German Adjective Endings 2

german-adjective-endings-2Hello everyone,

welcome to the German is Easy Learn German Onli… oh… hold on… I think my microphone is a little to loud… let me turn that down a notch.. that was too much … uh … all right. This sounds about right… sorry… uh… you’re probably really confused now… as you have probably figured by the col… uh I mean the voice.. so you’ve figured by the voice that I am not Emanuel. My name is Nick (get it?) and I am one of the producers of “German is Easy”. Now, where IS Emanuel? Truth is, we have no idea. He didn’t show up today and he doesn’t answer his phone and that’s all I can say. Let’s hope that nothing happened.
 Anyway… uh… so uh… we didn’t want to let you guys down and cancel the show so we have drawn straws and… well, I lost … so I have to stand in today. Now… we don’t exactly know what Emanuel was planning to do today because he rarely shows up for the prep meetings but we do know that the show is called

German Adjective Endings 2

and so Steve and me we looked up some stuff online in like the last 5 minutes. I have to admit that we are not exactly experts in German…  but I think we found something on Google-books that seems trustworthy and comprehensive… and I’ll just read that to you now and I hope you find it helpful…

Chapter 34:    German Adjective Inflection

The correct inflection of an adjective gets depends upon 3 dimensions
of the respective noun phrase:

  • the grammatical gender of the noun,
  • whether it is singular or plural
  • type of article that precedes it 

This threefold dependency makes choosing the correct adjective
ending a quite cumbersome. Before we
commence with the actual
inflections, we shall do an apace recapitulation of the different types
of article as introduced in Chapter 18. An article can be definite,
indefinite or void. This trichode…
uh… uh trichorder… I … I don’t
actually know this word.. something with t
ri… so…  this tri-something
analogously exists in English. The subsequent examples may illustrate

  • The fast car drives by. (definite)
  • A large dog barks. (indefinite)
  • Red wine goes well with deer. (void)

34.1.1 Definite Article, nominative case

If the article is definite and the case is nominative the correct endings
one has to adhere to one’s adjective are as follows:

  • Der große Mann  – e
  • Die große Frau – e
  • Das große Auto – e

Manifestly, -e is correct in all 3 configurations. However, if the noun
is plural the ending  will be -en

  • die großen Autos

Thus the first line of the first of 3 tables is complete and reads as
follow is e,e,e,en.

34.1.2 Indefinite Article, nominative case

                                    With an indefined… uh  indefinite detrem…
my God, this is so fucking hard to read, ops shit… I shouldn’t say f-ing onli.. uh on air so… uh indefinite de-ter-mi-ner… wow, I so do not know what that is, I hope you guys can make sense of all tha.. oh hold on… I think… oh thank God, Emanuel is here… duuuuuude, where have you been, you’re like 15 minutes late man.... yeah I know, I’m soooo so sorry  …. …. what happened man, where have you been…. I ate a huge plate of pasta and then I passed out  oh… the post pasta fatigue huhyeah, man I juts couldn’t keep my eyes open..  oh, I actually feel like that now after reading this stuff about German here, it is soooo difficult hahaha sure sounds like it is, I hope that didn’t scare away all the listeners… which one is my mic? This one? Perfect, Nick, you’re free now and thank you soooooooooo soooo much for filling in. … you owe me one, man… . I know, and also to all the listeners out there. I am in-cre-dibly sorry!!!! Shame on me!

All right… wew…German Adjective Endings 2.  So exciting. Just a real quick recap about last time… we learned to ALWAYS add an -e without worrying about gender or case or article. Just add an -e! There are 2 reasons to do this. First of, e is always part of the correct ending and it is correct all by itself about 40% of the time. Not adding anything is ALWAYS wrong. So you get 40% correct for doing nothing but adding an -e.
The second reason is a rhythmical one but I suggest you just check out part 1 if you haven’t yet.

All right, now… today we’ll learn when -en is the correct ending. Sounds rather limited but it’s not. Actually, it’s a giant step… You see -e and -en together account for about 80% of the adjective endings. So -er, –es and -em each only make up like 7%. And I am not exaggerating here. This is a Google N-Gram for the word gut. Gute and guten clearly dominate.


Let’s try another one… how about a longer one like interessant. Here, with  interessante and interessanten combined , it is even more obvious.


Go ahead and try out some other ones. I bet you, you can’t find one that proves me wrong :).
So… as you can see, our approach to German adjective endings is based on statistics and science and we produce concrete, scientific results … so when is -en the correct ending?

Whenever the article is weird.

Oh… uh… and uh… and uhm… when exactly is an article weird? I mean…  many of you probably find ALL the German articles weird….
So here is what I mean: there is der, die, das and ein, eine, ein. This is what even absolute beginners know about German. These are the normal articles.

  • der for a masculine thing (ein)
  • die for a feminine thing (eine)
  • das for a neuter thing (ein)

The rest is just weird. Den is weird and so is einenDem is weird as is einem. Des is … uh let me think… WEIRD. And then OMG: der for feminine things like in dative case… LOL I say, LOL… that is just freaking WEIRD. And you know what else is weird: die for plural. Die is feminine. Why use it for plural too? That’s just random and weird.
So… for all those, the adjective ending will be -en. Let’s do some examples:

  • Der groß__ Mann spricht mit der schön__ Frau, die die Strasse langläuft.
  • The tall guy talks to the pretty woman walking down the street.

