The Adjectives


Basic German Lessons

The German Adjectives  

Please read this before you start with the lesson:

This lesson could be a little confusing if you do it for the first time. However, I recommend reading all of it from top to bottom very carefully. Take your time! You don't need to understand all of the rules instantly but you need to be aware that the word endings of adjectives can change.  

Additional note for my students:

If you are practicing with my packages (Package XL, Upgrade Package and Fairy Tale Package) please don't learn any grammar rules regarding the adjectives by heart. It is not necessary. You just need to be aware that the endings of the adjectives can change. If you are aware of this, your brain will automatically focus on the endings while you are reading my stories and you will recognize and learn what causes the changes step by step. Developing a natural feeling for this is much more effective than learning grammar rules by heart. However, please also read this page carefully and practice with the exercises below.


German grammar makes me look like this



What are adjectives?

Adjectives are used to describe or characterize things or people. They are necessary to make the meanings of sentences more exact or clearer.

Here are some examples:  

  Click the play button and listen

rot (red), blau (blue), gelb (yellow), orange (orange), grün (green) … 

Adjectives to describe time:
früh (early), spät (late), schnell (fast), langsam (slow) … 

Adjectives to describe an emotion or feeling:
hungrig (hungry), fröhlich (cheerful), glücklich (happy), nervös (nervous) … 

Adjectives to describe size:
klein (little), lang (long), dünn (thin), winzig (tiny) …  

Adjectives to describe taste: 
süß, (sweet), salzig (salty), bitter (bitter), lecker (tasty) … 

Adjectives to describe touch:
kalt (cold), warm (warm), nass (wet), weich (soft) … 

Adjectives to describe sound:
laut (loud), leise (quiet), still (silent), schrill (shrill) … 

​Adjectives to describe shape: 
rund (round), flach (flat), gebogen (curved), hohl (hollow) …

and much much more …


Do I have to decline German adjectives?

Well, yes and no. Let me explain this.

Have you ever wondered why German adjectives often change their word ending? For example the word "blau" (which means: blue). 

Sometimes we just write: "blau" but other times we write: blaue, blauen, blaues, blauer – What the heck is this?

Even I think this is absurd, and I'm a native German speaker wink  

Here is the thing:

German adjectives can come …

a) after the noun or
b) before the noun.

This is very important to know because the adjectives are generally declined/inflected when they come before a noun and they are not when they come after the noun.

Do you know what a noun is? 
Any word in front of which you can place one of the articles: "der", "die" or "das" (or the English article "the") is a noun.

For example: der Himmel (the sky), die Sonne = (the sun), das Auto (the car).

German adjectives that come after the noun are not declined/inflected and often separated from the noun by a form of "sein" (to be) like: "ist" (is) if the noun is in a singular form or "sind" (are) if the noun is in the plural form.

Do you remember Basic Lesson No 4?

In Basic Lesson No 4 you practiced with sentences that follow this structure with the word "ist". 

As you can see in the sample sentences, the adjectives come after the nouns and are separated from the nouns by the word "ist".

  Click the play button and listen


  Der Himmel ist blau.   The sky is blue.
  Die Sonne ist gelb.   The sun is yellow.
  Der Nordpol ist kalt.   The North Pole is cold.
  Die Hölle ist heiß.   The Hell is hot.


As you can see the adjectives: "blau", "gelb", "kalt" and "heiß" are not declined/inflected because they come after the nouns

So remember, the easiest way to describe a noun with an adjective is to put the adjective after the noun. This way you don't have to think about declination at all.


Let's do some exercises: 

I'm going to give you a part of a sentence and then I will ask a question. You will then answer the question by changing the structure so that the adjective comes after the noun. 

  Click the play button and listen

Part of a sentence:
Der blaue Himmel (the blue sky) 

Wie ist der Himmel? 

Your answer:
Der Himmel ist blau

Let's do some more:  

Die gelbe Sonne (the yellow sun)
Wie ist die Sonne?
=> Die Sonne ist

Der kalte Nordpol (the cold North Pole)
Wie ist der Nordpol?
=> Der Nordpol ist

Die heiße Hölle (the hot Hell)
Wie ist die Hölle?
=> Die Hölle ist

Das schnelle Rennauto (the fast racing car) 
Wie ist das Rennauto?
=> Das Rennauto ist

Ein schnelles Rennauto (a fast racing car) 
Wie ist ein Rennauto?
=> Ein Rennauto ist

Eine kleine Maus (a little mouse)
Wie ist eine Maus – groß oder klein?
Eine Maus ist

Die kleinen Mäuse (the little mice)
Wie sind die Mäuse?
Die Mäuse sind*
*We use "sind" because the noun "Mäuse" is in the plural form.


Using a pronoun instead of a noun

I want to seize the chance and integrate something into this lesson that you have learned in a previous lesson. You already know from lesson No 5, 9 and 10 that instead of a noun you can also use a pronoun like: ich, du, er, sie, es, wir, ihr and sie.

If you don't know what I'm talking about you could check out these lessons wink 

Basic Lesson 5
Basic Lesson 9 and 
Basic Lesson 10


For example: 

You can replace the noun: "Himmel"
with the pronoun: "er" (he) because "Himmel" is masculine (der Himmel). 

