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German adjectives, part 2 – The weak declension Posted by on Jun 22, 2012 in Grammar, Language, Practice

In my last post I began to talk about forming simple sentences with adjectives in German. You learned that there is no need to decline adjectives in so-called “to be” sentences or, in other words, when you put the adjective after the noun.

Unfortunately, things are getting more complicated when you want to put the adjective before the noun, for example, saying something like “The nice man”, etc. In such sentence constructions you have to decline the adjective.

Adjectives can take different endings depending on the type of word that precedes them. Words that precede adjectives are called “limiting words”. These “limiting words” perform the task of expressing gender and grammatical function (case). Hence the ending of the following adjective does not need to reflect this information (because this job is already carried out by the preceding “limiting word”. Because of that, the adjective takes the so-called weak ending –e/-en.

Words that limit the ‘full’ declension of adjectives are so-called “der Wörter” (der words), which are articles and such. “Der Wörter” are:

der – the

dieser – this

jeder – each

jener – that

mancher – many a

solcher – such

welcher – which, what

 

The following table shows how to decline adjectives in German when a “der Wort” precedes the adjective.

 

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Case “the little boy” “the little cat” “the little pig” “the little pigs”
Nom. der kleine Junge die kleine Katze das kleine Schwein die kleinen Schweine
Acc. den kleinen Jungen die kleine Katze das kleine Schwein die kleinen Schweine
Dat. dem kleinen Jungen der kleinen Katze dem kleinen Schwein den kleinen Schweinen
Gen. des kleinen Jungen der kleinen Katze des kleinen Schweins der kleinen Schweine

 

As you can see, all adjectives following a der word in the dative and genitive case or in the plural take the ending –en. You can also see that you have to decline the noun according to gender and case.

 

Exercise: Now it’s time again to practice what you have just learned. Fill in the blanks.

1. Die hübsch___ Frau küsst den klug___ Mann. (The pretty woman is kissing the smart man.) – die Frau = feminine, nominative; den Mann = masculine, accusative

2. Das bunt__ Spielzeug gehört dem klein___ Jungen. (The colorful toy belongs to the little boy.) das Spielzeug = neuter, nominative; dem Jungen = masculine, dative

3. Das weinend___ Kind gehört der fröhlich__ Frau. (The crying child belongs to the cheerful woman.) – das Kind = neuter, nominative; der Frau = feminine, dative

4. Die laut__ Musik kommt aus dem groß__ Zimmer. (The loud music comes from the large room.) – die Musik = feminine, nominative; dem Zimmer = neuter, dative

5. Der heiß__ Kaffee steht in der klein__ Küche. (The hot coffee is in the small kitchen.) – der Kaffee = masculine, nominative; der Küche = feminine, dative

 

Key:
1. Die hüsche Frau küsste den klugen Mann.
2. Das bunte Spielzeug gehört dem Jungen.
3. Das weinende Kind gehört der fröhlichen Frau.
4. Die laute Musik kommt aus dem großen Zimmer.
5. Der heiße Kaffee steht in der kleinen Küche.
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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. Max:

    Key of sentence 2, the second adjective is missing. I guess it should be “dem kleinen Jungen”…am I right?

    P.S. Really nice and interesting blog 🙂

  2. Marshmallow:

    German adjective declension is really not that complicated most of the time, and I say that as a native English speaker for whom declension was once a totally alien concept. Most of the time, when the adjective needs to be declined, it’s just ‘e’ after after unchanged articles and ‘en’ after changed articles. It’s ‘es’ after unchanged neuter indefinite articles,and ‘er’ after unchanged masculine indefinite articles, because for whatever reason the indefinite article in German does not distinguish between masculine and neuter the way definite articles do i.e der(m), das(n), die(f), but ein(m), ein(n), eine(f). I know there are a few added complications but not many. Once you understand it, you see it’s by no means that hard or the equivalent of some horrible equation 😉

    A little English lesson for the author of this article. Your English is very good 🙂 but you have used the wrong tense in the following sentence:

    >>Unfortunately, things are getting more complicated when you want to put the adjective before the noun<<

    It should be 'things get more complicated'. It's not something that is continuously getting more complicated, it's just a complication that exists 😉

  3. Elizabeth:

    Isn’t the masculine genitive of ‘der’ supposed to be ‘des’? Or have I been getting it wrong this whole time?