Adjective declension in German. The very term is intimidating and so is the grammar behind it. Only a few topics are more complex than the declination of German adjectives. To get it right, you have to consider all types of articles, the declination of several words, functions of adjectives and different endings. Luckily there are ways to break it down into learnable bits and bites. From there, it is part memorizing, part practicing, and soon you will master German adjective endings without even thinking about it. So gather your courage and work your way through these explanations and tables for a good start into adjective declension in German.
- What is adjective declension
- How do you decline German adjectives
- What are strong and weak endings
- Adjective declension in German step-by-step
What is adjective declension?
Adjective declension is when we make an adjective agree with its noun in gender, number and case by changing its ending. There are three functions of adjectives in German: predicative, adverbial and attributive. Only when used as an attribute specifying a noun, the adjective needs to agree with this noun. To ensure this, you need to determine the gender, number and case of this noun and then look at the article to find out how to correctly adapt the German adjective endings.
How do you decline German adjectives?
To make things worse, there are three types of adapting German adjective endings to a noun and its different forms according to number and case. Which one is the right one depends on the article that accompanies the noun (or doesn’t). The three types of adjective declension are:
- the weak declension
- the mixed declension
- the strong declension
You will find example sentences for each declension in the table further down in this article.
The weak declension of German adjectives with definite articles
When you encounter the combination of definite article + adjective + noun, you use the weak declension. Definite articles are der, die, das. Other words that call for the weak declension are the pronouns dieser, jener, derselbe, welche, solcher and declined indicators of quantity such as jeder, mancher, alle. Don’t forget that these have to agree with the noun, too. This type of declension is called weak because the case marker is carried by one of these particles and not the adjective. The adjective itself is declined with weak endings.
The mixed declension of German adjectives with indefinite and possessive articles
When you encounter the combination of indefinite or possessive article + adjective + noun, you use the mixed declension. The indefinite article is einer, eine, eines. Possessive articles are mein, dein, sein/ihr/sein, unser, euer, ihr. The negation article kein asks for the mixed declension as well. The mixed declension is called mixed because the adjectives in most cases take weak endings, while they take strong endings in the singular nominative masculine and neuter, and the singular accusative neuter.
The strong declension of German adjectives without articles
When you encounter the combination of adjective + noun without any article, you use the strong declension. The same is true for pronouns such as dergleichen, derlei, dessen/deren, wessen, undeclined indicators of quantity such as ein wenig, ein paar and declined indicators of quantity only used in the plural such as viele, wenige, einige. It is called strong because, in the absence of an article, the adjective carries the case marker in the form of a strong ending.
Don’t forget that articles and pronouns have to agree with the noun, too. Memorizing and practicing will get you there!
What are strong and weak endings?
At this point we have figured out if we need to decline the adjective and if we should use the weak, mixed or strong declension. To give you an idea of how it works, let’s look at the strong and weak endings of the masculine Hund, the feminine Katze and the neuter Tier in combination with one of the basic German adjectives such as schön for all three types of declension.
|Nominative||der schöne Hund||die schöne Katze||das schöne Tier||die schönen Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Accusative||den schönen Hund||die schöne Katze||das schöne Tier||die schönen Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Dative||dem schönen Hund(e)||der schönen Katze||dem schönen Tier(e)||den schönen Hunden/Katzen/Tieren|
|Genitive||des schönen Hundes||der schönen Katze||des schönen Tieres||der schönen Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Nominative||ein schöner Hund||eine schöne Katze||ein schönes Tier||keine schönen Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Accusative||einen schönen Hund||eine schöne Katze||ein schönes Tier||keine schönen Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Dative||einem schönen Hund(e)||einer schönen Katze||einem schönen Tier(e)||keinen schönen Hunden/Katzen/Tieren|
|Genitive||eines schönen Hundes||einer schönen Katze||eines schönen Tieres||keiner schönen Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Nominative||schöner Hund||schöne Katze||schönes Tier||schöne Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Accusative||schönen Hund||schöne Katze||schönes Tier||Schöne Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
|Dative||schönem Hund(e)||schöner Katze||schönem Tier(e)||schönen Hunden/Katzen/Tieren|
|Genitive||schönen Hundes||schöner Katze||schönen Tieres||schöner Hunde/Katzen/Tiere|
Now it’s your turn to try with other words. Can you find out the right type of declension and use the endings correctly? Use a tool for German grammar check to find out.
Adjective declension in German step-by-step
German declension is notoriously difficult. Adjective declension in German is quite complex. If you don’t want to lose your way among different articles, functions of adjectives or gender, number and case of nouns, keep to this step-by-step guide:
- attributive adjective -> adjective declension
- definite articles -> weak declension
- indefinite or possessive articles -> mixed declension
- no article -> strong declension
To become more confident, practice German declination with the above tables for different basic German adjectives. You will succeed in no time.
Sandra lives in Istanbul, together with her kids, cat and dog. As a historian she thrives exploring this ancient city with her two- and four-legged loved ones. Together, they also love to go on adventures through all of Turkey and its neighboring countries. The perfect opportunity to put all the language learning into practice. If she’s not on the road, Sandra is busy putting her experiences into writing as a freelance copywriter for the travel industry and everything related to language, culture and family. Her particular interest lies in providing information on animal welfare with her website contentrundumstier.de.