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-chen or -lein? How to use the diminutive form in German.

What does diminutive, diminutive form or Verniedlichungsform mean?

By using the diminutive or diminutive form, we can make nouns (i.e. people, animals or things) smaller, cuter or make them look smaller.



das Haus - das Hauschen

der Hund - das Hündchen

das Brot - das Brötchen


the house - the little house

the dog - the little dog

the bread - the bread roll








What endings are used to form diminutives?

To diminish a noun, we add the endings -chen or -lein. However, the suffix -chen is more common and is used more often.

das Kind - das Kindchen

die Ente - das Entlein

Tisch - Tischchen, Tischlein

Schwein - Schweinchen

Fehler - Fehlerchen


the child - das Kindchen

the duck - the duckling

table - little table, little table

pig - Schweinchen

mistake - little mistake

Problem - Problemchen


However, the suffix -chen is more common and is used more often.


When forming the diminutive, the root vowel usually changes to an umlaut.

Often, when forming the diminutive, the root vowel becomes an umlaut.

Vogel => Vögelchen

Wurst => Würstchen

Maus => Mäuschen


Which article do we use with the diminutive?

It doesn't matter whether the main noun is masculine, feminine or neuter, nouns in the diminutive form always have the article das in the nominative singular.


Why is it actually called das Mädchen?

Many people wonder why it is actually called das Mädchen in the nominative singular and not die Mädchen with a feminine article. A girl is a female person and should actually have the feminine article die.

We use the article das because it is also a diminutive, i.e. a diminutive form.

A girl is a young woman or a female child.

But the word is obviously not derived from the word woman. Rather, it comes from the Middle Ages and was derived from the medieval word Magd.


Which article do we use in the plural form of Diminutiv?

The noun does not change in the plural nominative case.

Only the article der changes to the article die, as with all nouns in the nominative plural.


singular - das

das Hündchen

das Häuschen

das Gläschen


plural - die

die Hündchen

die Häuschen

die Gläschen



Which article do we use with the diminutive?

It doesn't matter whether the main noun is masculine, feminine or neuter, nouns in the diminutive form always have the article das in the nominative singular.

Why is it actually called das Mädchen?

Many people wonder why it is actually called das Mädchen in the nominative singular and not die Mädchen with a feminine article. A girl is a female person and should actually have the feminine article die.

Why is that not the case?

We use the article das because it is also a diminutive, i.e. a diminutive form.

A girl is a young woman or a female child.

But the word is obviously not derived from the word woman. Rather, it comes from the Middle Ages and was derived from the medieval word Magd.


Which article do we use in the plural form of Diminutiv?

The noun does not change in the plural nominative case.

Only the article der changes to the article die, as with all nouns in the nominative plural.


singular - das

das Hündchen

das Häuschen

das Gläschen


plural - die

die Hündchen

die Häuschen

die Gläschen


Diminutives that have become independent

There are also many diminutives that have become independent, i.e. they are used as independent terms.

Here are some examples:

das Ohrläppchen

das Hähnchen

das Radieschen

the earlobes

the chickens

the radish


There are also many diminutives that have become independent, i.e. they are used as independent terms.

Here are some examples:

Not all nouns ending in -chen are diminutives.

Here are some examples:


der Drachen

der Kuchen

die Sachen

the dragon

the cake

the things






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