Go to the homepage of our German Course Chapter 5: Asking for directions University of Portsmouth
5.7 Adjectives

When adjectives follow a noun
When an adjective - or "describing word" - follows the verb "to be" as in the phrase "Ist es weit?" (= Is it far?) in one of the conversations in this chapter, or in the question "Wie alt bist du?, adjectives in this position do not have endings in German.

When an adjective is given as a one word response to a question, there are also no endings. For example, when the waiter asks the diners in Chapter 4 whether they had enjoyed their meal - "Hat es Ihnen geschmeckt?" (= Did you enjoy your meal?), Anna and Margarete reply with adjectives without endings - "Ausgezeichnet!" (= Excellent!) and "Sehr gut!" (= Very good!).

Adjectives before a noun
Adjectives standing in front of a noun add endings to show whether that noun is singular or plural, what its gender is, and what case it stands in. The endings the adjective adds depend on what sort of article is standing before it. The endings for an adjective which follows the definite article "der" are as follows:

  Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nom. der gute Mann die gute Frau das gute Kind
Acc. den guten Mann die gute Frau das gute Kind
Dat. dem guten Mann der guten Frau dem guten Kind

The indefinite article "ein" - along with "kein" - has the following endings, depending on the gender of the noun which follows it and the case that this noun is in.

  Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nom. ein guter Mann eine gute Frau ein gutes Kind
Acc. einen guten Mann eine gute Frau ein gutes Kind
Dat. einem guten Mann einer guten Frau einem guten Kind

Adjectives after possessive adjectives take exactly the same endings as those which follow the indefinite article:

  Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nom. ihr guter Mann ihre gute Frau ihr gutes Kind
Acc. ihren guten Mann ihre gute Frau ihr gutes Kind
Dat. ihrem guten Mann ihrer guten Frau ihrem guten Kind

To work out the endings on an adjective you need to know three things:

  • What is the gender of the noun - masculine, feminine or accusative?
  • What case is the noun in in this sentence - nominative, accusative or dative?
  • What type of article precedes the adjective - definite "ein" or indefinite "ein"? Or is it preceded by a possessive adjective "mein etc."?

Thus for the sentence "Wo ist die nächste Apotheke?", we know that the ending on the adjective is "-e" because:

  • "die Apotheke" is a feminine noun
  • It is in the nominative case in the above sentence - i.e. it is the subject of the clause
  • It is preceded by the definite article "die"

And in the sentence "Wo gibt es hier den nächsten U-Bahnhof?", we know that the adjective ending is "-en" because:

  • "der U-Bahnhof" is a masculine noun
  • It is in the accusative case in the sentence - i.e. it is the object of the clause
  • It is preceded by the definite article "den"

Test yourself on adjective endings
Test your ability to add the correct endings to adjectives by taking these exercises. Click on the bar below to get started.

Weiter! Chapter 5.8: Ordinal numbers

Go back to the top of the page

Print this Document Print This Page

Homepage: Paul Joyce German Course
© Paul Joyce