The plural exists to express that there is more than one of a specific noun. Forming the plural of German nouns is not as easy as in English, where you simply add -s or -es. However, some patterns help tell you which plural form to use.
How to form the German plural
To turn nouns from singular to plural, you add either -n/-en, -e, -r/-er, or -s to the end of the noun. The ending of a noun gives a hint towards which plural form is used. However, be aware that there are exceptions, so you should always learn a noun together with its plural form when studying German vocabulary.
Remember, the article for all plural words is “die“.
Adding -n or -en
In the following examples, you add -n when the word ends in a vowel, or -en when the word ends in a consonant.
You add -n or -en for most:
- masculine nouns with the endings -e, -ent, -and, -ant, -ist and -or
- der Studierende, die Studierenden (student)
- der Abiturient, die Abiturienten (high school graduate)
- der Konfirmand, die Konfirmanden (confirmee)
- der Hydrant, die Hydranten (fire hydrant)
- der Kommunist, die Kommunisten (communist)
- der Chor, die Chöre (choir)
Note that to form the plural of Chor, the o changes into the mutated vowel ö.
- feminine nouns with the endings, -e, -in, -ion, -ik, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -tät and -ung
- die Allee, die Alleen (avenue)
- die Freundin, die Freundinnen (female friend)
- die Lektion, die Lektionen (lesson)
- die Republik, die Republiken (republic)
- die Schönheit, die Schönheiten (beauty)
- die Heiterkeit, die Heiterkeiten (cheerfulness)
- die Gemeinschaft, die Gemeinschaften (community)
- die Banalität, die Banalitäten (banality)
- die Täuschung, die Täuschungen (deception)
- the endings, -ma, -um, and -us used in words borrowed from Latin are usually replaced by -en to form the plural.
- das Schema, die Schemen (scheme)
- das Datum, die Daten (date)
- der Virus, die Viren (virus)
The following nouns (mostly) form their plural by adding -e:
- masculine nouns with the endings -eur, -ich, -ier, -ig, -ling and -ör
- der Dompteur, die Dompteure (animal trainer)
- der Abstrich, die Abstriche (swab)
- der Brigadier, die Brigadiere (brigadier general)
- der Feigling, die Feiglinge (coward)
- der Likör, die Liköre (liquor)
- many single-syllable feminine nouns
- die Bank, die Bänke (bench)
- die Stadt, die Städte (town)
- die Brust, die Brüste (breast)
Similar to the -n/-en rule, -r is added to nouns that end with a vowel, and -er is added to nouns that end with a consonant.
Many of the following nouns form their plural with -r/-er:
- single-syllable neuter nouns
- das Haus, die Häuser (house)
- das Glas, die Gläser (glass)
- das Bild, die Bilder (picture)
Note: Feminine nouns never form their plural with -r or -er.
Many of the following nouns form their plural with -s:
- masculine, feminine and neuter nouns ending in -a, -o, and -y
- der Papa, die Papas (dad)
- das Kommando, die Kommandos (order)
- das Handy, die Handys (mobile phone)
Words that don’t change in the plural
Some words are the same in singular and plural.
The following patterns can help you distinguish which words don’t change in the plural:
- masculine nouns ending in -el, -en or -er
- der Ärmel, die Ärmel (sleeve)
- der Artikel, die Artikel (article)
- der Ober, die Ober (waiter)
German words without a plural
Some German words only exist in the singular form.
Some examples are:
German words without a singular
Equally, some German words only exist in their plural form.
Some examples are:
The many different word endings that signify how to form the plural of German nouns are a lot to take in. But don’t worry. As stated above, the biggest tip here is to always write down and study a German word together with its plural form.
Over time, the more you study and read sentences in German, you will internalize the patterns of forming the plural. As with everything, it’s just practice!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it is good to take a step back and relax. Recap what you’ve learned before, and find some fun and relaxing ways to help you with your language skills, for example, watching German movies!
It might also help you to learn more about how to get motivated to study.