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German Grammar Tutorial: Plural Nouns

Richard E

Hello! My name is Richard (Recp on the internet), and I am a UniLang member. One of the most difficult parts of the German language for me has been the plurals, and the case endings on nouns. Finally, I was looking at a German language book that a friend of mine has. This book has a system that I found useful because it classifies nouns by declension, according to the plural formation and the case endings. So I have presented it here, in the hope that some UniLangers will find it useful as well.

This tutorial is not a course, but rather an "add-on" to the wonderful German course written by Saaropean.

NOTE: Two periods mean that an umlaut is added. If the two periods are in brackets, an umlaut is sometimes added, and you must check the Appendix.

Let's give a big thank you to fellow UniLanger Saaropean for helping me with and revising this document.

Read This Before Proceeding

Feminine Nouns

Please note that all feminine nouns take no ending in any of the singular cases. So even if a feminine nouns belongs to a declension which should add something in any singular case, the feminine noun doesn't.

Umlauts

Note that only the stressed vowel of a word can be umlauted. Also note that the only possible changes are the following:

Foreign Nouns

Please note that:

  • French nouns ending in -eur follow II.
  • French nouns ending in -euse follow IV.
  • Feminine nouns ending in -in follow IV. (With a doubling of the n)
Singular Umlauted Plural
a ä
o ö
u ü
auäu

Declensions

I. Declension

SingularPlural
Nominative - -(..)
Accusative - -(..)
Genitive -s -(..)
Dative - -(..)n

The following nouns are part of the I. Declension:

  1. Masculine and neuter nouns which end in -el, -en or -er. Of these nouns, the ones which are listed in I. List do take an umlaut in plural.
  2. Neuter nouns ending in -chen or -lein
  3. Die Mutter and Die Tochter, both of which take an umlaut in the plural.

II. Declension

SingularPlural
Nominative--(..)e
Accusative--(..)e
Genitive-s-(..)e
Dative--(..)en

The following nouns are part of the II. Declension:

  1. Most masculine nouns of one syllable. Most take an umlaut in the plural, except those which are shown in II. List.
  2. About thirty feminine nouns of one syllable, all of which take an umlaut in the plural. These nouns are listed in III. List.
  3. Some neuter nouns of one syllable, none of which take an umlaut in the plural.
  4. All nouns which end in -ich, -ig, -ling, -nis and -sal.
  5. There are some weird masculine and neuter nouns which form their singular case endings like this declension, yet form their plural like IV. Declension. These nouns are listed in VI. List.

III. Declension

SingularPlural
Nominative - -..er
Accusative - -..er
Genitive -s -..er
Dative - -..ern

The following nouns are part of the III. Declension:

  1. The neuter nouns of one syllable which are listed in IV. List.
  2. A few masculine nouns of one syllable which are listed in V. List.
  3. All nouns ending in -tum.
  4. The noun Der Vormund.

IV. Declension

SingularPlural
Nominative - -(e)n
Accusative -(e)n -(e)n
Genitive -(e)n -(e)n
Dative -(e)n -(e)n

The following nouns are part of the IV. Declension:

  1. All feminine nouns that have not already been classified. (Note that all feminine nouns take no ending in any of the singular cases).
  2. All masculine nouns that end in -e, with the exception of Der Käse, which is in the II. Declension.
  3. All foreign words which are stressed on the last syllable.
  4. Some weird masculine and neuter nouns which form their singular like II. Declension, but their plural like this declension. These are listed in VI. List.

V. Declension

SingularPlural
Nominative - -s
Accusative - -s
Genitive -s -s
Dative - -s

The following nouns are part of the V. Declension:

  1. Nouns which come from another language and don't fit well into other declensions, or acyronyms. Note that, in a word like Hobby, German does not form the plural the English way (Hobbies), but simply adds an -s (Hobbys).

