Using adjectives

If the adjective is separated from the noun it's describing by the words 'is', 'are', 'was' or 'were', it is placed after the noun.

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This construction, where the adjective is separated from the noun by forms of the verb sein, is the same pattern we use in English, so it makes it quite easy to remember.

Look at how to use the following adjectives in this context:

  • sein Kaninchen ist sehr niedlich – his rabbit is very cute
  • meine Schuhen sind zu klein – my shoes are too small
  • die Bratwurst war total lecker – the sausage was really delicious
  • der Hund ist schwarz – the dog is black
Question

How would you say the following in German?

  • The snake is very long.
  • The mustard was delicious.
  • The boys were so young.
  • The strawberries are sweet.
  • Die Schlange ist sehr lang.
  • Der Senf war lecker.
  • Die Jungen waren so jung.
  • Die Erdbeeren sind süß.

Adjective endings

If the adjective comes before the noun it's describing, you will need to add different endings to the adjective.

However, where the adjective comes after the noun and is separated by a form of sein, there is no change needed to the end of the adjective. For example:

  • der Mann ist alt – the man is old
  • der alte Mann – the old man

You need to know two things before you add a different ending to an adjective:

Gender of nouns

All nouns in German have a gender – this is really just a label. They are either masculine (Maskulinum), feminine (Femininum) or neuter (Neutrum). The gender of a noun changes the word for 'the' (definite article) and 'a' (indefinite article).

  • der Hund (masculine) - the dog
  • die Katze (feminine) - the cat
  • das Kaninchen (neuter) - the rabbit

  • ein Hund (masculine) - a dog
  • eine Katze (feminine) - a cat
  • ein Kaninchen (neuter) - a rabbit

Cases

There are four cases in German. They show the role of the noun in the sentence.

Nominative (used for the subject of a sentence)

  • Die Katze hat das Katzenfutter gegessen - The cat ate the food

The cat is the subject as it’s doing the eating

Accusative (used for the direct object of a sentence)

  • Die Katze hat den Hund gebissen - The cat bit the dog

The dog is the direct object in the sentence as it’s being bitten

Dative (used for the indirect object of a sentence)

  • Ich gebe dem Mann ein Geschenk - I give the man a present (or – I give a present to the man)

The man is the indirect object of the sentence

Genitive (used to show possession)

  • Das ist das Zimmer meines Bruders - This is my brother’s room

The room of my brother

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Adjectives do not need capital letters in German, even for nationalities. This is different from English, eg in the phrases 'a German car' or 'the German language', the adjective denoting the nationality is capitalised. But in German, there's no need to capitalise the nationality - ein deutsches Auto, die deutsche Sprache. Remember, however, that all German nouns do need to start with a capital letter.

Did you know?

Germany produces and sells by far the largest number of cars in Europe.

Among the most popular makes of German cars driven in the UK, are Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Porsche.

Volkswagen literally means car of the people and the famous VW Beetle, or Käfer as it is referred to in German, has been in production since 1938.

Audi A3 Production
The car industry is one of the Germany’s biggest employers