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.


On our blog, you will find posts on many topics in German grammar that will help you to progress more quickly in German- from the difference between viel and viele, German gender rules, prepositions in German (here, we have posts on the two-way prepositions, accusative only prepositions in German, German dative only prepositions, and genitive only prepositions, as well as on im, am, um and the 5 German prepositions for the English "to"), pronouns, separable verbs in German to German syntax. We also teach you helpful German words and phrases for your next trip to Germany, list the ten most useful German verbs to get your German off the ground, give you tips on how to avoid the 5 most common grammatical mistakes in German, tell you how to translate English word busy into German, review of the language apps Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, and Busuu, explain the difference between language levels A1, A2, B1, B2 etc., list the best online resources to learn German, give you an estimate of how long it takes to learn German, and we compare the most popular online dictionaries Linguee, dict.cc, dict.leo and Collins. So check out our blog and let us know what you think.

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