Adjective ending rules in German

Do you find adjective ending rules in German very difficult? You're certainly not on your own. Many of my new clients usually wonder if they will ever get them right consistently. But it all comes down to how the rules are explained. Once you understand the logic behind the rules, you'll see that adjective endings are not that bad actually.

Before I go into the rules on adjective declensions, make sure you have a very good understanding of the four cases in German first. Otherwise, adjective ending rules will be an uphill struggle for you. If you're confident that you have understood the cases, keep on reading ;).

If adjectives are placed after the noun, they are easy to use as they do not take any endings. E.g. "Das Geschäft ist geschlossen".

However, if adjectives are placed before a noun, which they are describing, then adjectives take particular endings, which express the connection between the adjective and the noun. Here, we need to distinguish between three different scenarios: 1) definitive article+ adjective+ noun, 2) indefinite article+ adjective+ noun, 3) no article+ adjective+ noun. In short: definite, indefinite and no articles.

For definite and indefinite articles, the same pattern applies. The default adjective ending is –en. The exceptions are all Nominatives in the singular, as well as feminine and neuter Accusatives (as they always repeat the Nominatives in their respective genders anyway). However, the adjective endings for these exceptions differ depending on whether there is a definite or indefinite article before the adjective. For definite articles, all exception endings are –e, while the endings for indefinite article adjectives come from the definite articles, i.e. –er (from der), -e (from die), and –es (from das). Note: While the indefinite articles do not exist in the plural, their negation does, e.g. keine großen Männer

For adjectives without article, that is, “no article adjectives”, the endings come from the definite articles, except for masculine and neuter Genitives in the singular, where the ending of the noun already indicates the case, due to the added “s” or “es”, e.g. “guten Mannes/Autos”.

Do some exercises on the three scenarios-definite, indefinite, no article- first. Once you are confident that you have understood the rules, practice the following words.

Definite articles: dieser, jener, mancher, welcher

Indefinite articles: kein, possessive pronouns (mein, dein, sein etc.), irgendein

No articles: einige, mehrere, viele, wenige, all numbers.

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