Sunday, July 07, 2013

on German pluralization

There are many reasons to hate learning German. Here's one.

German has at least ten ways to render singular nouns plural.

1. Add an -en (or a consonant plus -en) to the end.


der Student, die Studenten (male student)
die Studentin, die Studentinnen (female student)
der Herr, die Herren (sir/mister/man)
die Frau, die Frauen (woman, wife)

2. Add an umlaut to an internal vowel, plus an -e at the end.


der Hund, die Hünde (dog)
die Hand, die Hände (hand)
der Fluß/Fluss, die Flüße/Flüsse (flow)

3. Add an umlaut to an internal vowel, plus an -er at the end.


der Mann, die Männer (man)

4. Simply add an -e to the end.


der Tisch, die Tische (table)

5. Simply add -er to the end.


das Kind, die Kinder (child)

6. Simply add an umlaut to an internal vowel.


die Mutter, die Mütter (mother)

7. Simply add an -s, as in English.


das Radio, die Radios (radio)

8. Change one ending (e.g., -us) to -en.


der Radius, die Radien (radius)
der Kommunismus, die Kommunismen (communism)

9. Simply add -n to a noun ending in -e.


die Name, die Namen (name)

10. Make no change at all.


der Fahrer, die Fahrer (driver)

Have fun learning German!



hahnak said...

do you simply remember this information from having previously learned it (i took german in middle school and in high school but dont remember much at all) or...?

at least spelling is somewhat easier in german than in english!

also: i was blissfully unaware of countable and uncountable nouns until i met my husband who is positively obsessed about categorizing new-to-him nouns. i sent him a link to your article.

a belated congratulations on your 10th blogiversary. although i do not contribute much in the way of comments, i do enjoy reading your posts.

i am happy you are going on to korea for bigger and better things, but i am slightly regretful that i didnt get to meet you during your stay here in the states. a visit to my in-laws is probably in the works within the next two years. if we do make it out to korea, i will make a huge effort to track you down (with the kids, so youll have to tone down the poop stuff a bit, but maybe not. my son seems to like poopy humor).

ok. anyway, this might have been better as an email, but ill leave it up here in the comments!

Kevin Kim said...


Thanks. I try not to be too vulgar in front of kids, but if you asked the students at my job whether I get a bit risqué, I think they'd say I do. Maybe not so much with poop jokes, but certainly with snot and drug humor. If a student gets several answers wrong in a row, for example, I'll usually stop what I'm doing and ask them flat-out, "What have you been smoking?"

As for my German knowledge: I recalled only three pluralization methods on my own; the other seven came from Wikipedia's article on "German nouns." I should have credited my source.

Hope to see you in Korea, then!