Learn The Gender AND The Plural Form Of Nouns In German

When you start learning German, you figure out very soon that you need to learn every new German noun with its gender AND plural form.

  • der Apfel (the apple)  die Äpfel (the apples)
  • der Freund (the friend)  die Freunde (the friends)
  • die Frau (the woman)  die Frauen (the women)
  • das Haus (the house)die Häuser (the houses)
  • das Auto (the car)  die Autos (the cars)

Äpfel, Freunde, Frauen, Häuser, Autos—these are the plural forms of some nouns in German, and they can look a little confusing at first sight.

Do German Plurals Have Rules? 

It's easy to get overwhelmed by those examples—it's as if there were an endless number of random ways to make plurals in German.

So, the question is: HOW do I build German plurals? Are there any rules?

The answer is YES.  In this post, we'll show you how all of these endings can be broken down into just 5 scenarios. 

5 Important Rules For Building Plural Of Nouns In German:

There are 5 main scenarios that we can learn to recognize as a practical guideline for guessing the correct plural form—they are not 100%-rules, because every rule has its exceptions.

1) First scenario: No Ending In Plural (/)

The rule is simple:

Masculine and neuter nouns that end with -er, -el, -en, -chen or -lein don’t get any ending in plural. If they have a vowel in the middle (a, o, u), it can get an umlaut (aä, oö and uü). For example:

  • das Messer (knife) die Messer (knives)
  • der Apfel (apple)  die Äpfel (apples)
  • das Mädchen (girl) die Mädchen (girls)

2) Second Scenario: Ending -(e)n In Plural

Nouns that end with -e usually get the ending -n in plural. Here are some examples:

  • der Junge (boy)die Jungen (boys)
  • die Tasche (bag)die Taschen (bags)

Most of feminine nouns in German (“most of them” means 90 % of them in this case) take the ending -n or -en in plural. For example:

  • die Frau (woman) die Frauen (women)
  • die Banane (banana) die Bananen (bananas)
  • die Freundschaft (friendship) die Freundschaften (friendships)
  • die Nation (nation) die Nationen (nations)

3) Third Scenario: Ending -e In Plural

Most masculine (90 % of them!!) and most neuter nouns (up to 75 %) in German end with the ending -e in plural (with umlaut when it’s possible - you remember: aä, o→ö and u→ü). For example:

  • der Freund (friend) die Freunde (friends)
  • der Ball (ball)  die Bälle (balls)
  • der Tisch (table) die Tische (tables)
  • der Stuhl (chair)  die Stühle (chairs)
  • das Bein (leg) die Beine (legs)
  • das Jahr (year) die Jahre (years)

Some feminine nouns (often nouns with just one syllable) also form the plural with -e and umlaut. Here are some examples:

  • die Hand (hand) die Hände (hands)
  • die Stadt (city) die Städte (cities)
  • die Maus (mouse) die Mäuse (mice)

4) Fourth Scenario: Ending -er In Plural

This scenario applies mostly to neuter nouns, but also to some masculine nouns (with umlaut when it’s possible). For example:

  • das Kind (child) die Kinder (children)
  • das Buch (book) die Bücher (books)
  • das Haus (house) die Häuser (houses)
  • der Mann (man) die Männer (men)

5) Fifth Scenario: Ending -s In Plural

Nouns that end with -a, -o, -u, -y, abbreviations as well as loanwords from the English language form their plural often with -s. Take these examples:

  • die Party (the party)  die Party(the parties)
  • das Auto (the car)  die Auto(the cars)
  • die Kamera (the camera)  die Kamera(the cameras)
  • die DVD (the DVD) die DVD(the DVDs)
  • der LKW (the truck) die LKWs (the trucks)
  • die Kiwi (the kiwi) die Kiwis (the kiwis)

Those were the main tendencies and rules for learning the plural of nouns in German. We hope you liked it! If you can't get enough of plurals, or you just want more information about it, check out our main post about German plurals!

Exercises: German Plurals

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