German Adjectives

Now we are going to look at German adjectives. Examples of adjectives in English are ‘big’, ‘small’ and ‘beautiful’. Adjectives describe people and objects, rather than what is being done or how it is being done.

The first rule is adjectives in German come before the noun (just like in English).

The second rule is in German adjectives (describing words) often but not always agree with the gender (masculine/feminine/neuter) and number (singular/plural) of the noun being described.

The third rule is German adjectives change their endings depending on whether the word for “the” or “a” is used or whether neither of these words are used at all in the sentence.

These notes:

  • initially deal with adjectives in the nominative case
  • We will then look at adjectives in the accusative, dative and genitive case.

The best way to learn the adjective endings is to learn by example and apply those examples to other situations.

Adjectives in the Nominative Case

First of all let’s look at adjectives in the nominative case. This is where you are describing the subject of the sentence (i.e. the person or thing doing the action).

The adjective endings depend on some factors:

  • Whether they are describing a neuter, masculine or feminine noun or plural noun
  • They also change depending on whether the adjective is before the word ‘the’ or ‘a’

Adjectives Describing a Neuter Singular Noun (Nominative Case)

  • Welches? = Which one?
  • Ein neues Haus = A new house
  • Das neue Haus = The new house

Adjectives describing a Masculine Singular Noun (Nominative Case)

  • Welcher? = Which one?
  • Ein neuer Hund = A new dog
  • Der neue Hund = The new dog

Adjectives Describing a Feminine Singular Noun (Nominative Case)

  • Welche? = Which one?
  • Eine neue Zeitung = A new newspaper
  • Die neue Zeitung = The new newspaper

Adjectives Describing Plural Nouns (Nominative Case)

  • Welche? = Which ones?
  • Die neuen Bücher = The new books
  • Meine neuen Bücher = My new books

Note: Adjective endings in plural are the same regardless of whether the noun is masculine, feminine or neuter.

Sein + Adjective

However please note the following when you use the format “person/object + to be + adjective” you do not add an ending to the adjective (unless you use the word “the/a” (or similar words such as “kein”) before the noun). This can be shown as follows:

  • Das Haus ist neu = The house is new
  • Der Hund ist neu = The dog is new
  • Die Zeitung ist neu = The newspaper is new
  • Die Zeitungen sind neu = The newspapers are new

It will take some time to remember adjective endings accurately, so do not panic if adjectives seem very complicated at the moment.

Adjectives in Other Cases (Accusative, Dative & Genitive)

Let’s now look at adjectives in the other German cases. If you are not sure about German cases then you may wish to postpone looking at this for now, but below I’ll touch on the main endings on each of the cases in turn.

Accusative Case Adjective Endings

In brief, the accusative case deals with the direct object of a sentence (i.e. the thing/person being seen, the thing being read, the thing being bought, etc.). Certain prepositions also require the accusative case to be used.

The endings for adjectives in the accusative case are identical to the nominative case ones except for masculine singular, which are as follows:

  • Welchen? = Which one?
  • Einen neuen Hund = A new dog
  • Den neuen Hund = The new dog

Dative Case Adjective Endings

In brief, the dative case is the indirect object of a sentence (i.e. the receipient of an action). The indirect object is usually the person to whom something is done (e.g. The person to whom someone gives something). Some prepositions also trigger the dative case.

In the Dative the Masculine Singular and Neuter Singular adjective endings are the same. They are as follows:

  • Welchem? = Which one?
  • Dem guten Hund/Haus = The good dog/house
  • Einem guten Hund/Haus = A good dog/house

For feminine singular they are as follows:

  • Welcher? = Which one?
  • Der guten Frau = The good woman
  • Einer guten Frau = A good woman

In dative plural the ending is en, so for example:

  • Welchen? = Which ones?
  • Den guten Büchern = The good books

Genitive Case Adjective Endings

Lastly, the genitive case is usually used to show ownership (e.g. The house of the man, the painting of the woman, etc.). It is also triggered by some prepositions in German.

In the Genitive the Masculine Singular and Neuter Singular adjective endings are the same. They are as follows:

  • Welches? = Which one?
  • Des guten Hundes/Zimmers = The good dog/room (Or ‘of the good dog/room’)
  • Eines guten Hund/Haus = A good dog/house (Or ‘of the good dog/house’)

For feminine singular they are as follows:

  • Welcher? = Which one?
  • Der guten Frau = The good woman (Or ‘of the good woman’)
  • Einer guten Frau = A good woman (Or ‘of a good woman’)

In dative plural the ending is en, so for example:

  • Welcher? = Which ones?
  • Der guten Büchern = The good books (Or ‘of the good books’)

Note on the word ‘the’, ‘a’, etc.

You may have noticed that the German words for ‘the’ and ‘a’ changed depending on the case being used. These words do change depending on which case is used.

Some noun endings also changed depending on their usage. It is common:

  • For singular masculine and neuter nouns to add ‘s’ or ‘es’ to the end of the word in the genitive case
  • For ‘n’ to be added to the end of words in dative plural unless the word already ends in ‘n’

Do you need further help?

Feel free to contact me with any questions on adam@farehamtutor.co.uk or by using the form below. Alternatively if you would like to book a tuition session get in contact or visit my Language Tuition page.

Online Language Sessions details farehamtutor co uk