German Plural Formation

Overview

For English speakers, the plural in German is difficult and sometimes confusing. We are happy to just add a simple "–s". In German it’s much more complicated.

Crocus, plural crocuses or croci is a genus of flowering plants in the iris family. A bunch of

There are several ways to form the plurals of nouns in German. The grammatical gender for singular nouns is either “der” (masculine), “die” (feminine) or “das” (neutral). 
In the plural, all nouns are die (feminine), regardless of what their grammatical gender is as a singular noun, for example: der Hund (the dog) – die Hunde (the dogs) Below is a list of rules. Note: there are always exceptions

1. 90% of all singular feminine nouns end on “-n” (if the singular noun ends on “-e”), or “-en”   
       
Examples: die Frau  – die Frauen (the woman/women)
                        die Flasche  – die Flaschen (the bottle/bottles) 

2. Most masculine nouns that end on “-er/-en/-el” have no ending, but many take Umlauts:
        Examples: der Apfel  – die Äpfel (the apple/apples)
                          der Vogel  – die Vögel (the bird/birds)

3. Most masculine nouns without the endings  “-er/-en/-el”, take the ending “-e” + Umlaut:
       Examples: der Kopf (the head) – die Köpfe (the head/heads)
                         der Koch (the chef)  – die Köche (the chef/chefs)
4. Most neutral nouns that end on “-er, -en, -el, -chen, -lein”  have no ending:

       Examples: das Brötchen- die Brötchen (the bun/buns)
                         das Mädchen- die Mädchen (the girl/girls)
                         das Kindlein – die Kindlein (the small child/children)

5. Neutral nouns that do not end on  “-er, -en, -el, -chen, -lein” usually add “-e”

       Examples:  das Brot – die Brote
                          das Angebot – die Angebote
                          das Geschäft – die Geschäfte

6. Loanwords and abbreviations simply add an “s”, regardless of gender:

        Examples: das Foto – die Fotos (the photo/photos)                                                                               die CD – die CDs (the CD/CDs
                         das Croissant  – die Croissants (the croissant/croissants)                                                   der BMW – die BMWs

7. One syllable masculine and feminine nouns often add “-e” and an umlaut:
         Examples: der Kopf – die Köpfe (the head/heads)
                           die Nacht – die Nächte (the night/nights)

8. Nouns ending on -a, -i, or -o simply add an “s”:
         Examples: das Auto- die Autos (the car/cars)
                           das Klo- die Klos (the washroom/washrooms)
                           der Opa – die Opas (the grandpa/grandpas)

 

Forming Plurals of Gendered Nouns (e.g. Professions)

The plural forms of nouns for professions follow a particular pattern. Many masculine forms of professions end in ‘er,’ and their female counterparts add ‘in’ and sometimes an umlaut over the stem vowel (if it is an ‘a,’ ‘o,’ or ‘u’). The feminine plural adds ‘nen’ to the feminine ‘in’ ending, whereas the masculine singular and plural endings (‘er’) are usually the same (NOTE: professions ending in ‘ist,’ ‘ent,’ or ‘ant’ add ‘en’). When there is a mix of feminine and masculine, the plural is the plural masculine form.
This is illustrated in the table below:

professions jpg
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Exception: “the employee”
der Angestellte   /   die Angestellten   /   die Angestellte   /   die Angestellten

Beispiele:
Die Schule hat vier Lehrer und sieben Lehrerinnen. 
The school has four teachers (m) and seven teachers (f).

Alle Busfahrer fahren abends den Bus ins Busdepot.
All bus drivers (m/f)* drive the bus to the station in the evenings.

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