We have der twice here. With Mann it is fine because Mann is masculine but with Frau it is weird because Frau is feminine. So let’s fill in endings.

  • Der große Mann telefoniert mit der schönen Frau.

Yeay… 2 out of 2 correct. Let’s do another one.

  • Die schön__ Kellnerin gibt dem groß__ Mann den groß__ Kaffee.
  • The pretty waitress gives the tall guy a large coffee.

Die for waitress is fine, but dem and den are weird. So the endings should be:

  • Die schöne Kellnerin gibt dem großen Mann den großen Kaffee.

3 out of 3… that smells like an A+ in the exam. But oh… there are examples with ein now.

  • Eine schön__ Frau geht mit einer ander__ schön__ Frau in eine cool__ Bar.
  • A pretty woman goes with another pretty woman to a cool bar.

Eine is normal so we’ll put e there but einer is weird so we’ll add en.

  • Eine schöne Frau geht mit einer anderen schönen Frau in eine coole Bar.

And again all correct. One more try, this time with a plural.

  • Die alt__ Männer lesen in einem klein__ Café  Zeitung.

Die is weird here, because Männer is plural and don’t get me started on einem…. so it should be:

  • Die alten Männer lesen in einem kleinen Café Zeitung.

And it is. So… for weird articles like den or einem or der for feminine stuff and die for plural… add -en, for the rest, go with -e and that will get you about 80% correct. But there are not only definite and indefinite articles that can precede nouns. What about words like mein or diese (in grammar jargon those are called something)? Well, you can use the same system here…. when they are weird then add -en. All the ones that indicate possession, so my, your, our, their and so forth have the same “weird-pattern” like the indefinite articles ein/ eine

  • Mein and meine are normal just like ein and eine are.
  • Meiner, meines, meinem, meinen as well as meine for plural are WEIRD.
  • unser and unsere are normal… all the others are weird.

Things like diese, jene or welche and even manche work like the definite articles. Normal are:

  • dieser (for male) – der
  • diese (for female) – die
  • dieses (for neuter) – das

All the rest is weird. Is jenem weird? Yes. Is welche weird when it is asking for plural? Sure is.

  • Gestern habe ich meinen alt__  Mathelehrer getroffen.
  • Yesterday, I met my old math-teacher.

Meinen is weird so we’ll go with -en…. and it’s correct.

  • Welche berühmtenStars hast du schon mal getroffen?
  • Which famous stars have you met?

Why is welche weird here? Because it is used for plural. We could say plural articles are weird by default or simply plural is -en. Either way, this is basica… oh… my red exception phone is ringing… hold on a second…. hey John, how’s it going… oh cool, hey man, I’d really like chat a second but I came in late today and I have to hurry a bit so tell me, what did I overlook… what?… genitive?… so?…. oh ohhhhh.. do you have an Example by any chance?… what? … oh, dieses schönen Autos…. oh man, that’s right… damn it… my nice simple rule… hey but you know what, I’ll just not tell ’em… I mean, they won’t be using Genitive anyway, right?… haha, yeah Genitive is like sooooo 18th century… man, thanks anyway John and talk to you soon ok? Cool bye (hang up)… so… all right, now I’ back with you guys, and let me tell you what… there is absolutely NOOOO exception to the todays rule whatsoever.
Seriously though, rarely has a rule no exception so this “weird-gets-en” one does too. But I challenge you to come up with a sentence or find one somewhere… it is really rare. And now speaking of a rule having limitations. Well, the -en-rule will not get you 100% there. Here’s an example where it fails.

  • Thomas hat gestern sein neu__ Bett bekommen.

Based on our rule this should be e because sein is not weird. The correct ending here, however, is –es for … reasons. We’ll deal with those in part 3 :).
But keep in mind.. those situations make up only 20 % percent of all adjective endings.
Go with -en if the article is weird! That gets you 40% correct.
Go with –e for all the rest! That will get you another 40% correct and that is a pretty good score considering that you barely had to do the whole case-gender-article-type analysis. Not that there is something worng with that. If learning the Adjective declension tables works for you, that’s great.
And of course the en-rule doesn’t help at all if you don’t know the correct case or the gender… and there will be many many situations. (My advice is, go with feminine).
Adjective endings are something that just needs to come out automatically pretty much and it needs a lot of speaking practice… so give it some time. But what you have learned so far might very well help you to pass some adjective declension quiz… provided you’ve been learning the gender for things ;).
Actually, I am really wondering on the -e-rule and the en-rule hold up in a “real” quiz… like the one I found on There is some tricky stuff in there and you really need to know the gender of things but I am curious how you do and if …. so here is the link:

German Adjective Ending Quiz

If you feel like it, try out how much you can score with what you’ve learned here and tell us your result… and if you fail miserably, it is all my fault and my rule sucks. I am a bit nervous actually :).
Anyways… so … I think we’re done for today. This was the second part on German Adjective Endings and the main thing to remember is to add -en when the article is weird.
If you have questions or suggestions or if you want to bitch at me for being late… just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

If you want to go on right away: German Adjective Endings 3