How Do You Make German Nouns Plural?

Tackling German noun plurals can feel like navigating a maze! And just when you think you’ve figured it out, there’s debate over how many plural forms even exist. How do you make German nouns plural, you ask?

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of German plurals, equipping you with nifty shortcuts and easy-to-remember tricks. We’ll also shine a light on those tricky exceptions.

Ready to become a master of German plurals and predict them with confidence? Let’s embark on this journey together!

Forming Plural Nouns in German

In English, forming plurals can often be as simple as tacking on an “-s” to the end of a word. Think “dog” turning into “dogs” or “cat” into “cats”. There are, of course, exceptions like “man” to “men” or “mouse” to “mice”. However, when it comes to German, things aren’t quite as straightforward. Instead of one dominant pattern, the language offers a variety of plural constructions. As a result, when learning a new German noun, it’s a good idea to learn its plural form right alongside.

But here’s a silver lining: No matter the plural ending, all plural nouns in German adopt the article “die”.

For a clearer picture, let’s examine some of the prevalent patterns for plural formation in German, as presented in Table 1.1:

Formation of PluralSingularPlural
– (no ending)der Lehrer
die Lehrer
.. (no ending, with Umlaut)der Vogel
die Vögel
-eder Arm
die Arme
..e (add -e, with Umlaut)der Stuhl
die Stühle
-erdas Kind
die Kinder
.. er (add -er, with Umlaut)das Tal
die Täler
-endie Frau
die Frauen
-ndie Wiese
die Wiesen
-nendie Lehrerin
(woman) teacher
die Lehrerinnen
-sdas Auto
die Autos
Plural in German (der Plural)

In German, the key to swiftly determining a noun’s plural form often lies in its grammatical gender. Indeed, this gender provides valuable hints towards its pluralization patterns, which we’ve detailed in Table 1.2:

Table 1.2

Key Takeaways from Table 1.2:

  • A vast majority, 80% of masculine nouns prefer the ‘-e’ plural ending.
  • Feminine nouns overwhelmingly, at 90%, adopt the ‘-(e)n’ plural.
  • Dive deeper, and you’ll find 25% of single-syllable feminine nouns taking the ‘..e’ plural twist.
  • And not to be left behind, 75% of neuter nouns also favour the ‘-e’ plural.

Regardless of a noun’s gender, certain suffixes consistently dictate the plural form. For a closer look at these unwavering endings, refer to Table 1.3.

SUFFIXPlural form
-nis, -ling, -ig, -ich-e
-tum.. er
-chen, -lein
-er, -el, -en

Masculine Noun Plurals

⭐ Most masculine nouns have a plural in “-e” or “Umlaut” + “-e”:

armder Armdie Arme
dogder Hunddie Hunde
footder Fußdie Füße
chairder Stuhldie Stühle
attemptder Versuchdie Versuche

⭐ Most masculine nouns ending in “-el”, “-en”, and “-er” form their plural without an ending or just Umlaut:

uncleder Onkeldie Onkel
bakerder Bäckerdie Bäcker
hookder Hakendie Haken
computerder Computerdie Computer

⭐ Some masculine nouns ending in “-el”, “-en” or “-er” form their plural solely by umlauting the stressed vowel:

appleder Apfeldie Äpfel
bowder Bogendie Bögen
gardender Gartendie Gärten
fatherder Vaterdie Väter
brotherder Bruderdie Brüder
birdder Vogeldie Vögel

⭐ Some masculines have a plural in “-er” or “..er”.

Godder Gottdie Götter
forestder Walddie Wälder
mouthder Munddie Münder
bodyder Leibdie Leiber
mander Manndie Männer
wormder Wurmdie Würmer
mistakeder Irrtumdie Irrtümer

⭐ Some masculine nouns have the plural “-en” or “-n”:

personder Menschdie Menschen
studentder Studentdie Studenten
bearder Bärdie Bären
monkeyder Affedie Affen

Feminine Noun Plurals

Over 90% of all feminine nouns have the plural “-en” or “-n”:

workdie Arbeitdie Arbeiten
loaddie Lastdie Lasten
meadowdie Wiesedie Wiesen
ruledie Regeldie Regeln

⭐ About a quarter of feminine monosyllables have a plural in “..e”:

handdie Handdie Hände
nightdie Nachtdie Nächte
mousedie Mausdie Mäuse
cowdie Kuhdie Kühe
walldie Wanddie Wände
citydie Stadtdie Städte

⭐ Feminine nouns with the ending “-nis” and “-sal” have the plural “-e”:

knowledgedie Kenntnisdie Kenntnisse
hardshipdie Mühsaldie Mühsale

❗ Just two feminine nouns have the plural “Umlaut”:

motherdie Mutterdie Mütter
daughterdie Tochterdie Töchter

Neuter Noun Plurals

⭐ Roughly 75% of all neuter nouns have the plural “-e”:

legdas Beindie Beine
vesseldas Gefäßdie Gefäße
yeardas Jahrdie Jahre
sheepdas Schafdie Schafe

⭐ About 25% of neuter nouns have the plural “..er” or “-er”:

sheetdas Blattdie Blätter
villagedas Dorfdie Dörfer
valleydas Taldie Täler
childdas Kinddie Kinder

⭐ Neuter nouns ending in “-el”, “-en”, “-er”, and diminutives in “-chen” and “-lein” have the plural –

girldas Mädchendie Mädchen
bookletdas Büchleindie Büchlein

Unusual Plural Forms in German

Several words, particularly those borrowed into German from other languages, have retained unusual plural forms.

der Geniusdie Genien
das Museumdie Museen
das Aromadie Aromen
das Dramadie Dramen
das Kommadie Kommata
die Razziadie Razzien
die Villadie Villen

Nouns that exist only as plurals in German

Since some words in German do not have singular forms, they are only used in plural form:

die Eltern
die Flitterwochen
die Pocken
die Zinsen
die Geschwister
die Kosten
die Immobilien
die Memorien
die Lebensmittel
die Personalien
die Zutaten
die Möbel

Nouns without a plural form in German

Since some words in German do not have a plural form, they are only used in the singular.

das Eisen
das Essen
die Liebe
das Obst
der Hunger
der Sport
der Tod
das Glück
das Unglück
die Wärme
der Atem

Navigating the intricate world of German plurals can indeed seem daunting at first glance. However, as with any language nuance, with systematic understanding and consistent practice, it becomes second nature. This guide has armed you with the core patterns and exceptions, but remember, immersion is key. The more you engage with the language – be it reading, listening, or conversing – the better you’ll become at instinctively knowing which plural form to use.

As a final piece of advice: Don’t get discouraged by mistakes. They are an integral part of the learning journey. Each time you stumble upon an exception or forget a rule, you’re one step closer to mastering German plurals. So, immerse yourself, practice relentlessly, and soon enough, you’ll be predicting German noun plurals with the confidence and ease of a native speaker. Frohes Lernen!

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