Easy Learning German

Making adjectives agree - Easy Learning Grammar German

1 The basic rules

  • In dictionaries, only the basic form of German adjectives is shown. You need to know how to change it to make it agree with the noun or pronoun the adjective describes.
  • To make an adjective agree with the noun or pronoun it describes, you simply add one of three sets of different endings:

2 The Weak Declension

  • The endings used after the definite articles der, die and das and other words declined like them are shown below.
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter SingularAll Genders Plural
  • The following table shows you how these different endings are added to the adjective alt, meaning old, when it is used with the definite article.
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter Singular
Nominativeder alte Manndie alte Fraudas alte Haus
Accusativeden alten Manndie alte Fraudas alte Haus
Genitivedes alten Mann(e)sder alten Fraudes alten Hauses
Dativedem alten Mannder alten Fraudem alten Haus
  • Nominative:
Der alte Mann wohnt nebenan.The old man lives next door.
  • Accusative:
Ich habe die alte Frau in der Bibliothek gesehen.I saw the old woman in the library.
  • Genitive:
Die Besitzerin des alten Hauses ist sehr reich.The owner of the old house is very rich.
  • Dative:
Er hilft dem alten Mann beimHe helps the old man to do his shopping.
  • These are the plural endings of adjectives in the weak declension.
PluralAll Genders
Nominativedie alten
Accusativedie alten
Genitiveder alten
Dativeden alten

3 The Mixed Declension

  • The endings used after ein, kein, irgendein and the possessive adjectives are shown below.
  • Note that this declension differs from the weak declension only in the three forms underlined below.
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter SingularAll Genders Plural
  • For more information on the Possessive adjectives, see Articles.
  • The following table shows you how these different endings are added to the adjective lang, meaning long.
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter Singular
Nominativeein langer Wegeine lange Reiseein langes Spiel
Accusativeeinen langen Wegeine lange Reiseein langes Spiel
Genitiveeines langen Weg(e)seiner langen Reiseeines langen Spiel(e)s
Dativeeinem langen Wegeiner langen Reiseeinem langen Spiel
  • Nominative:
Eine lange Reise muss geplant werden.You have to plan a long trip.
  • Accusative:
Ich habe einen langen Weg nach Hause.It takes me a long time to get home.
  • Genitive:
Die vielen Nachteile einer langen Reise …The many disadvantages of a long journey …
  • Dative:
Bei einem langen Spiel kann man sich langweilen.You can get bored with a long game.
  • These are the plural endings of adjectives when they have a mixed declension.
PluralAll Genders
Nominativeihre langen
Accusativeihre langen
Genitiveihrer langen
Dativeihren langen

