German Adjectival Endings

This lesson will focus on German adjectival endings. It will be set out in an easy-to-follow format with English examples throughout.



This lesson will be split into four parts:


1. What are adjectives and adjectival endings?

2. Adjectival endings with definite articles

3. Adjectival endings with indefinite articles

4. Adjectival endings with possessive pronouns


Important: are you familiar with the German grammatical cases? If not, please click here to read my essential basic overview, otherwise this lesson will undoubtedly become rather confusing.

Just before we get started: when I began learning German all those years ago, adjectival endings gave me the most headaches. However, with hindsight I can honestly say they are probably one of the most logical aspects of German grammar. So, please bear this in mind as you read through this lesson.

Every aspect of German adjectival endings follow clearly set-out rules. And, while adjectival endings are perhaps not the most essential part of conversational German (i.e. you will, on the whole, be understood whether or not you make a few mistakes), they are a great way to impress German colleagues and friends when you do get them right, as you will often hear Germans themselves making mistakes in this area.


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German Adjectival Endings

1. What are adjectives and adjectival endings?

Adjectives are descriptive words. For example, in English: 'The lovely house'. 'Lovely' is the adjective as it is describing the house. Or, taking another example: 'A tall building'. 'Tall' is the adjective as it is describing the building.

Unlike in English, German adjectives are 'declined' (i.e. the adjectives change their endings according to the words they appear with, as will be explained shortly.) The only instance in which they are not declined is when the adjective is not directly followed by a noun. Let's look at a couple of examples to explain this simple, but important difference:

Example 1:
'The house is lovely' - 'Das Haus ist schön'. No adjectival ending is required at the end of the adjective 'schön', as 'schön' is not followed by the noun 'house'. However , when we change the sentence to say: 'The lovely house' - 'Das schöne Haus' you will notice an 'e' appears at the end of the adjective 'schön'. This is because the adjective is now declined.

Example 2:
'The man is tall' - 'Der Mann ist groß'. No adjectival ending is required at the end of the adjective 'groß', as 'groß' is not followed by the noun 'man'. However, when we change the sentence to say: 'The tall man' - 'Der großeMann' you will notice an 'e' appears at the end of the adjective 'groß.' This is because the adjective is now declined.

Let's take a look at the second part of the lesson to find out which different forms German adjectival endings can take.


2. German adjectival endings with the definite article

You will now learn the German adjectival endings for use with the 'definite article' (i.e. the German equivalent of 'the') in all four grammatical cases. You will firstly learn the adjectival endings in the singular (i.e. 'the old man') and then the endings in the plural (i.e. 'the two old men').


Adjectival endings with the definite article in the singular

As you will see in the table below there are just two different endings for adjectival endings in the singular with the definite article. They either end in 'en' or 'e'.

(Tip: Please note the ones ending in 'e' because, as you will see in a moment, all adjectives in the plural take 'en': those, therefore, with just an 'e', can be considered to be the exceptions.)


Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative der alte Mann
(the old man)
die alte Frau
(the old woman)
das kleine Kind
(the small child)
Accusative den alten Mann die alte Frau das kleine Kind
Dative dem alten Mann der alten Frau dem kleinen Kinder
Genitive des alten Mannes der alten Frau des kleinen Kindes


Adjectival endings with the definite article in the plural

As you will see in the table below, all German adjectival endings in the plural end in '-en'.

Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative die alten Männer
(the old men)
die alten Frauen
(the old women)
die kleinen Kinder
(the small children)
Accusative die alten Männer die alten Frauen die kleinen Kinder
Dative den alten Männern den alten Frauen den kleinen Kindern
Genitive der alten Männer der alten Frauen der kleinen Kinder


3. German adjectival endings with the indefinite article

You will now learn the adjectival endings for use with the 'indefinite article' (i.e. the German equivalent of 'a' or 'an') in all four grammatical cases. You will firstly learn the adjectival endings in the singular (i.e. 'an old man') and then the endings in the plural (i.e. 'two old men').


Adjectival endings with the indefinite article in the singular

Please take a look at the table detailed below. The five endings highlighted in bold are the most important ones to learn, as all the rest end in 'en'.


Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ein alter Mann
(an old man)
eine alte Frau
(an old woman)
ein kleines Kind
(a small child)
Accusative einen alten Mann eine alte Frau ein kleines Kind
Dative einem alten Mann einer alten Frau einem kleinen Kind
Genitive eines alten Mannes einer alten Frau eines kleinen Kindes


Adjectival endings with the indefinite article in the plural

The plural is used without an indefinite article, as in English. For example, it would be incorrect to say: 'an old men' or 'an old women'. In German the adjective is, nevertheless, declined. Wondering how? Quite simply: the adjectival ending takes the form of the definite article in the plural.

So:-

Nominative: 'e' from die 
Accusative: 'e' from die 
Dative: 'en' from den 
Genitive: 'er' from der 

(For clarity's sake: this information can be found in section two of this lesson: 'Adjectival endings with the definite article in the plural'.)

Let's have a look at these endings in the plural with the help of the following table:

Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative alte Männer
(old men)
alte Frauen
(old women)
kleine Kinder
(small children)
Accusative alte Männer alte Frauen kleine Kinder
Dative alten Männern alten Frauen kleinen Kindern
Genitive alter Männer alter Frauen kleiner Kinder


4. German adjectival endings with the possessive pronoun

You will now learn the German adjectival endings for use with the 'possessive pronoun' (i.e. the German equivalent of my, your, her, his, our, etc.) in all four grammatical cases. You will firstly learn the adjectival endings in the singular (i.e. 'my shirt') and then the endings in the plural (i.e. 'my shirts').

All possessive pronouns will follow exactly the same patterns, detailed below. For more general information about possessive pronouns in German, please click here.


Adjectival endings with the possessive pronoun in the singular

As you study the table below you will notice the adjectival endings with the possessive pronouns in the singular are exactly the same as those used after the indefinite article, as described in the previous section.


Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative mein neuer Mantel
(my new coat)
meine neue Bluse
(my new blouse)
mein neues Hemd
(my new shirt)
Accusative meinen neuen Mantel meine neue Bluse mein neues Hemd
Dative meinem neuen Mantel meiner neuen Bluse meinem neuen Hemd
Genitive meines neuen Mantels meiner neuen Bluse meines neuen Hemdes


Adjectival endings with the possessive pronoun in the plural

As the table below depicts, all adjectival endings with possessive pronouns in the plural end with 'en'.

Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative meine neuen Mäntel
(my new coats)
meine neuen Blusen
(my new blouses)
meine neuen Hemden
(my new shirts)
Accusative meine neuen Mäntel meine neuen Blusen meine neuen Hemden
Dative meinen neuen Mänteln meinen neuen Blusen meinen neuen Hemden
Genitive meiner neuen Mäntel meiner neuen Blusen meiner neuen Hemden


Now you have completed your German adjectival endings lesson, why not take a look at my important German phrases section.

Or, if you feel like a well-deserved break, why not have fun learning some überlong world-record breaking German words. 


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