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Compound words: Das Fugen-s im Deutschen – The linking “s” in German, part 2 Posted by on Feb 24, 2012 in Grammar, Language

The German language is very productive in compounding words. It is virtually possible to great a never-ending word. Of course, Germans do not carry word compounding to extremes, that is, compound words of everyday language do never consist of more than two or three separate words.

 

Anyway, this characteristic of the German language can be very useful for second language learners because it enables you to gain more communicative competence and you can understand words or “make up” words that you even would not find in any dictionary but still be grammatically correct. Therefore, it might be helpful to know the rules how you can compound words, that is, inserting a linking “s” or not.

 

In my previous post I told you where and when the linking “s” is used in German, and I already began to talk about compound words in which this “s” is not inserted. In this post I’d like to focus on compound words in which the German Fugen-s or linking „s“ is not used.

 

Before I go on, I want to let you know that the linking “s” is only inserted in some words to contribute to a smooth speech flow. In other words, the “s” is a connector for an easy pronunciation.

 

1. -er

The linking “s” is not used in German with compound words in which the first word end with –er. Compare:

der Angler – angler -> das Anglerlatein – fish tale

der Bäcker – baker -> die Bäckermütze – baker’s cap

die Feier – celebration -> der Feierabend – quitting time; closing time

die Folter – torture -> der Folterknecht – torturer

der Jäger – hunter -> das Jägerschnitzel – escalope chasseur

der Keller – cellar -> die Kellertür – cellar door

der Metzger – butcher -> der Metzgerladen – butcher’s shop

Exceptions are: Hungersnot – famine; Henkersmahlzeit – last meal

 

2. First words of compound words that end with -el

The linking “s” is not used with compound words in which the first word ends with –el.

der Hagel –hail -> der Hagelschauer – hailstorm

der Hebel – lever -> das Hebelgesetz – lever rule

das Kabel – cable -> die Kabeltrommel – cable drum

der Kegel – skittle -> der Kegellklub – skittles club

die Mandel – almond -> die Mandelaugen – almond eyes

das Pendel – pendulum -> die Pendeluhr – pendulum clock

der Nebel – fog -> das Nebelhorn – foghorn

 

3. First words of compound words that end with -en

The linking “s” is not used with compound words in which the first word ends with –en and in which the first word is not a nominalized verb. – Check my previous post on linking “s”.

der Boden – soil, floor, ground -> der Bodensatz – sediment

der Garten – garden -> das Gartentor – garden gate

eben – even, smooth, exactly -> das Ebenbild – likeness

neben – next -> die Nebenstraße – side street

 

4. First words of compound words that end with sibilants

The linking “s” is not used with compound words in which the first word ends with a sibilant (-sch, -s, -ss, -ß, -st, -tz, -z).

der Preis – price -> die Preisliste – price list

der Gruß – greeting -> die Grußkarte – greeting card

die Last – burden, load -> der Lastwagen – truck

der Sitz – seat -> das Sitzkissen – seat cushion/pad

das Herz – heart -> die Herzkammer – heart chamber

Some first words of compound words can derive from verbs, for example, “waschen” (to wash) and “putzen” (to clean). In these cases, you simply remove the ending from the stem, which results in “wasch-“ and “putz-“.

der Waschsalon – laundrette

das Waschmittel – washing powder

das Putzmittel – polish, cleaning agent

das Putztuch – cleaning rag

Note: The German word “Putz” does also exist and means: plaster, rendering, grout.

 

Reference: Sick, Bastian (2004): Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod – Ein Wegweiser durch den Irrgarten der deutschen Sprache, Kiepenheuer & Witsch. (Translation: The dative is the genitive his death – A guide through the labyrinth of the German language)

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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


Comments:

  1. Allan Mahnke:

    Sehr interessant!

    Vielen Dank!
    Allan

  2. EP:

    Your reference to “Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod” made me think about a conversation I was having with some German friends yesterday. They were puzzled about how often Germans themselves get confused between the Dativ and Genitiv, at least here in Berlin. In a way, it’s sometimes easer for a foreigner to get that straight than it is for a native German.

  3. Hauke:

    “Metzgersladen” is quite common.

    @EP Berlin is not exactly a place where the quality standard of spoken German is high.