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Adjectives: the declension

Here you can find all the important information about adjective declension in the German language

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Adjektivdeklination

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What is 'declension of adjectives'?

The declension of adjectives - what does it mean?

When adjectives come before a noun, they must agree with that noun. That's how you know they belong together. Therefore they have an ending that matches the noun

Adjektive - Endung von Adjektiv und Nomen

To make sure that the ending  agrees with the noun, it is declined : it changes depending on

  • Case (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive)

  • Gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and

  • Number (singular or plural)

Example:

  • Der schöne Pulli ist nicht teuer!

  • Ich kaufe den schönen Pulli.

Reminder:

Adjectives describe how something is:

cold, warm, high, low, new, old ….

Which ending?

How do I know which ending the adjective gets?

1. There is a definite article

The definite article shows the gender, case and number of the noun in the German language.  

 

The form of the definite article (der, die, das, den, dem) is then the signal for the noun group.

 

 

If there is no definite article, there may either be

  • an indefinite article (ein, eine, einen, einem, eines, einer) or

  • no article = the "zero-article".


As there is no article with a signal, the signal must be on the adjective.

For example: "ein Tag"

 

"ein" can be masculin or neutral. We don't have a signal.

So: The signal is either at the article or at the adjective

2. There is no definite article

Adjektive und ihre Endungen im Deutschen

That means:

Adjective declension after definite article 

If there is a definite article before the adjective, it clearly determines the case, gender and number.

The adjective ends with:

  • almost always an -en

  • in five cases only an -e

 

You can see what these are in the following table:

Deklination Tabelle: Adjektive bestimmter Artikel

Here you can find the signal on the article .

After some words the adjective gets the ending like after the definite article:

Adjectives after words like: dieser, welcher, derjenige, derselbe, jeder, jener, solcher

have the same pattern of declension.

Example:

Welcher kleine Junge hat gerufen? - Das war kein Junge, das war dieses kleine Mädchen!

Wir gehen an jedem sonnigen Tag spazieren. 

After definite article
Words with ending like after definite article

Adjective declension after indefinite article 

The indefinite article has no signal that definitely determines the case, gender and number of the noun.
That's why the signal is on the adjective.

Endung Adjektive nach unbestimmtem Artikel

Where the ending -e appeared five times in the table above, the adjective gets the ending of the definite article.

The other endings are -en again.

So: The adjective gets as an ending

  • almost always an -en

  • in five cases the ending of the definite article, ie  -e

  • the indefinite article has no plural form - the ending works like the 'zero article' 

Tabelle: Adjektivdeklination unbestimmter Artikel

More words with the same ending as after an indefinite article:

Adjectives after

  • words like: kein, irgendein

  • and also the possessive articles mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, ihr, Ihr

 

have the same pattern of declination in the singular.

In the plural they receive the ending -en.

Examples:

Singular:

Mein kleiner Hund heißt Bello. Wie heißt deine süße Katze?

Wir bleiben an keinem sonnigen Tag zu Hause. 

Plural: 

Meine kleinen Hunde heißen Bello und Bella. Wie heißen deine süßen Katzen?

Wir bleiben an keinen sonnigen Tagen zu Hause.

After indefinite article
Words with ending like after indefinite article
Adjective declination - no articlertikel
Table - all forms

Adjective declension without article 

If there is no article , then the signal must be on the adjective .

The adjective then takes the ending of the definite article.

Exception : genitive singular masculine and neuter is -en.

Here the -s is only on the noun: So there is a signal here too.

Tabelle: Adjektivdklination ohne Artikel

In the table you can see: the signal is simply taken from the definite article .

Adjektivdeklination ohne Artikel

More words with the same ending as after no article

Adjectives have the same pattern of declension after:

andere, einige, etliche, folgende, mehrere, verschiedene, viele, wenige

Example:

  • Hast du noch andere gute Ideen?

  • Ich brauche viele neue Kleider!

Overview of all forms:

Here you can find all forms at a glance!

with a definite article - with an indefinite article - without an article 

Tabelle Adjektivdeklination
Special forms

Adjective declension: special forms

Adjectives ending on -el and -er loose the e:  dunkel  - ein dunkler Tag

                                                                               teuer    - ein teures Auto

hoch looses the  c:                                               hoch     - ein hohes Haus

adjectives ending on -a get no ending:            rosa      - ein rosa Kleid 

  • The adjectives viel and wenig have NO ending in front of uncountable nouns:
    viel Wasser, wenig Zeit

       but:​ viele Tage, wenige Kinder
 

  • There is no declension for the adjective mehr: Eva hat viele Blumen. Anna hat mehr Blumen.

viel, wenig and mehr
Are adjectives always declined?

Do I always have to decline adjectives?

Only adjectives that come before a noun are declined and given an ending.

If there are several adjectives before a noun, they get the same ending.

So: 

deklinieren Adjektive

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Summary

Summary

  • When an adjective comes before a noun, it gets an ending.

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