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Declension of Adjectives(German: Rektion)
The German term Rektion derives from Latin casus rectus, which is the basic case, the nominative form. Rektion addresses two questions: 1.) when does an adjective get declined; and, 2.) what is its ending when it does? Let us examine the topic in the view of syntax logic. It is Rektion that enables a preceding preposition to govern the declension case, thus narrowing the definition of the associated Satzglied. Satzglied is any of the phrase's word groups other than subject and predicate. The following frequently used prepositions are thus listed under the name of the case they demand (i.e. govern). By definition, no preposition governs casus rectus. Accusative ab, bis, durch, entlang, fr, gegen, ohne, um, wider Examples: Er fhrt ohne sie. Fr Bargeld. Er handelt wider alle Vernunft. In addition, die direction-defining prepositions govern the accusative. See the following Sec. "Dative." Dative an, auf, aus, hinter, in, neben, ber, unter, vor, zwischen Note: The dative case is governed only when a locality is defined. Test question: "wo?" (where?). When a direction is being defined, the accusative case is governed. Test question: "wohin?" (whither?) Examples: aus dem Fenster (winken). An die Einfahrt (herfahren). Genitiveabseits, anllich, anstatt, anstelle, aufgrund, auerhalb, diesseits, infolge, inmitten, innerhalb, jenseits, kraft, mittels, oberhalb, seitens, statt, ungeachtet, unterhalb, unweit, vermittels, whrend, wegen, zufolge Example: Wegen des Unfalls

Declension Criteria (i.e. when are adjectives declined, and when not?)
Adjectives must be declined when used as noun attribute before a noun: ein wichtiges Gesprch. See the tables in the paragraph following! used as noun: das Schwarze. That is substantiviertes Adjektiv (adjective used as noun). Adjectives remain undeclined when used


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as phrase adjective - that is either as predicative: (Sie ist gut. Das ist falsch), or adverbially (Sie arbeitet schwer) as attribute of an adjective or adverb: Ein grsslich kalter Wind weht heute. Die Burg liegt hoch oben. However, compare this to parallel declension. See that Section, below.

The Endings of Declined Adjectives

There are three declension systems in German, Type I, stark (strong), Type II, schwach (weak), and Type III, gemischt (mixed). Each system declines in 3 genders and plural. The following tables are different from those in many American grammar books, which tabulate only endings. We tabulate here Satzteil examples consisting of, at least, preposition + adjective + noun, which can thus be easily memorized and are of practical use. We indicate the adjective endings by hyphenating them to the word root. Each governing preposition example used is shown in parentheses.

Type I, Strong Declension

Masculine Nom. Acc. roter Wein (fr) roten Wein (aus) rotem Wein (statt) roten Weins Feminine warme Speise (fr) warme Speise (aus) warmer Speise (statt) warmer Speise Neuter hartes Metall (fr) hartes Metall (aus) hartem Metall (statt) harten Metalls Plural harte Metalle (fr) harte Metalle (aus) harten Metallen (statt) harter Metalle



Usage, where hyphen is placeholder for a possible ending or construct,

Where no article is used (e.g. frisches Brot; roter Wein); After manch-, solch-, viel-, welch-; (all declined like dieser - see demonstrative pronouns) After wenig-, mehrer-, all-; (each declined in parallel - see below: Parallel Declension) After etwas, mehr; After endingless number adjectives (e.g. fr zwei kleine Katzen); After personal pronouns other than mir, dir, ihm.

