When you UNDERSTAND how German adjective endings work, you need to learn only ONE TABLE!
The famous writer Mark Twain already used to make fun of the phenomenon of German adjective endings. Please keep reading, if you do not want to become just as desperate about it as he was …
When a German gets his hands on an adjective, he declines it, and keeps on
declining it until the common sense is all declined out of it.
Mark Twain: The Awful German Language
Every time I had to teach the German adjective endings I was really happy that I already learned it as a child just by heart; so, today I „just know“ how it works. This topic is one of the most difficult of the basic German grammar, and I have never known a student who hasn’t struggled with it.
I’m not surprised! Very often we, teachers, give our students simply 3 or 4 tables, which they have to learn by heart. And the textbooks most of the time don’t contain any better ideas. Many textbooks try to totally avoid any tables and treat the adjective and several accompanying words only incidentally, in the hope that the students practice and learn the rules of the German adjective endings more or less unconsciously. However, as a matter of fact at some stage some tables are given all the same – most of the time very unmethodical, though.
At the beginning of the intermediate level, it can happen that the textbooks simply provide 3 or 4 tables “to remind”. But who can memorize this? Have a look here at 3 such tables for German adjective endings “to remind” and decide for yourself if it’s really possible to memorize something like that:
Table 1: German adjective endings with the defined article
(der, die, das …)
Table 2: German adjective endings with the undefined article „ein“
Table 3: German adjective endings without article
Let’s face it again:
Nobody is able to memorize this and to learn the German adjective endings this way. Well, that´s what I think, at least :).
Students of German don’t want to simply learn the German adjective endings by heart, but they want to understand how it works. And once you have understood, it’s very easy to learn that bit by heart – if you use a good memory technique …
If you understand 2 important principles …
your life with the German adjective endings will be a lot easier.
You know that in German a noun always uses a certain case (nominative, dative, etc.). In German grammar the case is indicated by the definite article. From this arises the first of both the principles for the declension of the adjective:
1. Case-endings are in principle identical with the definite article, but without the “d”.
„Huh?“OK, that was a bit too abstract, so here’s an example for the …
… Case Endings
These case-endings are sometimes also used by other accompanying words, we call them then strong endings. Strong endings always indicate the case! They are also used by the demonstrative pronouns (dieser, dieses…), and often as well by the indefinite articles (ein, eine …) and sometimes by the possessive pronouns (mein, dein, sein…). They can also be used by the adjectives.
But when use accompanying words strong endings and when use adjectives strong endings?
This questions brings us to the second principle, which helps us with the learning of German adjective endings:
2. In a “adjective-noun” (noun + adjective) there is always EXACTLY ONE case-ending.
What does this mean exactly? You know, that the definite article not always precedes the noun, it can be another accompanying word or sometimes their isn’t even an accompanying word or article at all. Let’s have a look at an example with a noun with a possessive pronoun:
„Mein Computer war sehr teuer.“ (My computer was very expensive)
The possessive pronoun mein doesn’t always have a case-ending, for instance not in the nominative with a masculine noun:
When this case-ending is not used by the accompanying word, it has to be used by the adjective. The adjective then has the so called strong adjective-ending, thus the case-ending, which we already know from the definite articles:
So, you don’t really have to learn a new table, because you already know the articles with their case-endings. And every time there is no case-ending in the words which precede the adjective, there has to be a case-ending in the adjective; precisely as I explained to you above.
In principle you now really have to learn only one table, and this is for the cases where the case-ending precedes the adjective.
This way I finally understood the declension of the adjective!
Student of the 7th grade, German school Tenerife
Learn to know the only table, that you must learn for the declension of the adjective.
Remember this table permanently, after only one glance!
Learn why this pot will help you with this.
You’re guaranteed that you will learn this and many, many other problems of the German grammar, in a much easier way with the new standard work for the learning of German grammar:
Learn German grammar with mnemonics –
For students AND teachers of German grammar
from Neustadt, Germany, developed an excellent overview and allowed me to present it to you on my website. She managed to integrate the declension of the article and of the adjective in only one table. Moreover the relationships between the interrogative pronouns, the declension of the article and adjective and the personal pronoun are developed.
Anna has really done a great job. In the video I explain, how the table works an how you can use it immediately in you German- lessons.
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