Adjective endings reference tables

When you want to use an adjective to describe a particular noun, the tables below will help you to work out the ending of the adjective, depending on the gender of the noun and the case you need to use.

Indefinite article - 'ein', 'eine' (a)

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativeein altereine alteein altes(keine) alten3
Accusativeeinen alteneine alteein altes(keine) alten3
Dativeeinem alteneiner alteneinem alten(keinen) alten1, 3
Genitiveeines alten2einer alteneines alten2(keiner) alten3

Definite article – 'der', 'die', 'das' (the)

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativeder altedie altedas altedie alten
Accusativeden altendie altedas altedie alten
Dativedem altender altendem altenden alten1
Genitivedes alten2der altendes alten2der alten

No article

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativealteraltealtesalte
Accusativealtenaltealtesalte
Dativealtemalteraltemalten1
Genitivealten2alteralten2alter

More on dative and genitive

1You will need to add an -n to the end of the noun in the dative plural, eg the plural Kinder (children) > den kleinen Kindern.

2In the genitive case, with masculine and neuter nouns, you will need to add -s or -es to the end of the word. One syllable words and words ending in -s end in -es, so Hund > des alten Hundes (of the old dog). With all other words just add -s, so Mädchen > des schönen Mädchens (of the beautiful girl). Remember that das Mädchen is neuter.

3kein/e/n is being used in this table to show the plural because you can say 'no shoes' – keine alten Schuhe – but not 'an old shoes'.

By using the tables above, you can work out which ending you need to add to different adjectives. Remember, you must consider:

  • the gender of the noun
  • the role the noun plays in the sentence, and therefore the case needed

Look at the following sentence:

  • Meine Mutter hat eine Schwester. – My mother has a sister.

In order to expand this sentence and describe your mother's sister as being small or little – klein – you must follow a specific process.

  1. Find the correct table (definite article/indefinite/no article) – in this example we are using 'a sister', so we use the indefinite article table.
  2. Find the correct column for the gender of your noun – sister is Schwester, which is feminine, so we use the indefinite article eine.
  3. Schwester is the direct object of the sentence – literally, the sister is being had by my mother – so we need to use the accusative case. Follow the table down for feminine/accusative and you’ll see the word for 'a' is eine – so the accusative form will be: Meine Mutter hat eine __________ Schwester.
  4. Complete your sentence using the adjective ending from the table. For an adjective to describe a feminine noun in the accusative case, the ending you must add to the adjective is -e – so klein > kleine.

The correct way to say 'my mother has a little sister' is therefore:

  • Meine Mutter hat eine kleine Schwester.
Question

Using the tables, work out the German for the following sentences:

  • My wife has a new car - it's very fast.
  • The blue T-shirt is dirty.
  • The dog’s bed was empty.
  • She gave the homework to the German (female) teacher.
  • Meine Frau hat ein neues Auto - es ist sehr schnell.

The German word for 'car' is neuter and is the direct object of the sentence, so the accusative case is used.

  • Das blaue T-Shirt ist schmutzig.

The German word for 'T-shirt' is neuter and is the subject of the sentence, so the nominative case is used.

  • Das Bett des Hundes war leer.

The neuter noun 'bed' belongs to the 'dog', which is a masculine noun in German. We must use the genitive case here to show the possession.

  • Sie hat der deutschen Lehrerin die Hausaufgaben gegeben.

Leherin is feminine and the verb geben (to give) takes the dative case because you are giving the homework to the teacher. This makes it an indirect object.