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chen in German – Diminutive

Through the diminutive form chen in German Verniedlichungsform or Verkleinerungsform, we make people, animals or things cute and little or smaller.

For example:

Katze (cat) => Kätzchen (kitten)

Hund (dog) => Hündchen (puppy)

-chen in German - Diminutive

Which endings are used in German to form diminutives?

To make people, animals or things cute and smaller, we add the endings -chen or -lein. However, the ending -chen is more common and is used much more frequently.

  • Schwein (pig) = Schweinchen
  • Fisch (fish) = Fischlein
  • Tisch (table) => Tischchen, Tischlein
  • Fenster (window) = Fensterchen
  • Igel (hedgehog) => Igelchen
  • Enkel (grandson) => Enkelchen
  • Pferd (horse) => Pferdchen
  • Problem (problem) => Problemchen

 

When the diminutive is formed, the stem vowel usually changes to an umlaut

Often when the diminutive is formed, the stem vowel becomes an umlaut.

  • Vogel (bird) => Vögelchen
  • Haus (house) => Häuschen
  • Fluss (river) => Flüsschen
  • Stadt (city) => Städtchen
  • Wurst (sausage) => Würstchen
  • Brot (bread) => Brötchen
  • Hund (dog) => Hündchen

 

Which article do we use with the ending chen in German?

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.

die Katze (cat) => das Kätzchen
das Haus (house) => das Häuschen
der Baum (tree) => das Bäumchen

By the way, would you like to know how you can identify the correct article der, die, das based on the word endings?

Then follow this link to the German Articles der, die, das.

Why do we say das Mädchen?

Many wonder why it is das Mädchen and not die Mädchen in the nominative singular.

After all, a girl is a female person and should have the female article, right?

Why isn’t that so?

Well, we use the article das in this case because it is also a diminutive.

A girl is a ‘junge Frau’ (young woman).

The word is obviously not derived from the word ‘Frau’ (woman). Rather, it comes from the Middle Ages and was derived from the medieval word ‘Magd’ (maid).

Which article do we use with the diminutive form in the plural?

The noun does not change in the nominative plural.

But the article das changes to the article die, as with any noun that is in the nominative plural.

der => die 

Singular  

das Kätzchen
das Häuschen
das Bäumchen

Plural 

die Kätzchen
die Häuschen
die Bäumchen

 

Nicknames or shorter forms of the first name with the ending chen in German

Shorter German first names are often used for people with whom one has a close family and friendly relationship, for example family members, friends and / or the partner.

Here are some examples of German first names and their cuter abbreviations. 

  • Marie => Mariechen
  • Paul => Paulchen
  • Peter => Peterchen
  • Anna => Annalein
  • Sabine => Binchen
  • Lisa => Lieschen
  • Josefina => Finchen
  • Julia => Julchen

Sometimes we also shorten the first names and add an i:

  • Mona => Moni
  • Katharina => Kathi
  • Stefanie => Steffi
  • Fabian => Fabi

 

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Important Abbrevations

Check out this link and learn important and useful German abbreviations that you should know to improve your understanding of the German language!

Former diminutives with the ending chen in German who have become independent

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

Here are some examples:

  • Ohrläppchen (ear lobe)
  • Meerschweinchen (guinea pig)
  • Seepferdchen (sea horse)
  • Hähnchen (chicken)
  • Plätzchen (cookie, biscuit)
  • Mädchen (girl)
  • Radieschen (radishes)

 

Irregular diminutive forms

As you can see, there are also irregular forms that don’t just add a -chen or -lein and the stem vowel becomes an umlaut.

Here are some examples:

  • das Auge (eye) => das Äugelein => Äuglein
  • die Tasche (bag) => das Täschechen => Täschchen
  • das Paar (couple) => das Paärchen => Pärchen

Not all nouns that end with -chen in German are diminutives

Look at these words:

  • der Kuchen (cake)
  • der Drachen (dragon)
  • das Verbrechen (crime)
  • die Sachen (things)
  • das Lachen (laugh, laughter)

 

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