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Weak nouns existed in
Old English as well. Notice
how closely the declension
of the OE word nama (name)
resembles the modern
German weak noun Name:

sing. pl.
nom. nama naman
acc. naman naman
dat. naman namum
gen. naman namena

sing. pl.
nom. Name Namen
acc. Namen Namen
dat. Namen Namen
gen. Namen Namen

In fact, both German and
English, as many of the other
Germanic languages, had a
system of noun inflection. In
both languages, the inflections
were eventually lost, absorbed
into the noun root, or
transferred to the article.
The weak nouns are hence
among the last remnants of
the older system of usage.


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Some adjectival nouns are
formed from the past participles
of verbs, which are sometimes
used as adjectives in German.
For example:

fangen = to catch
gefangen = caught
der/die Gefangene = prisoner

anstellen = to hire, employ
angestellt = employed
der/die Angestellte = employee

The same is true of present
participles, which are formed
in German by adding a -d
suffix to the verb infinitive.
For example:

reisen = to travel
reisend = traveling
der/die Reisende = traveler

stehen = to stand
stehend = standing
der/die Stehende = person who is standing

Alles Gute!
is a common
adjectival noun phrase
that is used to wish
someone well. It
essentially means
Best wishes!

The convention of
capitalizing nouns in German
became standardized in the
mid-18th century with Johann
Christoph Gottscheds
Grundlegung einer deutschen

German nouns

Weak nouns & nouns from adjectives and verb infinitives

Weak nouns / Masculine -n nouns

Weak nouns, also called masculine n-nouns, are a group of masculine nouns in German that have a special declension. In addition to inflecting their article, these nouns themselves add an -en or -n ending (-n if the noun already ends in -e) in every case and number except the nominative singular.

singular plural singular plural
Nominative der Neffe die Neffen   der Held die Helden
Accusative den Neffen die Neffen   den Helden die Helden
Dative dem Neffen den Neffen   dem Helden den Helden
Genitive des Neffen der Neffen   des Helden der Helden

Many of the weak nouns refer to people or animals: der Student, der Junge, der Herr, der Nachbar, der Franzose, der Elephant, der Hase, der Affe. Weak nouns that do not refer to people or animals, add an additional -s suffix in the genitive singular.

singular plural singular plural
Nominative der Name die Namen   der Fels die Felsen
Accusative den Namen die Namen   den Felsen die Felsen
Dative dem Namen den Namen   dem Felsen den Felsen
Genitive des Namens der Namen   des Felsens der Felsen

Most masculine -n nouns are easily identifiable. They are:

1. Masculine nouns that end in an unstressed -e: EX: der Jude, der Löwe, der Erbe.
2. Nouns of foreign origin that have their accent on the final syllable. The foreign origin is often evident in the word suffixes (-ant, -ast, -ent, -et, -ist, -nom, -oph, -ot, etc.): EX: der Polizist, der Assistent, der Philosoph, der Despot, der Astronom, der Gymnasiast.
3. A handful of additional one-syllable masculine nouns that designate male beings, including animals: EX: der Bär, der Christ, der Mensch, der Prinz, der Narr, der Bauer.

Within these rules, there are two anomalies, der Herr, which takes an -n ending in the singular declension forms and an -en in the plural forms, and das Herz, which is a neuter noun that takes on the masculine -n noun suffixes, except for in the accusative singular.

  der Herr   das Herz
singular plural singular plural
Nominative der Herr die Herren   das Herz die Herzen
Accusative den Herrn die Herren   das Herz die Herzen
Dative dem Herrn den Herren   dem Herzen den Herzen
Genitive des Herrn der Herren   des Herzens der Herzen

Adjectival nouns

Some masculine and feminine nouns that designate people are sometimes formed from adjectives or participles used as adjectives. While it is possible to spontaneously create an adjectival noun as needed, some such nouns have become preferred designations for specific people or things.

