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Recognizing neuter nouns in German part 2 Posted by on Feb 17, 2012 in Grammar, Language

In my two last posts I discussed that young living beings, continents, and most country and city names are neuter in German. Now I would like to continue with other rules that make German nouns neuter.

 

1. Diminutives

Common German diminutives are the endings “–chen” and “–lein”. When you add these endings to nouns, regardless of their actual grammatical gender, all these nouns automatically become neuter.

 

a) The ending -chen

Usually, you can belittle or trivialize any German noun with the affix – chen.

die Blume – flower => das Blümchen – floret; little flower

der Hase – hare => das Häschen – bunny

das Haus – house => das Häuschen – little/small house

die Nase – nose => das Näschen – little nose

der Mann – man => das Männchen – male species; little man

das Problem – problem => das Problemchen – little problem

der Schatz – treasure, sweetheart => das Schätzchen – little treasure; sweetie

 

There are also German words that only exist with the ending –chen:

das Mädchen – girl

das Märchen – fairy tale

 

b) The ending –lein

The ending –lein has the same function as –chen and you can generally use it instead of the endig –chen.

das Blümlein – floret; little flower

der Häslein –  bunny

das Näslein – little nose

das Männlein – little man

 

But there are also some forms, which would sound quite unnatural, although they are grammatical possible. For example, the German word “Bach” (brook; creek) would be rather minimized with the affix –lein than –chen, since the basic word already contains a ch-sound.

der Bach – creek, brook => das Bächlein – brooklet

 

Further, I prefer the diminutive forms “Problemchen” (little problem) and “Schätzchen” (sweetie) than “Problemlein” and “Schätzelein”, although the latter are also possible.

 

2. Nouns with the prefix Ge-

Nouns that contain the prefix Ge- are usually neuter in German.

das Gebäude – building

das Gebirge – mountains

das Gemälde – painting

das Gerede – gossip; talk

das Gewerbe – trade; industry

das Gehalt – salary; wage

das Geräusch – noise; sound

das Gespräch – conversation

das Getränk – drink; beverage

 

Exceptions are:

der Geruch – smell; scent

der Geschmack – taste; flavor

die Geduld – patience

die Gefahr – danger

die Geburt – birth

die Geschichte – story; history

der Gedanke – thought

der Gewinn – profit

 

3. Nominalized verbs and adjectives

In German you can make nouns out of verbs and adjectives. This is called nominalization (Substantivierung).

 

a) Verbs

The nominalization of verbs is quite easy in German. All you have to do is to take the uninflected form of a verb and put the neuter article “das” before the noun.

das Lesen (lesen) – the reading (to read)

das Arbeiten (arbeiten) – the working (to work)

das Bügeln (bügeln) – the ironing (to iron)

das Putzen (putzen) – the cleaning (to clean)

das Kochen (kochen) – the cooking (to cook)

das Spielem (spielen) – the playing (to play)

 

b) Adjectives

The nominalization of adjectives is a bit trickier in German, but still very simply. You take any uninflected form of an adjective, put the neuter article before the noun and add the ending –e to make a noun of the adjective. Adjectives that already have the ending –e do not need an additional –e.

das Gute (gut) – the good thing (good)

das Große (groß) – the big thing (big)

das Alte (alt) – the old thing (old)

das Neue (neu) – the new thing (new)

das Schöne (schön) – the beautiful thing (beautiful)

das Schlechte (schlecht) – the bad thing (bad)

das Böse (böse) – the evil thing (evil)

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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