Creating Adjectives in German

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General Info

  • In German, you can use Prefixes and Suffixes to form Adjectives from many Nouns and Verbs.
  • In addition, by adding the Suffixes, you change the meaning of the Adjective.
  • Unfortunately, there are countless possibilities.
  • The following forms are the most important and most common ones.
  • However, there are no general rules since you can use more than 30 different Prefixes and Suffixes for Adjective Formation.

Adjectives from Adjectives (Adjektive aus Adjektiven)

With the Prefixes „in-“, „des-“ and „un-“ we can create the opposite of the Adjective:

  • „kompetent“ vs. inkompetent“   ⇒  Nicht kompetent
  • „interessiert“   vs. desinteressiert“ ⇒  Nicht interessiert
  • „beliebt“   vs. unbeliebt“      ⇒  Nicht beliebt


There is no general rule for determining which Prefix to use.

Adjectives from Verbs (Adjektive aus Verben)

With the ending „-bar“ we can express that something is possible to do.

You drop the verb „-en“.

  • essbar   ⇒  Man kann es essen.
  • trinkbar   ⇒  Man kann es trinken.
  • machbar   ⇒  Es ist möglich etwas zu tun/machen.

Adjectives from Nouns (Adjektive aus Nomen)

We use the ending „-isch“ to describe many nationalities.

You have to drop the original ending.

  • „der Italiener“   ⇒ „italienisch
  • „der Russe“   ⇒ „russisch

But: „der Deutsche“  ⇒ „deutsch

With the ending „-lich“ we can talk about the frequency or ownership of something. (Monosyllabic words gain an umlaut)

  • „der Tag“   ⇒  täglich   ⇒  jeden Tag
  • „der Monat“  ⇒  monatlich  ⇒ jeden Monat

Ownership: „das Haus der Eltern“„das elterliche Haus“ (seldomly used)

We use the ending „-los“, to talk about the absence of something ⇒ in the sense of the „ohne“ and „-los“ can be added to nouns only.

sometimes we have to add an „-s“ before „-los“.

  • „Ich habe keine Arbeit.“    „Ich bin arbeitslos.“
  • „Es gibt keine Aussicht auf Erfolg.“     „Es ist aussichtslos.“
  • „Ich habe keinen Erfolg.“    „Ich bin erfolglos.“


There is no universal rule determining when you have to insert the „s“.

With the ending „-arm“, we can express that there is very little of something. You can connect „-arm“ with nouns only.

  • fettarm.“  ⇒ „Das Essen ist fettarm.“ ⇒ Es hat wenig Fett.
  • kalorienarm  ⇒ „Der Joghurt ist kalorienarm. ⇒ Der Joghurt hat wenig Kalorien.
  • vitaminarm  ⇒ „Cola ist vitaminarm.“ ⇒  Cola hat wenig Vitamine.

With the ending „-frei“, we can express that something is NOT included.

  • fettfrei   ⇒ „Das Essen ist fettfrei.“ ⇒ Im Essen ist kein Fett.
  • zuckerfrei   ⇒ „Das Getränk ist zuckerfrei.“ ⇒ Im Getränk ist kein Zucker.
  • fehlerfrei  ⇒ „Der Text ist fehlerfrei.“ ⇒ Es gibt keine Fehler im Text.

With the ending „-reich“, we can express that there is a lot of something. You can connect „-reich“ with nouns only.

  • erfolgreich  ⇒ „Ich bin erfolgreich.“ ⇒ Ich habe viel Erfolg.
  • vitaminreich   ⇒ „Das Essen ist vitaminreich.“ ⇒ Im Essen sind viele Vitamine.
  • kalorienreich  ⇒ „Das Essen ist sehr kalorienreich.“ ⇒ Das Essen hat viele Kalorien.

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  • There is no standard rule.
  • You have to learn the meanings of the Suffixes and Prefixes.
  • After a while, you will feel how you can and cannot form the Adjectives.
  • At first glance, it doesn't look easy. It isn't! But in many other languages, you don't even have the opportunity to create Adjectives. This is one of the reasons why German is one of the most creative languages in the world.

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