German adjectives

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In German grammar, the correct inflection of adjectives depends on the case, number and gender of the noun phrase, as well as what kind of determiner (if any) introduces the noun phrase.

Like articles, adjectives use the same plural endings for all three genders.

ein lauter Krach ("a loud noise")
der laute Krach ("the loud noise")
der große, schöne Mond ("the big, beautiful moon")

Participles may be used as adjectives and are treated in the same way.

In contrast to Romance and North Germanic languages, adjectives are declined only in the attributive position (that is, when used in nominal phrases to describe a noun directly). Predicative adjectives, separated from the noun by "to be", for example, are not declined and are indistinguishable from adverbs.

not *Die Musik ist laute. but Die Musik ist laut. ("(The) music is loud.")

There are three degrees of comparison: positive form, comparative form and superlative form. In contrast to Latin or Italian, there is no grammatical feature for the absolute superlative (elative).

Weak and strong inflection

Strong endings

Strong inflection is used:

  • When no article is used
  • After etwas (some; somewhat), mehr (more)
  • After wenig- (few), viel- (much; many), mehrer- (several; many), all- (all), which also have strong adjective inflection.
  • After personal pronouns other than mir, dir, ihm
  • After number adjectives with no endings
  Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative neuer neue neues neue
Genitive neuen neuer neuen neuer  
Dative neuem neuer neuem neuen
Accusative neuen neue neues neue  
  • Compare this table with the definite article endings (see German articles). The only difference is the adjectival ending -en in the masculine and neuter genitive singular.

Mixed inflection

The mixed inflection is used:

  • after the indefinite article ein-, kein-, and the possessive determiners.
  Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative neuer neue neues neuen
Genitive neuen neuen neuen neuen
Dative neuen neuen neuen neuen
Accusative neuen neue neues neuen  

Weak endings

Weak inflection is used:

  • After the definite article
  • After derselb- (the same), derjenig- (the one)
  • After dies- (this), jen- (that), jeglich- (any), jed- (every), which decline like the definite article.
  • After manch- (some), solch- (such), welch- (which), which decline like the definite article.
  • After mir, dir, ihm
  • After arm (meagre), alt (old), all (all)
  Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative neue neue neue neuen
Genitive neuen neuen neuen neuen
Dative neuen neuen neuen neuen
Accusative neuen neue neue neuen

Plural nouns being attributed by an adjective of any of the three inflections stated always have an -n added to the plural form in the indirect-object or dative case. This is so unless the plural already ends in -n or is a foreign plural like Autos. This process then yields the following:den armen Leuten, ihren armen Kindern, or kalten Getränken.

No Endings

Several adjectives take no ending at all:

  • Singular limiting adjectives: wenig, etwas, genug, and viel
  • The plural limiting phrase 'ein paar'

Criteria for Inflection

German adjectives take different sets of endings in different circumstances. Essentially, the adjectives must provide case, gender and number information only if the articles do not. This is among the more confusing aspects of German grammar for those learning the language. However, the adjective endings nearly always adhere to the following rules:

Strong Inflection

The strong inflection is used when there is no article at all, or if the noun is preceded by a non-inflectable word or phrase such as ein bisschen, etwas or viel ("a little, some, a lot of/much"). It is also used when the adjective is preceded merely by another regular (i.e non-article) adjective.

Mixed Inflection

The mixed inflection is used when the adjective is preceded by an indefinite article (ein-, kein-) or a possessive determiner.

Note: The prevailing view is that the mixed inflection is not a true inflection in its own right, but merely the weak inflection with a few additions to compensate for the lack of the masculine nominative and neuter nominative and accusative endings.

Weak inflection

The weak inflection is used when there is a definite word in place (der, die, das, den, dem, des, jed-, jen-, manch-, dies-, solch- and welch-). The definite word has provided most of the necessary information, so the adjective endings are simpler.

The endings are applicable to every degree of comparison (positive, comparative, and superlative).

Adjective comparison

Positive form

The uninflected basic positive form is identical to the root of the adjective. So the positive form of the adjective is quite simple to build, you take the stem of the adjective and attach the corresponding ending to it.

schön (basic positive form)
das schöne Lied ("the beautiful song")

Comparative form

The basic comparative form consists of the stem and the suffix -er. Inflected, the corresponding adjective ending is attached.

schöner (basic comparative form)
das schönere Lied ("the more beautiful song")

Superlative form

A predicate form of the superlative is actually a prepositional phrase. You attach the suffixes -st and the adjective ending -en to the root, and the word am is put before it.

am schönsten ("the most beautiful")
Ich finde dieses Haus am schönsten. ("I find this house the most beautiful.")

The attributive superlative form adds the "st" to the comparative root and then the conventional adjective ending.

das schönste Lied

This form can also be placed in a predicate position with the appropriate adjective ending:

Dieses Haus ist das schönste. ("This house is the most beautiful.")


  1. Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod


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