Different types of adjectives in German
Adjectives are words that characterize and describe anybody or anything. In German there exist different types of adjectives and some of them change their ending in accordance to fit to the word they refer to. This chapter will deal with the different types and their usage in German language.
- 1.Predicative adjective in German
- 1.1.Verbs introducing predicative adjectives
- 1.2.Predicative adjectives of the subject
- 1.3.Predicative adjectives of the object
- 1.4.Adjectives only used as predicative adjectives
- 2.Attributive adjectives in German
- 2.1.Declension of attributive adjectives in German
- 2.2.Weak declension of attributive adjectives
- 2.3.Mixed declension of attributive adjectives
- 2.4.Strong declension of attributive adjectives
- 3.Adverbial adjectives in German
- 4.Adjectives as nouns in German
- 4.1.Gender of adjectival nouns in German
- 4.2.Declension of adjectival nouns
- 5.Adjectival nouns with ‘etwas’, ‘nichts’, ‘wenig’ and ‘viel’
Predicative adjective in German
Most adjectives can occur before or after a noun, like "the red car" or "the car is red". In case of predicative adjectives, the adjective follows the noun of a sentence. Very often, the predicative adjective and the noun of a sentence are seperated by a verb. It's important to know, that predicative adjectives do not change their style!
Verbs introducing predicative adjectives
Predicate adjectives are one of the different types of adjectives and therefore it's imporant to know when to use predicate adjectives. In German, predicate adjectives are used when the adjective follows a form of the verbs werden, sein or bleiben.
The predicative adjective remains in the same form, regardless of the number, gender and case of the noun.
- Das Spiel ist lustig. (The game is funny.)
- Der Film war interessant. (The film was interesting.)
- Der Vortrag wird spannend. (The lecture will be exciting.)
- Die Blätter bleiben grün. (The leaves stay green.)
Predicative adjectives of the subject
Predicative adjectives can either refer to the subject or the object of a sentence. Especially the verbs werden, sein und bleiben refer to the subject of a sentence.
- Das Haus ist schön. (The house is beautiful.)
- Er sieht nett aus. (He looks friendly.)
- Der Clown ist lustig. (The clown is funny.)
In all sentences, the adjectives are used to describe the subject of the sentence. "Schön" therefore describes the subject "Haus" and "nett" describes the subject "Er".
Predicative adjectives of the object
In contrast to that, the adjectives can also refer to the object of a sentence.
- Sie strichen das Haus blau. (They coloured the house blue.)
- Das Training machte mich besser. (The training made me better.)
- Ich fand das Buch war langweilig. (I think the book was boring.)
In this sentences the predicative adjectives refer to the direct object of the sentence ("Haus" and "Training"), and not to the subject ("Sie" and "Mich").
Adjectives only used as predicative adjectives
Some adjectives can only be used in the predicative way. They can only be linked to the noun via a verb and can't get declined.
- Der Junge geht barfuß. (The boy goes barefoot.) nicht: Der barfuße Junge.
- Das Wetter ist egal. (The weather doesn't matter.) nicht: Das egale Wetter.
- Die Freunde sind pleite. (The friends are bankrupt.) nicht: Die pleiten Freunde.
Attributive adjectives in German
Predicative adjectives do not change their style, regardless of which type of noun they refer to. In contrast to this, attributive adjectives change their endings, depending on the noun they refer to.
Declension of attributive adjectives in German
Because the adjective comes between the article of the noun and the noun itself, you have to decline the adjective referring to the type of noun. Therefore the adjective has to conform with the noun related to number, gender and case. To decline them in the right way, there exist three different types of declencion:
- weak declension (definite article + adjective), e.g. der schöne Hund (the beautiful dog)
- mixed declension (indefinite article + adjective), e.g. ein schöner Hund (a beautiful dog)
- strong declension (no article + adjective), e.g. schöner Hund (beautiful dog)
Keep in mind, that attributive adjectives are the only adjectives that are declined in German language.
Weak declension of attributive adjectives
This declension is used, when the article itself gives all information about number, case and gender of the noun.
|Nominative||der gute Hund||die gute Katze||das gute Tier||die guten Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
den guten Hund
|die gute Katze||das gute Tier||die guten Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Dative||dem guten Hund(e)||der guten Katze||dem guten Tier(e)||den guten Hunden/Katzen/Tieren|
|Genitive||des guten Hundes||der guten Katze||des guten Tier(es)||der guten Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
If you look closely at it you might realize, that you only have to add an -e or -en.
