majority of neutral names and some male names.

Plural ending -er without Umlaut

This table shows the plural of some nouns, where the radical stays unchanged and the suffix -er is used.

 What type of noun?Examples
Masculine the are not so many masculine nouns that adopt this rule
  • der Geist - die Geister (ghosts)
  • der Leib - die Leiber (bodies)
  • der Ski - die Skier (skis)
Femininethere is no feminine noun that uses this plural ending rule 
NeuterMost of the neuter nouns use this rule. Nouns that do not take Umlaut are those whose radical does not contain a vowel capable of carrying an umlaut.
  • das Kind - die Kinder (children)
  • das Bild - die Bilder (pictures)
  • das Ei - die Eier (eggs)
  • das Lied - die Lieder (songs)

Plural ending -er with Umlaut

The plural of certain nouns is formed with the suffix -er and an Umlaut on the vowel of the radical. 

 What type of noun?Example
Masculine

Some masculine nouns, usually monosyllabic

 

 

Some masculine nouns, that end on -tum

  • der Mann - die Männer (men)
  • der Wald - die Wälder (woods)
  • der Mund -  die Münder (mouths)

 

  • der Reichtum - die Reichtümer (wealth)
Femininethere no feminine nouns whose plural is formed like this 
Neutermost of the neuter nouns this rule
  • das Haus - die Häuser (houses)
  • das Land - die Länder (countries)
  • das Buch - die Bücher (books)
  • das Wort - die Wörter (words)

Plural ending -n or -en in German

Some names have the -n or -en in the plural. The radical never takes an Umlaut. Most of these nouns are feminine, but there are also some masculine and neuter nouns that use this ending in their plural. 

 What type of noun?Example
Masculine

weak and mixed masculine nouns

 

 

 

other masculine nouns

  • der Junge -die Jungen (boys)
  • der Name - die Namen (names)

 

  • der Staat - die Staaten (states)
  • der Schmerz - die Schmerzen (pangs)
  • der Nerv - die Nerven (nerves)
Feminine

nouns ending with -e

 

 

feminine nouns ending with a consonant or a double vowel (-au)

 

 

nouns ending with -in (mostly nouns formed out of masculine nouns), the -n is then doubled (-nnen)

  • die Blume - die Blumen (flowers)
  • die Stunde - die Stunden (hours)

 

  • die Universität - die Universitäten (universities)
  • die Frau - die Frauen (women)

 

  • die Freundin - die Freundinnen (friends)
  • die Studentin - die Studentinnen (students)
Neuter

nouns ending with -um or -ma

 

 

 

other neuter nouns

  • das Thema - die Themen (subjects)
  • das Museum - die Museen (museums)
  • das Datum - die Daten (dates)

 

  • das Auge - die Augen (eyes)
  • das Herz - die Herzen (hearts)
  • das Bett - die Betten (beds)

 

Plural ending -s in German

There are some German nouns that take a -s in their plural form. Here the radical can not be changed, which means that there is no Umlaut in the plural forms of the nouns.

 Example
Masculine
  • der Streik - die Streiks (strikes)
  • der Pulli - die Pullis (sweaters)
  • der Opa - die Opas (grandpas)
Feminine
  • die Kamera - die Kameras (cameras)
Neuter
  • das Auto - die Autos (cars)
  • das Restaurant - die Restaurants (restaurants)
  • das Hotel - die Hotels (hotels)

Which nouns in German have no plural?

This table shows when the German nouns do not have a plural form.

Type of nounExample
materials/ substances 
  • die Milch - milk
  • das Wasser - water
  • das Fleisch - meat
  • die Wolle - wool
  • das Silber - silver
collective terms
  • das Publikum - audience
  • das Gemüse - vegetables
  • das Obst - fruits
  • das Gepäck - luggage
abstract terms
  • die Liebe - love
  • die Kälte - cold 
  • die Wärme - heat

enlightenedThe plural of money das Geld exists: die Gelder , but it can be translated into funds in English.

Which German nouns do just exist in plural?

Conversely, some German nouns have no singular and they are just used in plural. Here are some examples:

  • die Eltern - parents
  • die Ferien - holiday
  • die Geschwister - siblings
  • die Leute - people

Nouns with different meanings according to the plural

Some nouns in German use the same singular with different meaning,  just the building of their plural varies. This table shows you some examples.

SingularPluralTranslation
  • die Bank

 

  • die Bank
  • die Bänke

 

  • die Banken
  • bench

 

  • bank (financial)
  • das Wort

 

  • das Wort
  • die Wörter

 

  • die Worte
  • words

 

  • words (of a sentence)
  • das Band

 

  • die Band
  • die Bänder

 

  • die Bands
  • ties

 

  • bands (music)

 

yesAlthough, there are rules of the German plural, it is easier to learn the plurals of the nouns by heart. Check your knowledge of this topic with our free exercises. If you are not sure about the plural of a noun, you can request the information through http://www.duden.de . And don't worry, even the Germans themselves exercise this website. 

Some names have the suffix -n or -en in the plural. The radical never takes umlaut. Most of these names are female names, but there are some masculine and neutral names.


Exercises

  1. Exercise of German plurals
  2. Exercise about plurals with mutated vowels
  3. Singular form = plural form
  4. Plural form of German nouns

Exercise of German plurals


Exercise about plurals with mutated vowels


Singular form = plural form


Plural form of German nouns


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