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How to use German Adjective Endings

Adjective endings (Deklination der Adjektive) are an important part of German grammar. Putting the correct endings on adjectives allows you to use them attributively - that is, directly before a noun. Mastering adjective endings will greatly improve your ability to speak and write German. This guide will teach you the logic behind German adjective endings in an easy-to-understand way.

We'll start with the basics and build up to more complex examples. You'll learn:

  • When adjectives need an ending
  • Which ending to use based on noun gender, case, number, and article
  • How to navigate difficult situations like adjectives with mixed gender nouns or multiple adjectives
  • Tricks to help you memorize and apply adjective endings

With plenty of examples and clear explanations, this guide makes learning adjective endings simple. Let's get started!

When Do Adjectives Need Endings?

In German, adjectives that directly precede a noun must have an ending. These are called attributive adjectives. Adjectives that follow the noun, called predicative adjectives, do not get an ending. For example:

Predicative (no ending): Der Hund ist schnell. The dog is fast.

Attributive (with ending): Ich habe einen schnellen Hund. I have a fast dog. 

So the rule is: Adjectives before a noun get endings, adjectives after a noun do not.

Which Ending Should I Use?

Choosing the correct adjective ending depends on four factors:

  1. Gender of the noun 
  2. Case of the noun
  3. Number (singular or plural)
  4. Definiteness (if there is an article or not)

Let's look at how each of these factors affects the adjective ending:


German has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. The adjective ending changes based on the gender of the noun it describes. 

Masculine nouns get -er, -en, or -e: ein großer Hund der neue Mantel mein lieber Freund

Feminine nouns get -e, -er, or -en:

die kleine Katze eine netter Frau meiner lieben Oma

Neuter nouns get -es, -e, or -en: das rotes Auto ein schönes Haus meine kleinen Kinder


German has four cases: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. The adjective ending changes based on the case of the noun.

Nominative: -er, -e, -es Der große Hund bellt. Die Katze miaut. Das schöne Haus ist neu.

Accusative: -en, -e, -es Ich sehe den großen Hund. Er findet eine Katze.

Greta mietet das schöne Haus. 

Dative: -em, -er, -en Er gibt dem großen Hund einen Knochen.

Der Mann hilft der alten Frau. Das gefällt dem kleinen Kind.

Genitive: -en, -er, -en Die Ohren des großen Hundes sind lang. Die Farbe der Katze ist getigert. Die Fenster des Hauses sind dreckig.


The adjective ending also depends on whether the noun is singular or plural:

Singular: -er, -e, -en der alte Mann die junge Frau das rote Auto

Plural: -en die alten Männer die jungen Frauen die roten Autos


Finally, the adjective ending depends on whether the noun has a definite article (der, die, das, dieser, jeder) or an indefinite article (ein, kein).

With definite article: -e der große Hund diese kleine Katze

With indefinite article: -er, -es ein großer Hund kein kleines Problem

Advanced Adjective Endings

Now that you understand the basic logic behind adjective endings, let's cover some more complex situations:

Adjectives with mixed gender nouns:

Some nouns in German have both masculine and feminine forms, like Lehrer/Lehrerin. In these cases, the adjective ending must match the gender of the noun:

Der nette Lehrer Die freundliche Lehrerin

Adjectives after possessive articles:

After a possessive article like mein or dein, the adjective ending depends on the gender of the following noun: 

Mein kleiner Bruder Deine nette Schwester Sein gelbes Auto Ihr rotes Fahrrad

Multiple adjectives:

When multiple adjectives describe one noun, each adjective gets the appropriate ending:

Der kleine runde Tisch Eine junge hübsche Frau Das langweilige alte Buch

Comparative and superlative adjectives:

Comparatives (größer, kleiner) and superlatives (größte, kleinste) get endings like normal adjectives:

Der größere Hund Die kleinste Maus Das interessanteste Buch

Inflected adverbs: 

Some adverbs are inflected and also get adjective endings, especially when preceded by an article:

Das schönste am Sommer ist das Wetter. Am Wochenende gehe ich immer spät ins Bett.

Preceded by ein- or kein-:

After ein- or kein-, adjectives still get an ending:

Ich brauche ein sauberes Hemd. Er hat kein eigenes Auto.

Tips for Learning Adjective Endings

Here are some tips to help you master German adjective endings:

  • Use flashcards to drill different noun/adjective combinations
  • Learn the noun genders together with the adjectives 
  • Practice adjective endings out loud when describing objects around you
  • Look for patterns with common nouns (der Weg - der lange Weg)
  • Mark the endings in texts and analyze why they are used
  • Quiz yourself by covering the endings and trying to fill them in
  • Make silly sentences using adjective endings like "Der purple Elefant tanzte gracious."

With consistent practice over time, adjective endings will become second nature. You'll be able to use adjectives flexibly in German speech and writing.

Common Mistakes

Here are some common mistakes to avoid with adjective endings:

  1. Forgetting to include the ending when the adjective comes before the noun -Incorrect: Ich habe ein schöne Blume. Correct: Ich habe eine schöne Blume.
  2. Using the wrong gender ending - Incorrect: Das ist mein lieber Freund. Correct: Das ist mein liebes Kind.
  3. Using predicative instead of attributive endings - Incorrect: Sie ist eine klug Frau. Correct: Sie ist eine kluge Frau.
  4. Getting mixed up with plural forms - Incorrect: ein große Hunde Correct: große Hunde
  5. Not adjusting for mixed gender nouns - Incorrect: Der kluge Lehrerin Correct: Die kluge Lehrerin
  6. Forgetting to inflect adverbs - Incorrect: nächstes Woche Correct: nächste Woche

By being aware of these common mistakes, you can catch yourself and continue improving.


The key is to always think logically - consult the flowchart step-by-step to derive the correct ending. With regular practice, adjective endings will become second nature. Your ability to speak and write German will improve as you master this important grammar skill. Viel Erfolg!