German Adjectives

By optilingo

Learn how German adjectives work, including German comparative adjectives and German superlative adjectives

Understanding grammar will help you on your way to foreign language fluency. In English, adjectives are undeclined; they adjectives keep the same form in all situations, and do not take endings to show agreement in case, gender, and number with the noun they accompany. In the German language, adjectives are more complex because they can take many endings that differ according to the words they accompany.

Declension for German adjectives based on case, gender, and whether the noun is plural or singular. Declension also varies based on whether the noun appears with a definite article, indefinite article, or no article at all.

German adjectives describe or modify a noun [All About German Nouns]. We covered that in the German adjectives lesson. As in English, however, there are two special classes of German adjectives called German comparative adjectives and German superlative adjectives. In this lesson, we’ll simply refer to them as German comparatives and German superlatives.

German comparatives are adjectives that compare one object to another.

German superlatives are adjectives that contrast one object as having the highest or the lowest degree among a group of objects.

Examples of comparative adjectives and superlative adjectives in German would be:

Comparative: Er ist größer als ich (He is taller than me).

Superlative:  Er ist der größte (He is the tallest).

Like in English, most regular German adjectives are made comparative by adding the suffix -er. When adding the -er, if the vowel in the adjective is an a, o, or u, you give it an umlaut (unless it is “au”). There are some exceptions for these rules, but the majority of adjectives can be made comparative in this way:

Klein → kleiner (small/smaller)

Warm → wärmer (warm/warmer)

Schlau → schlauer (smart/smarter)

German superlative adjectives are also somewhat similar to their English counterparts. Most superlatives are formed by adding the suffix -ste. Adjectives ending in d, t, or any s-sound (such as -s, -ss, -sch, -z, or -ß) must have an e inserted before the -ste.

billig → billigste (cheap/cheapest)

hübsch → hübscheste (pretty/prettiest)

interessant → interessanteste (interesting/most interesting)

In German, adjectives are words that describe or modify nouns, and as we already know, German nouns may be singular or plural, and masculine or feminine, German adjectives must always agree in quantity and gender with the nouns they modify, so it is recommendable that, during your first learning stages, you pay extreme attention to these small details that are usually overlooked.

There are two types of descriptive adjectives in German: predicate and attribute.

Predicate adjectives follow linking verbs like “to be” or “to remain.” They modify the subject and do not have a gendered ending.

Die Frau ist interessant

The woman is clever

Attribute adjectives precede nouns or pronouns and take special endings determined by the gender, number, case and article of the nouns they modify.

Certain adjectival pronouns also decline like the definite article “der”: all-, dies-, jed-,  manch-, solch-, welch-. These are sometimes referred to as der-words. The general declension pattern is as shown in the following table:

Singular

 

Plural

Masc.

Fem.

Neut.

 

All Genders

Nominative

—er

—e

—es

—e

Accusative

—en

—e

—es

—e

Genitive

—es

—er

—es

—er

Dative

—em

—er

—em

—en

Example – dieser:

Singular

 

Plural

Masc.

Fem.

Neut.

 

All Genders

Nominative

dieser

diese

dieses

diese

Accusative

diesen

diese

dieses

diese

Genitive

dieses

dieser

dieses

dieser

Dative

diesem

dieser

diesem

diesen

 

Adjectival possessive pronouns and “kein” decline similarly to the article “ein”, they can be referred to as ein-words. The general declension pattern is as shown in the following table:

 

Singular

 

Plural

Masc.

Fem.

Neut.

 

All Genders

Nominative

—e

—e

Accusative

—en

—e

—e

Genitive

—es

—er

—es

—er

Dative

—em

—er

—em

—en

 

Example – kein:

 

Singular

 

Plural

Masc.

Fem.

Neut.

 

All Genders

Nominative

kein

keine

kein

keine

Accusative

keinen

keine

kein

keine

Genitive

keines

keiner

keines

keiner

Dative

keinem

keiner

keinem

keinen

 

Adjective endings for when the noun appears with a definite article:

 

Singular

Plural

Masc.

Fem.

Neut.

All Genders

Nominitive

—e

—e

—e

—en

Accusative

—en

—e

—e

—en

Genitive

—en

—en

—en

—en

Dative

—en

—en

—en

—en

 

Adjective endings for when the noun appears with an indefinite article:

 

Singular

Plural

Masc.

Fem.

Neut.

All Genders

Nominitive

—er

—e

—es

—e

Accusative

—en

—e

—es

—e

Genitive

—en

—en

—en

—er

Dative

—en

—en

—en

—en

Comparison of Adjectives

Most adjectives have a comparative and superlative form. In English, the adjectives “better” and “best” are the comparative and superlative forms of “good”. In German, comparatives and superlatives are formed similar to their counterparts in English. The comparative is formed by adding –er to the basic German adjective; the superlative is formed by adding –est. (Note that if the adjective ends in –e, then only –r and –st are added, respectively.) A table demonstrating German comparative and superlative adjective forms is provided below.

Comparitive

Superlative

klein small kleiner smaller kleinst smallest
leise soft, low leiser softer, lower leisest softest,lowest
lustig funny lustiger funnier lustigst funniest
alt old älter older ältest oldest

As you may have noticed, some adjectives take an Umlaut in their comparative and superlative forms. Although there are no set rules that govern when this happens, a few common adjecitves that take Umlauts are provided below.

Comparitive

Superlative

arm poor ärmer poorer ärmst poorest
jung young jünger younger jüngst youngest
kalt cold kälter colder kältest coldest
krank sick kränker sicker kränkst sickest
kurz short kürzer shorter kürzest shortest
lang long länger longer längst longest
stark strong stärker stronger stärkst strongest
warm warm wärmer warmer wärmst warmest

As is English, there are many German adjecitves with irregular comparative and superlative forms. A summary of some of the more common examples is provided below.

Comparative

Superlative

gut good besser better best best
viel much mehr more meist most
hoch high höher higher höchst highest
nah near näher nearer nächst nearest, next