Adjective Endings – a Step-by-Step Guide

What is Adjective Declension?

Adjective Declension means that you must match the endings of Adjectives to the appropriate case (Nominative, Accusative, Dative, Genitive) to the Genus (Masculine, Feminine, Neutral, Plural) and to the Article preceding the Adjective.

It sounds harder than it is! In this lesson, I'll explain in a simple way how to always choose the right Adjective Ending.

When should an Adjective be declined?

When adjectives come before a noun, they must be declined.

So they get an ending.

  • „Der junge Mann lernt Deutsch.“ (The noun „Mann“ is placed after the Adjective ⇒ Adjective Declension)
  • But: „Der Mann ist jung.“ (There is no noun after „jung“ ⇒ no Adjective Declension)


What factors influence the Adjective ending?

The adjective ending depends on the following factors:

  • Genus (Gender)
  • Cases
  • Article before Adjective

Adjective Declension after Definite Articles

Adjektivdeklination nach bestimmten Artikeln

Remember:

The Article already clearly indicates the case. If the Article already indicates the case, the Adjective need not do so.

⇒ In the Nominative Singular and in the Accusative neutral and feminine, an „e“ is added

⇒ In the accusative masculine as well as in the PluralDative and Genitive adjectives always get the ending „en“, no matter which article is in front of them.

Example:

  • Das rote Auto gehört dem reichen Mann.“
  • „Hans sitzt auf dem alten Sofa.“
  • „Das Haus steht neben dem großen Park.“
  • Das kleine Haus ist grau.“

Specific Article words

The Definite Articles also include the Article words:

  • „diese“,
  • „jede“,
  • „welche“
  • „solche” and
  • „alle“.

If the Adjective stands behind one of these Articles, it also gets the ending, as with the Definite Article. Since these article words always already have the declined ending, the adjective can remain in the basic form with the „-e“ or the „-en“ ending.

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Adjective Declension after Indefinite Articles

Adjektivdeklination nach unbestimmten Artikeln

The endings also apply to Possessive Articles (mein, dein,…) and the Negative Article (kein)

But these have a Plural:

Adjektivdeklination nach Possessivartikeln

Do you see the system behind it?

Exactly the same endings are given to the other forms (dein, sein, ihr,...) and also to the Negative Article (kein).

Adjektivdeklination nach kein

The colored marking shows from which part the case is concretely shown. In the plural, in the Dative and Genitive, the article already does that. So the adjective does not need to change its ending and stays with the „en“ ending. Because in the Nominative and Accusative also articles occur, which have no ending (ein, mein,...), the adjective must show the case there. So in the nominative and Accusative Singular, the ending of the Definite Article (der, die, das...) must be placed at the end of the Adjective.

Example:

  • Mein neues Auto steht in der Garage.“
  • „Hans sitzt auf einer alten Kiste.“
  • „Das Haus ist in keinem guten Zustand.“
  • „Das ist ein schmales Bett.“

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Adjective Declension after the Zero Article

When a noun is used without an article, it is called a Zero Article. When there is no article before the Adjective, it is declined as follows:

Adjektivdeklination ohne Artikel

Do you see the system behind it?

Without an Article before the Adjective, the adjective is forced to show the case. So you have to add the ending of the Definite Articles in the case to the end of the Adjective. The only exception is the Genitive masculine and neutral. Here the „s“ at the end of the noun already clearly shows that it is the genitive and the Adjective stays with its „-en“ ending.

Examples of Adjective Declension after the Zero Article:

  • Junge Frauen sind oft sehr hübsch.“
  • „Ein Deutscher trinkt jedes Jahr 130 Liter kaltes Bier.“
  • „Der Ring ist aus purem Gold.“
  • „Dort stehen rote Autos.“

Adjective Declension after „viel“ , „manche“, „mehrere“, „einige“: 

After these article words, the Adjective always gets the ending of the corresponding Definite Article, since these come before nouns that follow the rules of the Zero Article.

The rules described here ALWAYS work for these too. But sometimes there is another version which is also correct.

Special Features

If an Adjective ends in „e“ no additional „e“ is added.