4 The Strong Declension

  • The endings used when there is no article before the noun are shown below.
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter SingularAll Genders Plural
  • The following table shows you how these different endings are added to the adjective gut, meaning good.
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter Singular
Nominativeguter Käsegute Marmeladegutes Bier
Accusativeguten Käsegute Marmeladegutes Bier
Genitiveguten Käsesguter Marmeladeguten Bier(e)s
Dativegutem Käseguter Marmeladegutem Bier
  • Nominative:
Gutes Bier ist sehr wichtig auf einer Party.Good beer is very important at a party.
  • Accusative:
Wo finde ich guten Käse?Where will I get good cheese?
  • Genitive:
Das ist ein Zeichen guter Marmelade.That is a sign of good jam.
  • Dative:
Zu gutem Käse braucht man auch Oliven.You need olives to go with good cheese.
  • These are the plural endings of adjectives when they have a strong declension.
  • Note that the plural form of Käse is normally Käsesorten.
PluralAll Genders
  • Note that these endings allow the adjective to do the work of the missing article by showing the case of the noun and whether it is singular or plural, masculine, feminine or neuter.
  • The article is omitted more often in German than in English, especially where you have preposition + adjective + noun combinations.
Nach kurzer Fahrt kamen wir in Glasgow an.After a short journey we arrived in Glasgow.
Mit gleichem Gehalt wie du würde ich mir einen Urlaub leisten können.I’d be able to afford a holiday on the same salary as you.
  • These strong declension endings are also used after any of the following words when the noun they refer to is not preceded by an article.
ein bisschena little, a bit of
ein weniga little
ein paara few, a couple
wenigerfewer, less
einige (plural forms only)some
etwassome, any (singular)
lauternothing but, sheer, pure
was fürwhat, what kind of
vielmuch, many, a lot of
welch …!what …! what a …!
manchmany a
weniglittle, few, not much
zwei, drei etctwo, three etc
Morgen hätte ich ein wenig freie Zeit für dich.I could spare you some time tomorrow.
Sie hat mir ein paar gute Tipps gegeben.She gave me a few good tips.
Er isst weniger frisches Obst als ich.He eats less fresh fruit than me.
Heutzutage wollen mehr junge Frauen Ingenieurinnen werden.Nowadays, more young women want to be engineers.
Solche leckere Schokolade habe ich schon lange nicht mehr gegessen.I haven’t had such good chocolate for a long time.
Wir haben viel kostbare Zeit verschwendet.We have wasted a lot of valuable time.
Welch herrliches Wetter!What wonderful weather!
  • With wenig and numbers from zwei onwards, adjectives behave as follows:
  • Strong, when there is no article:
Es gab damals nur wenig frisches Obst.There was little fresh fruit at that time.
Zwei kleine Jungen kamen die Straße entlang.Two small boys came along the street.
  • Weak, when the definite article comes first:
Das wenige frische Obst, das es damals gab, war teuer.The little fresh fruit that was available then, was expensive.
Die zwei kleinen Jungen, die die Straße entlangkamen.The two small boys who came along the street.
  • Mixed, when a possessive adjective comes first:
Meine zwei kleinen Jungen sind manchmal frech.My two small sons are cheeky sometimes.
  • These strong declension endings also need to be used after possessives where no other word shows the case of the following noun and whether it’s masculine, feminine or neuter, singular or plural.
Sebastians altes Buch lag auf dem Tisch.Sebastian’s old book was lying on the table.
Mutters neuer Computer sieht toll aus.Mother’s new computer looks great.
TipWhen these various endings are added to adjectives, you have to watch out for some spelling changes.When endings are added to the adjective hoch, meaning high, the simple form changes to hoh.
Das Gebäude ist hoch.The building is high.
Das ist ein hohes Gebäude.That is a high building.
Adjectives ending in -el lose the -e when endings are added.
Das Zimmer ist dunkel.The room is dark.
Man sieht nichts in dem dunklen Zimmer.You can’t see anything in the dark room.
Adjectives ending in -er often lose the -e when endings are added.
Das Auto war teuer.The car was expensive.
Sie kaufte ein teures Auto.She bought an expensive car.
Key points
  • To make an adjective agree with the noun it is describing, you simply add one of three sets of endings: weak, mixed or strong.
  • Strong endings are also used after particular words when not preceded by an article, for example, ein bisschen, ein paar, wenig and after possessive adjectives.

5 Participles as adjectives

  • In English, the present participle is a verb form ending in -ing, which may be used as an adjective or a noun. In German, you simply add -d to the infinitive of the verb to form the present participle, which may then be used as an adjective with all the usual endings.
Auf dem Tisch stand ein FotoThere was a photo of a laughing
von einem lachenden Kind.child on the table.
  • Note that the present participles of sein and haben cannot be used like this.
  • The past participle of a verb can also be used as an adjective.
Meine Mutter hat meine verlorenen Sachen gefunden.My mother found my lost things.

6 Adjectives preceded by the dative case

  • With many adjectives you use the dative case, for example:
  • ähnlich        similar to
Er ist seinem Vater sehr ähnlich.He’s very like his father.
  • bekannt        familiar to
Sie kommt mir bekannt vor.She seems familiar to me.
  • dankbar        grateful to
Ich bin dir sehr dankbar.I’m very grateful to you.
  • fremd        strange, alien to
Das ist mir fremd.That’s alien to me.
  • gleich        all the same to/like
Es ist mir gleich.It’s all the same to me.
  • leicht        easy for
Du machst es dir wirklich zu leicht.You really make things too easy for yourself.
  • nah(e)        close to
Unser Haus ist nahe der Universität.Our house is near the university.
  • peinlich        embarrassing for
Das war ihr aber peinlich.She was really embarrassed.
  • unbekannt        unknown to
Das war mir unbekannt.I didn’t know that.
Key points
  • In German, both present and past participles can also be used as adjectives.
  • With many German adjectives you use the dative case.

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