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German noun declension

Regular declension, n-declension and exceptions
There are three genders for nouns in German: Masculine (männlich), feminine (weiblich) and neuter (sächlich).

Capitalized Nouns

One important thing as we get started: All nouns are written with the first letter capitalized.

"the house" is written as "das Haus".

Genders

There are three genders in German: masculine (männlich), feminine (weiblich) and neuter (sächlich). Usually, the gender of a noun is determined by its ending.

The articles der, die and das are used with nouns to indicate their gender:

  • der Mann (the man) [Masculine Noun]

  • die Frau (the woman) [Feminine Noun]

  • das Kind (the child) [Neuter Noun]

It's not easy to know which gender a noun is. There are a few rules for masculine, feminine and neuter nouns. However, usually there is no choice but to learn each word's gender.

Declension

A noun in English, "house" for example, does not change even if we change the role it plays in a phrase.

The house is pretty ("house" is the subject in this case)

We bought a house ("a house" is the direct object).

As you see, the word house is not declined. You just add "s" in English to make the plural. It's very simple.

Unfortunately, it is not always like this in German. This might cause you a bit of despair when you start learning German. For example, in the phrase, "Erkrankungen des Herzens", the word "Herzens" (heart in genitive form) does not appear in the dictionary. That is because it is declined and, instead of that word, you have to look for "Herz" (heart in nominative form).

It is a bit complicated but don't worry about it. you will get it.

Regular noun declension

As a general rule, an "-n" or an "-en" are added to all nouns in the dative plural. If the noun in the plural ends with "-n" or "-s," nothing will be added.

Masculine or Neuter Nouns

An "-s" or an "-es" is added in the genitive singular. Sometimes both options are ok. In general, if a word ends with “-e”, an “-s” is added in the genitive and if it ends with “-s” or “-z” and “-es” is added.

Example for a neuter noun:

SingularPlural
Nominativedas Gasdie Gase
Accusativedas Gasdie Gase
Dativedem Gas
also: dem Gase
den Gasen
Genitivedes Gasesder Gase

Although it is not very common today, sometimes an "-e" is added to the dative singular. Nowadays, you can see this is some phrases:

Ich gehe nach Hause
I am going home

Hause is the old declension in the dative singular for das Haus (house).

Dem deutschen Volke
For the German people

Volke is the classic declension of Volk (people) in the dative singular.

Feminine Nouns

Feminine nouns do not change in the genitive singular.

SingularPlural
Nominativedie Kraftdie Kräfte
Accusativedie Kraftdie Kräfte
Dativeder Kraftden Kräften
Genitiveder Kraftder Kräfte

Interestingly, a large portion of feminine plural nouns end with "-n," meaning that luckily the majority of feminine plural nouns do not change.

SingularPlural
Nominativedie Lampedie Lampen
Accusativedie Lampedie Lampen
Dativeder Lampeden Lampen
Genitiveder Lampeder Lampen

N-Declension

Some masculine nouns and a few neuter ones have a declension that is different from the usual one and it is called the "N-Deklination" (N-Declension).

SingularPlural
Nominativeder Kundedie Kunden
Accusativeden Kundendie Kunden
Dativedem Kundenden Kunden
Genitivedes Kundender Kunden

If we look closely at all of the forms except for the nominative singular, they have an "-n" ending. This is why it is called "N-Deklination".

Sometimes, an "-en" is added instead of adding an "-n". For example, the noun "Mensch".

Examples of nouns with n declension

  • Most masculine nouns ending with "-e" but not der See or der Käse or der Deutsche and which represents professions or nationalities or people such as der Experte.
  • Many nouns that represent professions or nationalities or people such as: der Herr, der Astronom, der Architekt.
  • Latin or Greek words ending with:

    -at as in der Soldat, der Advokat, der Diplomat.

    -ant as in der Elefant, der Diamant, der Lieferant.

    -ent as in der Student.

    -ist as in der Journalist, der Zivilist, der Violinist, der Polizist.

N-Deklination + genitive with "ns"

Sometimes, the genitive is formed with "-ns" instead of "-n".

SingularPlural
Nominativeder Namedie Namen
Accusativeden Namendie Namen
Dativedem Namenden Namen
Genitivedes Namensder Namen

Examples of nouns with genitive "-ns": der Friede, der Name, der Funke, der Gedanke, der Glaube, der Same, der Wille, der Buchstabe.

Exceptions

Doubling the -s

Some nouns that end with "-s" have another "-s" added in the declension.

SingularPlural
Nominativeder Busdie Busse
Accusativeden Busdie Busse
Dativedem Busden Bussen
Genitivedes Bussesder Busse

A short reminder about pronunciation: The "ss" indicates that the preceding vowel is shortened.

Das Herz

"Herz" has an irregular declension. It is also one of the few neuter nouns with the "-n" declension.

SingularPlural
Nominativedas Herzdie Herzen
Accusativedas Herzdie Herzen
Dativedem Herzenden Herzen
Genitivedes Herzensder Herzen

Audiovisual Supplement

We'll finish this article with the ballad "Das Beste" from the German group "Silbermond." It's a very nice song.



3 Comments

#3 [Masoud Mahmood]2016-10-23 05:48
The following is cut and pasted form your article. Surely it should read "-en" not "-an". Or am I missing something?

Regular noun declension

As a general rule, an "-n" or an "-an" are added to all nouns in the dative plural.
[GermanVeryEasy.com]2016-10-24 22:44
Thanks. We just fixed it

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