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-chen and -lein make the noun small: the diminutive

Badeenten groß und klein als Beispiel für die Verkleinerungsformen

die Ente - das Entchen / das Entlein

Thediminutive form of nouns makes the noun "small".

How do I form the diminutive?

You can form a diminutive form (= a form that makes the noun smaller) from any German noun.


To do this, you add the syllable -chen or -lein to the noun.


der Tisch- das Tischchen - das Tischlein

das Pferd - das Pferdchen - das Pferdlein

die Tür - das Türchen - das Türlein

When do I need an umlaut?

If the stem vowel of the noun is a, o, or u it becomes an umlaut:

  • a → ä

  • o → ö

  • u → ü


der Platz - das Plätzchen - das Plätzlein
das Tor - das Törchen - das Törlein
der Bruder – das Brüderchen – das Brüderlein

Schuhe - Erwachsene und Kinder als Beispiel für die Verkleicherungsformen

der Schuh - das Schühchen

If the stem vowel of the noun is -au- it becomes -äu-:
Das Haus – das Häuschen – das Häuslein

If the stem vowel of the noun is e, i, ä, ö, und ü it stays the same.

Bildung des Diminutiv

When is the vowel at the end of the noun omitted?

The vowel at the end of the noun is omitted if it's unstressed:


der Hase – das Häschen – das Häslein

die Dose – das Döschen, das Döslein

When can I not form a diminutive?

You can't add a  -chen oder -lein  to a noun that already has one:


Das Mädchen

Das Eichhörnchen

What happens to words ending in -ch or -che?

For these words we use -lein, so that it's easier to pronounce them.


der Bach – das Bächlein

das Buch – das Büchlein

die Kirche - das Kirchlein

das Dach – das Dächlein

Are there any other forms than -chen or -lein?

In some regions and dialects you can use instead:

-le (Schwäbisch)
der Tisch – das Tischle
das Haus – das Häusle
das Mädchen – das Mädle

-erl (Bayern, Österreich)
der Sack – das Sackerl

das Päckchen - das Packerl

die Lampe - das Lamperl

Andere Formen als -chen oder -lein

Article of the diminutive

The diminutiv if a noun is always neutral

Therefore the article is always 'das'. 

It doesn't matter which gender the noun has in its' original form. 

der Hund → das Hündchen, das Hündlein

die Wurst → das Würstchen, das Würstlein

das Brot → das Brötchen, das Brötlein

Learn more about the articlea aund gramatical gender >>>


If a noun ends in -chen or -lein, it's always neutral.

The article is: das

Artikel des Diminutivs

When do I use the diminutive?

We use the diminutive form to show that something is small - that's clear.
"Das Büchlein" has a smaller format than most books.

It is also used when dealing with young people or animals .
"Drei Vögelchen sitzen im Nest"


But we often want to emphasize that something is particularly cute or sweet :
"Oh - das ist ein süßes Häuschen!"


Things that are for children are often called like this:
"ch habe für meine Tochter ein Kleidchen gekauft."


We also use the diminutive for pet names , i.e. to address someone affectionately:
  Mein Schatz- mein Schätzchen
  Marie - Mariechen  

But you can also use this form negatively or ironically.
"Mein Freundchen, komm bitte her!!!" - doesn't sound friendly to the children at all.

Greetings can also sound more informal and nicer with it:
Hellöchen - Tschüsschen, Tagchen

Is there also a "magnification form" in German?

No, there is no form in German that makes nouns bigger.
Instead we use adjectives like: (sehr) groß, riesig, massiv, enorm, …

Gibt es eine Vergrößerungsform?
Wann benutze ich das Diminutiv?

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  • The diminutive is formed by adding -chen and -lein. 

  • In some dialects the final syllables – le or -erl are used 

  • An unstressed vowel at the end of the noun is dropped. 

  • the stem vowel becomes the corresponding umlaut.

  • Usage: especially for small things, young people/animals, to trivialize something, as a term of endearment (= affectionate), as an understatement, as an evaluation.


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