Learning German Plurals

In English, it's relatively easy to talk about more than one thing - usually you just add an to a word. But there are plurals that stump learners of our language. How many childs do you have, or rather children ? Are they silly little gooses, uh geese ? And what about those fishes in the deep blue sea - aren't they fish ?

In German plurals seem to be just as confusing, but there is a method to the madness. In German, there are rules about forming plurals, in fact, an abundance of rules. This is what makes forming plurals in German such a challenge. For now, remember that when a noun becomes plural in German, the noun marker becomes plural with it. In German, the articlesder, die and das all become die in their plural form.

Everybody knows that if you've got more than one cat you've got cats. If you buy more than one red Corvette you've got Corvettes. In German, however, it's a little trickier. When nouns become plural in German, the noun either remains unchanged (e.g. M ä dchen remains M ä dchen in the plural) or takes -e, -er, -n, -en or in a few cases -s .

Many nouns undergo a vowel modification. There are rules for forming plurals in German. However there are many exceptions to these rules. The best way to be sure that you are forming the plural of a noun correctly is to memorize it along with the noun and the article. The following tables give you some basic rules on how to form plurals.

When the nouns in Table 1 and Table 2 become plural, they take either -n or -en . A majority of German nouns fall into this group, including most feminine nouns. The nouns in this group never take an umlaut (the two dots above a vowel) in the plural, but if they already have one in the singular, it is retained.

When the nouns ending in -e, -el and -er in Table 1 become plural, the take -n .

Table 1.
German Noun
German Noun
English Meaning
das Auge
dAs ou-guh
die Auge ndee ou-guhn
der Bauer
deyR bou-uhR
die Bauer ndee bou-uhRn
die Gruppe
dee gRoo-puh
die Gruppe ndee gRoo-puhn
die Kartoffel
dee kAR-to-fuhl
die Kartoffel ndee kAR-to-fuhln

The majority of the nouns in Table 2 that take the ending -en in the plural are feminine nouns ending in -ung, -ion, -keit, -schaft and -t ä t . All nouns referring to female persons or animals ending in -in double the in the plural form.

Table 2.
German Noun
German Noun
English Meaning
das Herz
dAs heRts
die Herz endee heR-tsuhn
das Ohr
dAs ohR
die Ohr endee oh-Ruhn
die Freiheit
dee fRay-hayt
die Freiheit endee fRay-hay-tuhn
Liberty (ies)
die Löwin
dee l ö h-vin
die Löwinn endee l ö h-vi-nuhn
The lioness(es)
die Zeitung
dee tsay-toong
die Zeitung endee tsay-toon-guhn
die Religion
dee Rey-lee-gee-ohn
die Religion endee Rey-lee-gee-oh-nuhn
die Mannschaft
dee mAn-shAft
die Mannschaft endee mAn-shAf-tuhn
Crew(s), Team(s)
die Qualität
dee kvah-lee-t ä ht
die Qualität endee kvah-lee-t ä h-ten

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