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Compound nouns


 

The German language contains numerous compound nouns. These consist of two or more words joined together to form a single word. The compound words can be not only nouns, but also adjectives, adverbs, verb stems and prepositions.

However, the last element of the combination must be a noun. German also allows the invention of new compounds.

 

Important: The last word in the compound always determines the gender and the plural form of the compound noun.
 

The formation of new nouns happens relatively often in the German language. In a compound noun (plural: composita), different words are combined to form a new word. A compound noun consists of at least two words. A noun compound can also consist of many different words. Sometimes a compound noun is made up of four, five, six or more individual words (see examples). In a compound noun, the last noun determines the genus and the numerus. A compound noun can be composed of:

  • Nomen + Nomen

das Haus + die Tür = die Haustür

das Haus + die Tür + der Schlüssel = der Haustürschlüssel

  • Verb + Nomen

schlafen + das Zimmer = das Schlafzimmer

  • Adjektiv + Nomen

alt + das Papier = das Altpapier

  • Adverb + Nomen

rechts + die Kurve = die Rechtskurve

If two nouns are strung together, this happens easily with the majority of these word combinations:

das Auto+ die Tür = die Autotür; das Kind + das Fahrrad = das Kinderfahrrad
the car+ the door = the car door;  the child + the bicycle = the child's bicycle.

 

In about 30 per cent of the compounds, a so-called "Fugenzeichen" is inserted. A Fugenzeichen is a connecting sound between the two words, usually -e, -(e)s, -(e)n or -er. Unfortunately, there are no fixed rules for the insertion. The " Fugen-s " is relatively common. Mostly it serves the purpose of pronunciation.

Some selected examples:

Fugenzeichen -e (more rarely / often verb (-(e)n from the infinitive is dropped) + noun).
lesen + die Brille = die Lesebrille; baden + das Zimmer = das Badezimmer
schlafen + das Zimmer = das Schlafzimmer; sprechen + die Stunde = die Sprechstunde; der Hund + die Hütte = die Hundehütte; die Maus + die Falle = die Mausefalle


Fugenzeichen -(e)s ( more common ) Often found in compounds with words on -tum, -ling, -ion, -tät, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -sicht, and -ung.
die Geburt + der Tag + das Geschenk = das Geburtstagsgeschenk; die Gesundheit + der Minister = der Gesundheitsminister; die Schwangerschaft + der Test = der Schwangerschaftstest


Fugenzeichen  -(e)n (usually the corresponding plural form)
der Student + der Ausweis = der Studentenausweis; die Straße + die Bahn = die Straßenbahn; der Rabe + die Mutter = die Rabenmutter

Some examples of long compounds

  • die Armbrust

  • die Mehrzweckhalle

  • das Mehrzweckkirschentkerngerät

  • die Gemeindegrundsteuerveranlagung

  • die Nummernschildbedruckungsmaschine

  • der Mehrkornroggenvollkornbrotmehlzulieferer

  • der Schifffahrtskapitänsmützenmaterialhersteller

  • die Verkehrsinfrastrukturfinanzierungsgesellschaft

  • die Feuerwehrrettungshubschraubernotlandeplatzaufseherin

  • der Oberpostdirektionsbriefmarkenstempelautomatenmechaniker

  • das Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz

  • die Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft

Nouns with two genders

Compound nouns.jpg
Compound nouns (1).jpg

Some words require an -n-, -en-, -s- or -es- between the combined words.

Nouns with multiple genders

There are a handful of German nouns that have more than one gender. 

German nouns.jpg

Nouns with different meanings and genders

German nouns.png

Although spelled the same, these nouns have different meanings and are considered unrelated, separate nouns. 

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