Appendix

I. List

The following I. Declension nouns do take an umlaut in the plural:

Masculine:

  • der Acker, the field
  • der Apfel, the apple
  • der Boden, the ground
  • der Bruder, the brother
  • der Faden, the thread
  • der Garten, the garden
  • der Graben, the ditch
  • der Hafen, the harbour
  • der Hammer, the hammer
  • der Kasten, the box
  • der Laden, the shop
  • der Mangel, the lack
  • der Mantel, the coat
  • der Nagel, the nail
  • der Ofen, the stove/oven
  • der Sattel, the saddle
  • der Schnabel, the beak
  • der Schwager, the brother-in-law
  • der Vater, the father
  • der Vogel, the bird

Neuter:

  • das Kloster, the monastery

II. List

The following masculine II. Declension nouns do not take an umlaut in the plural:

  • der Aal, the eel
  • der Apparat, the apparatus
  • der Arm, the arm
  • der Docht, the wick
  • der Dom, the dome/cathedral
  • der Fasan, the pheasant
  • der Grad, the degree
  • der Huf, the hoof
  • der Hund, the dog
  • der Lachs, the salmon
  • der Lauch, the leek
  • der Monat, the month
  • der Mond, the moon
  • der Omnibus, the omnibus
  • der Pfad, the path
  • der Puls, the pulse
  • der Punkt, the point
  • der Salat, the salad
  • der Salm, the salmon
  • der Schal, the scarf
  • der Schuh, the shoe
  • der Star, the starling
  • der Stoff, the stuff
  • der Tag, the day
  • der Thron, the throne

III. List

The following feminine II. Declension nouns are all feminine. They take an umlaut in the plural.

  • die Axt, the axe
  • die Bank, the bench
  • die Braut, the bride
  • die Brust, the breast
  • die Faust, the fist
  • die Frucht, the fruit
  • die Gans, the goose
  • die Hand, the hand
  • die Haut, the skin
  • die Kraft, the power
  • die Kuh, the cow
  • die Macht, the might
  • die Magd, the maid
  • die Maus, the mouse
  • die Nacht, the night
  • die Nuss, the nut
  • die Stadt, the city
  • die Wand, the wall
  • die Wurst, the sausage

IV. List

The following neuter nouns belong to the III. Declension.

  • das Amt, the office
  • das Bad, the bath
  • das Bild, the picture
  • das Blatt, the leaf
  • das Buch, the book
  • das Dach, the roof
  • das Denkmal, the memorial
  • das Dorf, the village
  • das Ei, the egg
  • das Fach, the subject
  • das Fass, the barrel
  • das Feld, the field
  • das Geschlecht, the sex
  • das Gesicht, the face
  • das Gespenst, the ghost
  • das Glas, the glass
  • das Glied, the member
  • das Grab, the grave
  • das Gras, the grass
  • das Haus, the house
  • das Horn, the horn
  • das Huhn, the chicken
  • das Kalb, the calf
  • das Kind, the child
  • das Kleid, the dress
  • das Lamm, the lamb
  • das Land, the country
  • das Licht, the light
  • das Lied, the song
  • das Loch, the hole
  • das Nest, the nest
  • das Rad, the wheel
  • das Schloss, the castle
  • das Schwert, the sword
  • das Tal, the valley
  • das Tuch, the cloth
  • das Volk, the people
  • das Weib, the woman (I wouldn't use this one in everyday speech... look it up in the dictionary if you want to know why...;))
  • das Wort, the word

V. List

The following masculine nouns of one syllable belong to the III. Declension.

  • der Geist, the spirit/ghost
  • der Gott, the God
  • der Leib, the body
  • der Mann, the man
  • der Rand, the edge
  • der Wald, the wood
  • der Wurm, the worm

VI. List

The following nouns form their singular case endings according to II. Declension but form their plural case endings according to IV. Declension.

Masculine:

  • der Mast, the mast
  • der See, the lake
  • der Staat, the state
  • der Strahl, the ray
  • der Vetter, the cousin

Neuter:

  • das Auge, the eye
  • das Bett, the bed
  • das Ende, the end
  • das Hemd, the shirt
  • das Herz, the heart (nom. Herz, gen. Herzens, dat. Herz(en), acc. Herz, all plurals Herzen)
  • das Insekt, the insect
  • das Interesse, the interest
  • das Ohr, the ear

Other Information

Declension Guide

This declension guide allows you to look at the gender and syllable count on the left side of the table, and then look across and see which declensions a noun with that gender and syllable count could be in. This table is not perfect, as there are some nouns which are out of place, but should summarize which gender commonly take which declensions.

1 Syllable 2+ Syllables
Masculine 2, 3 1, 4, (2+4)
Feminine 2, 4 4
Neuter 2, 3 1, (2+4)

Conclusion

Thank you for looking at my review of the German noun declensions. If you have a comment, or you spot a mistake (not unlikely!), or you just want to talk about languages :), don't hesitate to e-mail me. Bye for now!

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