Plural Nouns in German Grammar

 

How to learn German plural nouns

A plural noun expresses that there is more than one person, object, fact, etc.

In German, there are a number of ways to form plurals: we add -n/-en, -e, -r/-er or -s to the end of the noun. In fact, it is useful to know that very few German nouns form their plural with an -s suffix. The rules for forming plural nouns in German grammar are given below.

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Two main rules apply to about 85% of plural nouns in German.

1. masculine and neuter nouns form their plural with -e or have no ending. If the word's final syllable contains an -e (either -e or -e + consonant), no -e is added to the plural form.


2. masculine nouns ending in -e and feminine nouns form their plural with -en. If the word's final syllable contains an -e (either -e or -e + consonant), the -en is shortened to -n.


An additional rule allows plural forms to be predicted with even greater accuracy:

nouns ending in -e or -e + consonant do not have an -s plural form.

Plural endings of nouns in German grammar
German plurals are created by adding -n/en, -e, -r/-er, -s. Some nouns are the same in singular and plural, e.g.  die Löffel, while others are mostly used in singular, e.g. die Milch, or in plural, e.g. die Eltern.

The ending of a noun gives us a hint as to which plural ending to use.

The list below gives an overview of word endings and their typical plural endings. Note that there are many exceptions to these rules.

Adding -n/-en
Here is a list of German noun endings that form the plural with -n or -en:

  • Masculine nouns ending in -e, -ent, and, -ant, -ist, -or

Example: der Student - die Studenten

  • Feminine nouns ending in -e, -in, -ion, -ik, -ness, -keit, -schaft, -tät, -ung

Example: die Station - die Stationen

  • Feminine nouns ending in -in, the n is doubled

Example: die Lehrerin - die Lehrerinnen

  • The endings -ma, -um, -us in foreign words are usually replaced by -en

Example: das Thema - die Themen


Adding -e
Here is a list of German noun endings that form the plural with -e:

  • Masculine nouns ending in -eur, -ich, -ier, -ig, -ling, -ör.

Example: der Friseur - die Friseure

  • Many single-syllable feminine nouns:

Example: die Hand - die Hände
an umlaut is added to the plural form

Adding -r/-er
Here is a list of German noun endings that form the plural with -r or -er:

  • Many monosyllabic neutral nouns.

Example: das Wort - die Wörter
an umlaut is often added to the plural form

Important: Feminine nouns never form the plural with -r/-er.

Adding -s
Here is a list of German nouns that form the plural with -s:

  • Masculine, feminine and neuter nouns ending in -a, -i, -o, -u, -y.

Example: der Opa - die Opas, das Auto - die Autos, die Mutti - die Muttis, das Hobby - die Hobbys

  • Family names

Beispiel: die Müllers 

No plural ending

Here is a list of German noun endings that do not change to plural form:

  • Masculine nouns ending in -el, -en, -er.

Example: der Löffel - die Löffel

  • Neutral nouns with the endings -chen, -lein.

Example: das Mädchen - die Mädchen

 

Singular or plural

  • Most nouns can be used in both singular and plural.

Example: der Geldschein - die Geldscheine,  die Münze - die Münzen

  • Some nouns are only used in the singular.

Example: das Geld, der Hunger, die Milch

  • Some nouns are only used in the plural.

Example: die Eltern, die Leute, die Ferien

About 89% of masculine nouns, 74% of neuter nouns and 25% of feminine nouns have the plural form -e or -¨e. Feminine nouns with the plural -e always have an umlaut. Masculine nouns often have an umlaut, though not always. Neutral nouns that have the plural -e rarely take the umlaut.

Important: 73% of all feminine nouns take -n or -en in their plural form.

 

Variations of these forms and alternatives exist in some foreign words, especially those of Greek and Latin origin:

Most words ending in -um change their plural ending to -en. Words ending in -os, -us, -is or -a can also take the plural form -en. Other words originating from Greek, Latin and Italian, usually technical words from fields such as music, medicine, law and linguistics, retain their foreign plural forms:

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