Master German plural nouns with confidence!
Watch the video here about German plural nouns and click here to watch the five rules for German plurals.
I'm sure you have noticed how much fun the German language is. There are funny letters, and the nouns are like people. They have different genders and there’s almost no pattern to distinguish them. Now, things are about to get even more interesting.
Before we start, I’d like to share a couple of secrets with you:
1) You always use the same article "die" for the plural nouns, for example:
- der Apfel --> die Äpfel
2) There is almost no pattern on how to build the plural.
But there’s no need to fret, we will figure it aaaall out!
One beneficial habit you might want to develop is to learn the plural form whenever you learn a new noun. This will make plurals much easier for you.
Are you ready? Los geht's!
The simplest rule first
In the plural form, we always use the article “die,” without exception. And the best thing is, the plural article “die” is the same for all the three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter, for example:
- der Löffel (the spoon) - die Löffel (the spoons)
- die Gabel (the fork) - die Gabeln (the forks)
- das Messer (the knife) - die Messer (the knives)
Easy start, but how does the ending of the noun change when it’s plural?
The plural of masculine nouns
The most common rule for masculine nouns
There is a huge number of masculine nouns (and also many neutral nouns) ending in “-e” in the plural form (about 90%).
Here are a couple of examples:
- der Tisch (table) → die Tische (tables)
- der Tag (day) → die Tage (days)
- der Stein (stone) → die Steine (stones)
Many masculine nouns will also add the “Umlaut” (remember, the letters with the little eyes on top, such as ä, ö, ü) in the plural form.
Examples for these nouns are:
- der Stuhl (chair) → die Stühle (chairs)
- der Ball (ball) → die Bälle (balls)
- der Fall (case) → die Fälle (cases)
Masculine nouns ending in -e, -ent, -ist, -on
Almost all the nouns with these suffixes in the singular form, will have the ending -n/-en in their plural form:
Here are some examples:
- der Junge (boy) → die Jungen (boys)
- der Deutsche (German) → die Deutschen (Germans)
- der Biologe (biologist) → die Biologen (biologists)
As you see, in the word “Junge” you already have the ending “-e” in the singular, therefore it is not necessary to add another “-e”.
Examples, where you add the “-en”:
- der Tourist (tourist) → die Touristen (tourists)
- der Student (student) → die Studenten (students)
- der Jurist (lawyer) → die Juristen (lawyers)
Masculine nouns ending in -el, -en, -er
Some masculine nouns (and neutral nouns) are lazy and they like to sleep all day, which means the plural will have the same ending as the singular. But once in a while, these nouns will wake up and open their eyes and you’ll need to add an “Umlaut” to the plural.
Here’s an example:
- der Lehrer (teacher) → die Lehrer (teachers)
- der Bäcker (baker) → die Bäcker (bakers)
- der Apfel (apple) → die Äpfel (apples)
There are about a dozen nouns where you apply the ending “-er” in the plural form and also an Umlaut if possible.
- der Mann (man) → die Männer (men)
- der Geist (ghosts) → die Geister (ghosts)
The plural forms of feminine nouns
A quick test before we start with the plural. What is the article for feminine nouns? Exactly, “die.”
***A brief reminder from the Prince of Pronunciation: “die” is pronounced “dee.”***
As we have already learned at the beginning, the article for all plural nouns, regardless of the gender, is always “die.”
The most common rule for feminine nouns
Like the masculine nouns, there is a very big percentage that we can rely on when it comes to the plural form. Many feminine nouns end with -e (die Orange, die Tasche etc). And as we already learned in the section "masculine nouns", nouns ending with -e often just add an -n in the plural:
- die Orange (orange) → die Orangen (oranges)
- die Tasche (bag, pocket) → die Taschen (bags, pockets)
Be careful though, when it comes to female nouns that describe professions. You can recognize them by the ending “-in.” In this case, you will have to add the ending “-nen.”
Let me show you what I mean:
- die Lehrerin (teacher) → die Lehrerinnen (teachers)
- die Pilotin (pilot) → die Pilotinnen (pilots)
- die Verkäuferin (cashier/salesperson) → die Verkäuferinnen (cashiers/salespeople)
There are some nouns that will end with an “-e” and an Umlaut in the plural form. Very often these nouns also consist of only one syllable.
- die Maus (mouse) → die Mäuse (mice)
- die Hand (hand) → die Hände (hands)
- der Baum (tree) → die Bäume (trees)
And last but not least, there are exactly two nouns that stay the same in the plural and only add the “Umlaut.”
- die Mutter (mother) → die Mütter (mothers)
- die Tochter (daughter) → die Töchter (daughters)
Sound the horns and bang the drums! The feminine nouns have been completed. Pack your bags and get ready to board the… Oh, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Okay, let’s all take a nice deep breath and move on to the final stretch, we’re almost finished.
The plural of neutral nouns
Ok, now it's time for the grand finale. Let’s move on to the third “genderless” category. Do you remember the article for singular neutral nouns?
Well, look at you, sharp as a cactus. You are correct, it is “das.” And here also, “das” becomes “die” in the plural form.
The Most common rule for neuter Nouns
Like the masculine nouns, most of the neutral nouns (about 75%) end with “-e” in the plural form:
- das Bein (leg) → die Beine (legs)
- das Jahr (year) → die Jahre (years)
- das Haar (hair) → die Haare (hairs)
There are some neutral nouns that have the ending “-er” in the plural form and the “Umlaut” when needed.
- das Kind (child) → die Kinder (children)
- das Buch (book) → die Bücher (books)
- das Fach (subject) → die Fächer (subjects)
Neutral nouns in diminutive form -chen and -lein
Remember the cute diminutive form in German? Thankfully, there is no need to memorize a plural form because the noun stays the same. You’ve got to love creatures of comfort:
- das Mädchen (girl) → die Mädchen (girls)
- das Kindlein (child) → die Kindlein (children)
- das Kätzchen (kitten) → die Kätzchen (kittens)
Other German plural forms
Oh, I can smell the ocean air, we’re almost there! Let’s just have a look at a few more endings and examples before we curl our toes in the sand.
Many nouns that come from other languages like English or French, add the ending “-s” in the plural form. Also, words ending in -a, -i, -o, -u, -y AND abbreviated nouns belong to this category.
- das Auto (car) → die Autos (cars)
- der Park (park) → die Parks (parks)
- die DVD (dvd) → die DVDs (dvds)
Words ending in -a, -um, -us, -os, -is
Nouns with these endings mostly derive from the latin language and have their plural forms ending in -en.
- das Thema (topic) → die Themen (topics)
- das Museum (museum) → die Museen (museums)
- der Globus (globe) → die Globen (globes)
Find German plurals in the dictionary
If you are not sure about the plural form and you want to double check with the help of a dictionary, you can easily find the plural on the right hand side of the singular noun.
Like in this example here: die Zeitung (singular), die Zeitungen (plural, abbreviated by pl.):
Congratulations for making it to the end of this chapter on German plural nouns! You should be proud of yourself for making it this far. It’s okay to feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes. Just remember, nobody expects you to know all the plural forms right from the get-go.
It takes time to memorize and practice what you’ve just learned. And as I mentioned at the beginning, try to learn both the singular and plural forms when learning a new word.