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Weak nouns / Masculine nouns

How to learn German Nouns

Weak nouns, also called masculine n-nouns, are a group of masculine nouns in German with a special declension. In addition to inflecting the 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.

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Many weak nouns refer to people or animals: the student, the boy, the gentleman, the neighbour, the Frenchman, the elephant, the rabbit, the monkey. For weak nouns that do not refer to people or animals, an additional -s suffix is added to the genitive singular.

Most masculine -n nouns are easy to recognise. Here are some examples:

  • Masculine nouns ending in an unaccented -e: der Jude, der Löwe, der Riese, der Erbe

  • Nouns of foreign origin with their accent on the final syllable. The foreign origin often shows in the word suffixes (-ant, -ast, -ent, -et, -ist, -nom, -oph, -ot, etc.): der Polizist, der Assistent, der Philosoph, der Despot, der Astronom, der Gymnasiast

  • A handful of other monosyllabic masculine nouns denoting male beings, including animals: der Bär, der Christ, der Mensch, der Prinz, der Narr, der Bauer

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

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Adjectival nouns

Some masculine and feminine nouns referring to persons are sometimes formed from adjectives or participles used as adjectives. While it is possible to create an adjectival noun spontaneously when needed, some of these nouns have become preferred names for certain persons or things.

most common adjectIves

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Adjective - definition

Adjectival noun definition

geliebt - loved    

jugendlich - youthful     

krank - sick     

reisend - traveling    

tot - dead    

verletzt - hurt     

verlobt - engaged     

der / die Geliebte - lover

der / die Jugendliche - adolescent

der / die Kranke - sick person

der / die Reisende - traveler

der / die Tote - dead person

der / die Verletzte - injured person

der / die Verlobte - fiancé

Neutral nouns formed from adjectives indicate ideas, concepts, or abstractions.

Adjectival nouns

Adjectival nouns will always be capitalised and have the same endings as adjectives.

Adjectival nouns German

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

Die Kranken wurden zum Arzt gebracht. The sick people were brought to the doctor.    

In Dublin haben wir viele nette Deutsche kennengelernt. In Dublin we met many nice Germans.    

Die Haarfarbe des Mannes hat sie vergessen. She forgot the colour of the man's hair.    
Als er ankam, hat er das Neuste erzählt. When he arrived, he reported the most recent news.    
Ich gebe immer mein Bestes. I always do my best.

When adjectival nouns in the neuter follow the indefinite pronouns etwas, nichts, viel and wenig, which cannot be declined, they must take the strong adjectival endings, since these pronouns do not carry case information. When adjectival nouns follow the declinable pronoun alles, they take weak adjectival endings, since the pronoun alles is declined to carry the relevant case information.

Er schenkt mir immer etwas Schönes zum Geburtstag. He always gives me something nice for my birthday.    

Ich habe ihm viel Wichtiges zu sagen. I have a lot of important things to tell him.    

Heute muss sich der neue Kollege mit viel Neuem beschäftigen. Today the new colleague has to occupy himself with lots of new things.

Wir haben ihm alles Gute gewünscht. We wished him all the best. 

Infinitive nouns

Almost any verb can be converted into a noun by capitalising the infinitive. Such nouns are always neuter and usually correspond to the -ing form in English.

While in English, such gerunds are usually used without an article, in German, they are often given a definite article.

Das Laufen fällt mir schwer. Running is difficult for me.
In meinen freien Stunden genieße ich das Schauen spannender Reportagen. In my free time I enjoy watching suspenseful documentaries.
Wann fängst du mit dem Lernen an? When will you start learning?    

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