  • „leise“ - „ein leises Kind“

(Wrong: ein leisees Kind)

Adjectives ending in „el“ drop the „e“ from „el“

  • „sensibel“ - „ein sensibles Kind“

(Wrong: „ein sensibeles Kind“)

  •  „dunkel“ – „ein dunkler Wald“

  (Wrong: „ein dunkeler Wald“)

Adjectives ending in „er“ drop the „e“ from „er“ if there is a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) in front of it.

  • „teuer“ - „ein teures Auto“ (Wrong: „ein teueres Auto“)
  • „sauer“ – „ein saurer Apfel“ (Wrong: „ein sauerer Apfel“)

BUT: „sauber“ – „ein sauberes Zimmer“  (No vowel in front)

The Adjective „hoch“ losing the „c“ with an ending.

  • „Der Turm ist hoch.“
  • „Das ist ein hoher Turm.“

(Wrong: „Das ist ein hocher Turm.“)

Adjectives ending in „a“ and Adjectives from city names ending in „-er“ are not declined.

  • „Das ist ein rosa Kleid.“
  • „Die lila Bluse ist hässlich.“
  • „Der Frankfurter Flughafen ist riesig.

Summary

If there is no Article to indicate the case, the Adjective must show the case. The Adjective then gets the ending of the corresponding Definite Article (der, die, das,... )

Exceptions: 

  • Genitive masculine and neutral. Here, the ending „en“ is always used, since the Genitive at the end of the noun already clearly indicates the Genitive.
  • After „viel“ , „manche“, „mehrere“, „einige“ even if they have an ending, the Adjective always follows with the ending of the corresponding Definite Article.

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Lots of students struggle with adjective endings (aka adjective declension), but it's simpler than you think. 

Here are step-by-step instructions to help you find the right ending. If you'd like a more detailed explanation of the rules, go to my page on adjective endings

The Basics of Adjective Endings

The adjective ending depends on the type of article in front of the adjective, as well as the case and gender of the noun.

Adjective Declension - Step by Step Guide

The step by step is based on the following Principles: 

  1. The Adjective ending depends on the Article, the Genus, and the Case.
  2. It differs depending on whether it is preceded by a Definite or Indefinite Article (or Possessive and Negative Articles) or no article at all.

With the following step-by-step instructions, you can always determine the correct adjective ending without having to memorize the 5 or 6 tables! You need to know the Definite Article table by heart:

Endungen Adjektivdeklination_opt

This instruction works 100%!

Here I show you step by step why this table is enough:

Step 1: Is there an article before the adjective?

No:

⇒ Add the ending of the definite article (der, die ,das,…) for that case and gender

  • „schnelle Autos“ (die Autos)

Exception: Genitive masculine & genitive neuter use an "-en"-ending

Yes: ⇒ Onward to Step 2


Step 2: Is the word „viele,“ „einige,“ „mehrere,“ or „manche“ in front of the adjective?

Yes:

⇒ Add the ending of the definite article (der, die ,das,…) for that case

  • „viele schnelle Autos“ (die Autos)

Exception: Genitive masculine & genitive neuter use an "-en"-ending

No: ⇒ Onward to Step 3


Step 3: Is it accusative masculine, dative, genitive, or plural?

Yes:

⇒ Add the ending „-en“

  • „mit den schnellen Autos“   (Dative Plural)
  • „die schnellen Autos“  (Nominative Plural)

No: ⇒ Onward to Step 4


Step 4: Does the article have an ending?

No:

⇒ Add the ending of the definite article for the corresponding case.

  • ein schnelles Auto“   (das Auto - Nominative)
  • ein schöner Mann“  (der Mann - Nominative)

Yes:

⇒ Add the ending „e“

  • „das schnelle Auto“   (Nominative Neuter)
  • „eine schöne Frau“  (Nominative Feminine)

Deutsche Grammatik Einfach erklärt

Choosing the right adjective ending?

It's actually not that hard!



This works 100%!!!

Deutsche Grammatik Einfach erklärt

Related Topics:

You can see exactly how the Participles are formed under Present Participle and Past Participle.

More lessons about Adjectives include are:

In order to use Adjective intensification, the Comparative and the Superlative correctly, you must also be familiar with Articles and the German cases:

You can find an overview of all topics under German Grammar. 

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