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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.
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
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).
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)
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)