Ich altes Kamel; du kleiner Junge. Durch wenigen, guten Ruf besitzt er kein Vertrauen. (Akk. of wenig, Akk., Maskulinum) Wegen solches guten Rufs besitzt er das Vertrauen. (Gen. of solch, Gen., Mask.) Aufgrund wenigen, anfnglichen Versagens hat man nun neu begonnen. (Gen., Neutr., parallel)

Type II, Weak Declension

Masculine Nom. Acc. der bunte Stoff Feminine die alte Burg Neuter das kleine Kind Plural die kleinen Kinder

(fr) den bunten

(fr) die alte

(fr) das kleine

(fr) die kleinen


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Stoff Dat. (aus) dem bunten Stoff (statt) des bunten Stoffs

Burg (aus) der alten Burg (statt) der alten Burg

Kind (aus) dem kleinen Kind (statt) des kleinen Kinds

Kinder (aus) den kleinen Kindern (statt) der kleinen Kinder


Usage, where hyphen is placeholder for the required ending,

After a definite article (der, die, das); After derselb-, derjenig-, dies-, jed-, jedwed-, jeglich-, jen-, all; (all of these are declined like dieser - see demonstrative pronouns After the personal pronouns mir, dir, ihm, and after the adjectives arm, alt.

Mit allem deinen Geld .... (Dativ of all, Dat.Neuter of all dein). Das wre jedem schnellen Verkehr zuwider. (Dativ of jed, Dat.Mask of jed schnell) Hinter mancher voreiligen Handlung steht wohl Gedankenlosigkeit. (Dat.Fem.) Fr alt begehrte Ware schaut man nicht so sehr auf den Preis. (Akk., Fem., alt=attribute) Fr alte, begehrte Ware schaut man nicht so sehr auf den Preis. (Akk., Fem., parallel)

Type III, Mixed Declension

Masculine Nom. kein bunter Stoff (fr) keinen bunten Stoff (aus) keinem bunten Stoff (statt) keines bunten Stoffs Feminine keine warme Speise (fr) keine warme Speise (aus) keiner warmen Speise (statt) keiner warmen Speise Neuter kein hartes Metall (fr) kein hartes Metall (aus) keinem harten Metall (statt) keines harten Metalls Plural keine harten Metalle (fr) keine harten Metalle (aus) keinen harten Metallen (statt) keiner harten Metalle




Usage, where hyphen is placeholder for a possible ending,

After an indefinite article (ein, eine, ein); After kein, keine, kein; After the possessive pronouns (e.g. mein-, dein-, sein-, ihr-, unser-, euer-).

Vor keinem auch noch so groen Hindernis hat er sich gescheut. (Dat.,Neutr.) Auerhalb seiner Brozeit kann man ihn nicht erreichen. (Gen.,Fem.) Durch seine lange Brozeit ist er sehr unter Stre. (Akk. sein, Akk. Fem.; Stre no longer foreign vocabulary ==> )


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Parallel Declension
When several equivalent attributive adjectives are strung, they are declined in parallel. That is sharing of the same ending and comma separator. Examples: ein breiter, tiefer Graben; eines breiten, beraus tiefen Grabens; auf bestem, holzfreiem, hochglnzendem Papier; (on the best grade of pulp free, high gloss, paper) eine groe, nervige und ruhige Hand; (a big, sensory, steady, hand); nach langem, auerordentlich schwerem Leiden. The last example illustrates the important distinction that an attribute (auerordentlich) of an adjective (schwer) carries, when compared to adjectives of equal weight. Some distinct differences in sense follow, such as, for example: ein guter, brauchbarer Bericht; versus ein gut brauchbarer Bericht; a report that is useable and good; versus a report well usable (in the sense of suitable). Note the separation between parallel adjectives, by comma or conjunction. However, these commas, and any conjunction, are omitted when the attributes are to indicate a joint concept with the noun, such as in dunkles bayrisches Bier. Watch the subtle distinctions! Liegt hinter mancher, alten Burg noch ein Goldschatz begraben? An manch alter Burg sind wir vorbei gekommen (manch being the attribute of alter Burg, meaning several old castles).

Return to the IHGG Home Page Created: 13.04.98 Last modified: 17.06.98 Author: H.Vogel email: Site maintained by: H.Vogel Copyright (c)H.Vogel at The Travlang Company, 1998.

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