adjective definition adjectival noun definition
angestellt employed der / die Angestellte employee
arm poor der / die Arme poor person
bekannt known der / die Bekannte acquaintance
blind blind der / die Blinde blind person
deutsch German der / die Deutsche German person
erwachsen grown der / die Erwachsene adult
fremd foreign der / die Fremde foreigner
gefangen captive der / die Gefangene prisoner
gelehrt educated der / die Gelehrte scholar
geliebt loved der / die Geliebte lover
jugendlich youthful der / die Jugendliche adolescent
krank sick der / die Kranke sick person
reisend traveling der / die Reisende traveler
tot dead der / die Tote dead person
verletzt hurt der / die Verletzte injured person
verlobt engaged der / die Verlobte fiancé(e)
verwandt related der / die Verwandte relative

Neuter nouns formed from adjectives refer to ideas, concepts, or abstractions.

adjective definition adjectival noun definition
best- best das Beste the best (thing)
ganz whole das Ganze the whole (thing)
gut good das Gute that which is good
möglich possible das Mögliche that which is possible
neu new das Neue that which is new
richtig right das Richtige that which is right
schön beautiful das Schöne that which is beautiful
teuer expensive das Teure that which is expensive
wichtig important das Wichtige that which is important

Adjective nouns are always capitalized and take the same endings that they would have as adjectives.

  der / die Bekannte, -n
  das Bekannte 
 the known
masculine feminine plural neuter
Nom der Bekannte
ein Bekannter
die Bekannte
eine Bekannte
die Bekannten
keine Bekannten
das Bekannte
ein Bekanntes
Acc den Bekannten
einen Bekannten
die Bekannte
eine Bekannte
die Bekannten
keine Bekannten
das Bekannte
ein Bekanntes
Dat dem Bekannten
einem Bekannten
der Bekannten
einer Bekannten
den Bekannten
keinen Bekannten
dem Bekannten
einem Bekannten
Gen des Bekannten
eines Bekannten
der Bekannten
einer Bekannten
der Bekannten
keiner Bekannten
des Bekannten

Remember that adjective endings are determined by the case, gender, and number of the noun they describe. The same applies to adjective nouns, except that the gender of the adjectival noun depends on whether it refers to a male or female person or people or whether it refers to an abstract concept or idea.

Die Verletzten wurden ins Krankenhaus gebracht. The injured people were brought to the hospital.
In New York haben wir zwei nette Deutsche kennen gelernt. In New York we met two nice Germans.
Die Namen der Jugendlichen hat er vergessen. He forgot the names of the teenagers.
Als er ankam, hat er das Neuste erzählt. When he arrived, he reported the latest.
Ich tue immer mein Bestes. I always do my best.

When neuter adjective nouns follow the undeclinable indefinite pronouns etwas, nichts, viel, and wenig, they must take the strong adjective endings because these pronouns do not carry any case information. When the adjectival nouns follow the declinable pronoun alles, they take weak adjective endings because the pronoun alles is declined to carry the pertinent case information.

Sie schenkt mir immer etwas Teures zum Geburtstag. She always gives me something expensive for my birthday.
Er hat nicht viel Wichtiges zu sagen. He doesn't have much of importance to say.
Heute muss ich mich mit viel Neuem beschäftigen. Today I have to occupy myself with lots of new things.
Wir haben alles Mögliche schon probiert. We have tried everything possible.

Infinitive nouns

Just about any verb can be made into a noun by capitalizing the infinitive. Such nouns are always neuter and they usually correspond to the gerund (-ing) form in English.

verb definition infinitive noun definition
einkaufen to shop das Einkaufen shopping
flüstern to whisper das Flüstern whispering
gehen to go das Gehen going, walking
jammern to whine das Jammern whining
lachen to laugh das Lachen laughing
schwimmen to swim das Schwimmen swimming
trinken to drink das Trinken drinking

Whereas English typically uses such gerunds without an article, German noun gerunds are often accompanied by the definite article.

Das Gehen fällt mir schwer. Walking is difficult for me.
In meinen freien Stunden genieße ich das Lesen spannender Kriminalromane. In my free time I enjoy reading suspenseful mysteries.
Wann fangen wir mit dem Kochen an? When will we start cooking?

Identifying nouns | Nouns and gender | Gender patterns | Nouns with 2 genders | Compound nouns
Plural forms | Plural patterns | Weak nouns
| Adjectival nouns | Infinitive nouns | GRAMMAR INDEX

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