Mixed declension of attributive adjectives
The mixed declension is used, when an indefinite article (like ein, kein), or a possesive determiner (like mein, dein, ihr etc.) describes the noun.
|Nominative||ein guter Hund||eine gute Katze||ein gutes Tier||keine guten Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Accusative||einen guten Hund||eine gute Katze||ein gutes Tier||keine guten Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Dative||einem guten Hund(e)||einer guten Katze||einem guten Tier(e)||keinen guten Hunden/Katzen/Tieren|
|Genitive||eines guten Hundes||einer guten Katze||eines guten Tieres||keiner guten Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
Mixed declension table is the same as the weak declension table, except the nominative masculine, the nominative neuter and accusative neuter.
Strong declension of attributive adjectives
The strong declension is used, when there is no preceding article related to the noun, or the preceding article doesn't give enough information about number, gender and case of the noun.
|Nominative||guter Hund||gute Katze||gutes Tier||gute Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Accusative||guten Hund||gute Katze||gutes Tier||gute Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Dative||gutem Hund(e)||guter Katze||gutem Tier(e)||guten Hunden/Katzen/Tieren|
|Genitive||guten Hundes||guter Katze||guten Tieres||guter Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
Keep in mind that the ending for genitive masculine and neuter is -en.
Adverbial adjectives in German
An Adverb can be a word or a set of words that modifies adjectives, verbs or other adverbs. They can give us information about the how, when, where, how often and to what degree.
- Adverbs of time (This words will give you information about the when)
- e.g. heute, gestern, morgen, sofort, seit
- Adverbs of frequency (This words will give you information about the how often)
- e.g. manchmal, oft, immer, nie, regelmäßig
- Adverbs of quality (This words give you information about the how)
- e.g. gut, schlecht, mittelmäßig
- Adverbs of quantity (This words tell you about the how often as well)
- e.g. viel, wenig, gar nicht
- Adverbs of intensity (This words will give you information about the degree of something happening)
- e.g. sehr, total, überhaupt nicht
In adverbial use, the adjective comes with no ending.
- Petra kann sehr gut kochen. (Petra can cook very well.)
- Er singt oft. (He is singing frequently.)
- Peter fährt immer schnell. (Peter always drives fast.)
If more than one adverb appears in series, the adverbs are ordered as follows: time, manner, place.
Sie ist jetzt leider draußen. (She is unfortunately outside now.)
Adjectives as nouns in German
Many adjectives can also be used as nouns. They then either stand for people or abstract objects, like things you can't touch. Again, the ending of the noun is then determined by its number, gender and case. If you use adjectives as nouns it's important to write them with a capital letter.
- der/die Kranke (the sick person)
- ein Kranker/eine Kranke (a sick person)
- Kranke (sick persons)
In German, much more adjectival nouns are used than in English.
Gender of adjectival nouns in German
Of course the gender of a noun depends on the adjective that is transformed into a noun. If the noun is describing a special person, then the noun will be masculine or feminine, depending in the person's sex. If the noun doesn't refer to any kind of person, it's usually neuter.
|Adjective||Noun (masculine)||Noun (feminine)|
|blond (blond)||der Blonde (male blond person)||die Blonde (female blond person)|
|alt (old)||der Alte (old male person)||die Alte (old female person)|
|verwandt (related)||der Verwandte (male relative)||die Verwandte (female relative)|
|böse (evil)||das Böse (the evil)|
|ganz (whole)||das Ganze (the whole)|
|wichtig (important)||das Wichtige (that which is important)|
If you want to use an adjective as a noun, just add an -e to the end of the adjective, change its first letter to a capital one, and put an article (der, die, das) in front of it.
Declension of adjectival nouns
The declension of this nouns is quite easy, because they take the exact same declensions as the adjectives would do in the same grammatical context.
It may help if you at first imagine the declension of the adjective, because the adjectival noun has the exact same endings.
|Nominativ||der Deutsche (the german male)||die Deutsche (the german female)||die Deutschen|
|Akkusativ||den Deutschen||die Deutsche||die Deutschen|
|Dativ||dem Deutschen||der Deutschen||den Deutschen|
|Genitiv||des Deutschen||der Deutschen||
Adjectival nouns with ‘etwas’, ‘nichts’, ‘wenig’ and ‘viel’
If the adjectives follow one of the words etwas (something), nichts (nothing), wenig (little) or viel (much), the adjectives are formed as a neuter noun and get capitalized.
Sie kocht etwas Gutes. (She is cooking something good.)
Ich habe nichts Neues gelernt. (I haven't learned anything new.)
Er hat wenig Interessantes erfahren. (He learned little interesting.)
Er macht viel Gutes. (He does much good.)
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