German Weak Adjective Endings


The German weak adjective endings are used when the noun has a definite article. The reason the weak endings are so simple is because when a definite article is present, the der/die/das/etc. provides lots of information about the gender and case. In other words, weak declensions: just -e or -n, do a lesser job indicating the noun’s gender/case.


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In English and in German, adjectives can be placed before nouns or after nouns. In German, if an adjective is placed before the noun, it takes specific endings depending on the case and gender of the noun. If an adjective is placed before the noun, and is preceded by a “der”-word (definite article, demonstrative pronouns, indefinite pronouns), then it has “weak” endings. 
Der Apfel ist rot.
    The apple is red.  
The adjective “red” is placed behind the noun “Apfel”, so the adjective has no endings, and stays the same for any noun regardless of gender. However:

Der rote Apfel schmeckt lecker.    The red apple tastes delicious. 
The adjective “red” is placed before the noun “Apfel” so it has an ending. Because we used the definite article “der”, the ending is considered “weak”. 

weak adjective endings jpg

In the above example “Der rote Apfel schmeckt lecker.”, the noun “Apfel” is a masculine noun in the nominative case, so the weak adjective ending is “-e” (rote).

Die Kaffee schmeckt bitter.    The coffee tastes bitter. 
The adjective “bitter” is behind the noun “Kaffee”, so it it has no ending. 

Ich trinke den bitteren Kaffee.   I drink the bitter coffee
“bitter” is before the accusative masculine noun “Kaffee”, to it has the ending “-en”. 

Die Email ist lang.   The email is long. 
“lang” is behind “Email”, so no ending is needed. 
Er liest die lange Email.   He reads the long email. 
“lang” is before the accusative feminine noun “Email”, so it has the ending “-e” 

HINT: All adjective endings after all der- or ein-Words in the dative and genitive cases are always ‘-en.’ This means that you only have to memorize the changes between the definite and indefinite articles tables, specifically the masculine and neuter in the nominative (+er, +es after the indefinite article), and the neuter in the accusative (+es; the feminine in both nominative and accusative in either table is exactly the same: ‘e’).

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.