Adjective DeclensionLesson 11

In the previous lesson, the sentences we built place the adjective after the verb (predicative adjectives). This is the simplest way to use them, as they do not need to be declined in such cases.

However, adjectives may also be placed just before the noun. These are called attributive adjectives.

Using predicative adjective:

Die Schildkröte ist grün und isst einen Apfel.

Using attributive adjective:

Die grüne Schildkröte isst einen Apfel.

Attributive Adjectives

Whilst the use of predicative adjectives calls for the inclusion of a linking verb (in this example, that is ist), attributive adjectives do not need one, allowing more flexibility and conciseness in a sentence.

However, when using attributive adjectives, things do get a little more complicated grammatically.

Notice that the adjective grün in the sentence is now declined, and has the ending: -e. This is because the adjective, placed before the noun, now plays a role in indicating what case the noun is in.

So, in summary:

Predicative AdjectivesAttributive Adjectives
... are used after the noun... are used just before the noun
... don't decline... decline

Declension Indicates Case

In the German language, being able to tell the case of a noun is very important, as this lets us know what role the noun is playing in a sentence (e.g: subject, object), no matter where it is placed.

The case of a noun is indicated to us by the use of declensions.

Two types of words need declensions: determiners and adjectives (the words in front of the nouns). @Text: Determiners are...

definite articlesder, die, das👍
indefinite articlesein, eine👍
adjectiveslecker, groß, schön👍
Determiners also include possessive pronouns (mein, dein, sein) and words such as welche, diese, jede, etc. However, for now, we will focus on the definite and indefinite articles.

Take a look at these two sentences, that both use determiners to indicate case:

Der durstige Mann trinkt den Wein.

The thirsty man drinks the wine.
Den Wein trinkt der durstige Mann.

The thirsty man drinks the wine.

Both sentences have the same meaning.

We can be sure of this, as the noun Wein uses the declined, definite article den - the accusative form of the word der, indicating it's case. The declined article tells us that the role of this noun is the direct object of the sentence (the receiver of the action).

This is also the case in the first sentence.

The noun Mann, however, uses the nominative form of the word der and durstig, telling us that the role of this noun in both sentences is the subject.

It doesn't matter where the noun is placed in the sentence, in determining it's role. What matters are the declensions.

Now, let's learn how to correctly decline attributive adjectives ourselves.

Adjective Declension (Nominative & Accusative)

When it comes to adjective declension, it's important to take take into account whether and which determiner is being used. If a noun uses a definite article, the case will be indicated strongly in this word, and the adjective will only need a weak declension.

However, if no article is used, a strong declension is needed to indicate the case.

@component TABLE: definite article + adjective + noun / weak declension indefinite article + adjective + noun / mixed declension no article + adjective + noun / strong declension

Here is an adjective declension table:

@component - table of declension rules for nominative and accusative cases. with definite article, indefinite article + without article.

Notice that when a definite article is used, the weak declensions only include -e and -en endings. However, when no article is used, the strong declensions include -er, -es, -e, -en endings, clearly indicating gender and case the same way the definite articles would.

Take a look at these sentences:

Den Wein trinkt der Mann

the man drinks the wine
Einen Wein trinkt der Mann

the man drinks a wine
Roten Wein trinkt der Mann

the man drinks red wine

In all three sentences, the case of the noun Wein (accusative) is made clear by the way in which the article or adjective is declined before it.

We will need to memorise the rules in the declension table, in order to correctly decline adjectives used in both the nominative and accusative cases. Ignore the dative and genetive cases for now.

For example, take a look at this sentence:

Try to correctly decline the adjectives in the sentences below, in this exercise:

1.Das Mädchen wirft den Fisch weg.
2.Der Gepard fängt das Schwein.
3.Der Mann tötet die Frau.
4.Der Lehrer begrüßt den Schüler.
5.Der Elefant frisst die Erdnüsse.

Important considerations, when declining adjectives:

  • noun gender (in this case, 'die Schildkröte', and 'der Apfel')
  • noun case (nominative, accusative)
  • whether definite (der/die/das), indefinite (ein, eine), or no articles are being used with the noun

Well done! 🎉

You have begun to use adjective declensions in your sentences!