You can replace the noun: "Sonne"
with the pronoun: "sie" (she) because it is 
feminine (die Sonne). 

You can replace the noun: "Rennauto"
with the pronoun: "es" (it) because it is 
neuter (das Rennauto). 

You can replace the noun: "Rennautos"
with the pronoun: "sie" (they) because it is a plural noun
 (die* Rennautos).
* A plural noun has always the article "die". It doesn't matter if the gender is 
masculine, feminine or neuter. 


OK let's do these exercises:

I'm going to give you a sentence with a noun and then I will ask a question but instead of the noun I will use the correct pronoun. Then you will answer the question using the same pronoun. This way you can practice pronouns and you will be remembered that the German adjective – when it comes after the noun/pronoun – is not declined/inflected.


  Click the play button and listen

Part of a sentence:
Der blaue Himmel (the blue sky) 

Wie ist er

Your answer:
Er ist blau

Die gelbe Sonne (the yellow sun) 
Wie ist sie?
=> Sie ist

Der kalte Nordpol (the cold North Pole)
Wie ist er?
=> Er ist

Das schnelle Rennauto (the fast racing car) 
Wie ist es?
=> Es ist

Die kleinen Mäuse (the little mice)
Wie sind sie (they)?
Sie sind*
*We use "sind" because the noun "Mäuse" is in the plural form.


So far we have replaced the nouns with the following pronouns: 

er (he), sie (she), es (it) and sie (they)
and that's why we use "ist" and " sind" to separate the noun/pronoun from the adjective: 

Er ist = he is  
Sie ist = she is
ist = it is 

Sie sind = they are

If you want to use the other pronouns (ich, du, wir, ihr) then you need to use the matching form of "sein" (to be)

Do you know how to conjugate the verb "sein" (to be)?

Here it comes:

The verb "sein" = "to be" (irregular verb).

  Click the play button and listen

Ich bin = I am 
bist = you are
ist = he is
ist = she is
ist = it is 

Wir sind = we are 
seid = you (all) are 
sind = they are


Examples with the remaining pronouns:

  Click the play button and listen

Ich bin glücklich (happy).

Du bist hungrig (hungry).

Wir sind laut (loud).

Ihr seid langsam (slow).

As you can see the pattern is still the same. When the adjective comes after the noun (in this case the pronoun) it is not declined/inflected and it is separated by a form of "sein" (to be).


b) German adjectives can also come before the noun.

Now comes the difficult part. Adjectives are generally declined/inflected when they come before a noun. The ending of the adjective depends on several things:

 gender of the noun (masculine, feminine, neuter) 
 case (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative)
– definite article (der, die, das) or indefinite articles (ein, eine)
plural or singular noun


Here are some examples with the adjective "blau":

Please don't try to learn the patterns by heart! 
You would probably freak out! 
At the moment I just want to show you how complicated it can get.


  Click the play button and listen

Der blaue Ball 
(the blue ball; masculine gender, nominative, definite article, singular)

Die blauen Bälle 
(the blue balls; masculine gender, nominative, definite article, plural

Die blaue Jeans 
(the blue jeans; feminine gender, nominative, definite article, singular) 

Das blaue Monster
(the blue monster, nominative, definite article, neuter gender, singular)

Ein blauer Ball 
(a blue ball, masculine gender, nominative, indefinite article, singular) 

Blaue Bälle 
(blue balls, masculine gender, nominative, no article, plural

Eine blaue Jeans 
(a blue jeans; feminine gender, nominative, indefinite article, singular) 

Ein blaues Monster
(a blue monster; neuter gender, nominative, indefinite article, singular)

These are only a few possible combinations and as you can see, this is not easy and can get very tricky!!!
And in these examples I only use the nominative case. Just imagine I would throw in the other three cases as well 🙁

For those who really love grammar and want to learn the grammar rules regarding the declined adjectives by heart (against my advice) can check out this Wiki page:


You are probably thinking right now, "how should I ever get this into my head?" And, "how do other students learn this stuff?" 

There are two ways! 

1) Most students go to German classes or buy grammar books and try to hammer these rules into their heads. They learn these rules by heart! You can imagine that this could take some time and effort and that this is not the most fun thing to do. And there is another problem, the rules are so abstract that they will never enter your long term memory! So in order to apply these rules when needed you need to repeat them over and over again. If you don't do this, you will forget them sooner or later. 

2) There is another way and my subscribers who signed up to my free email course (check the sidebar) know this. If you are using the storytelling method and you are practicing with my audio stories, you don't need to worry about these grammar rules, because step by step you will develop a natural feeling for the correct word endings. The more you practice with my stories the more familiar you get with the German structure, the word order and the word endings.     

Tip: Sign up to my free email course and load my mini story "Schneckenwitz" onto your iPod or mobile phone and listen to it many times. With every repetition you will get more familiar to the German language. 

If you want to check out my whole collection of audio stories and vocabulary lessons, please have a look here >>> Online Store 



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Datum: Dienstag, 11. Oktober 2016 13:21
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