Because German nouns are gendered, adjectives have endings that correspond to the gender of the nouns they modify. The endings are either weak or strong, depending on what precedes the adjectives. Definite articles (der, die, das) are strong, meaning they indicate gender; indefinite articles (ein, eine, einen) are weak, which means that gender is at times ambiguous. For this reason, adjectives following weak-ended, indefinite articles must have a strong ending, and, vice-versa, adjectives following strong-ended, definite articles have weak endings.
In addition to adjective endings, there are comparative and superlative forms of adjectives used when comparing two or more things.
Adjectives can be formed in several ways in German. Some of the most common suffixes found in German adjectives and their English counterparts are:
German English Examples
-bar -ible/-able lesbar = readable, legible
-ig -y windig = windy
-isch -ish kindisch = childish
-lich -ly freundlich = friendly
-los -less sprachlos = speechless
Adjectives Derived from Nouns
The adjectival suffixes ‘-ig’ and ‘-isch’ are added to nouns to make them adjectives. Unlike ‘-bar,’ these suffixes sometimes require changes in spelling (e.g. drop final ‘e,’ add an umlaut, etc.). Below are a few examples in German with their English definitions.
Below are several formed with the suffix ‘-los’ (less):
Positive and Negative Adjectives
The negative adjectives are the equivalent of saying that something is “not” or “un-” plus an adjective (e.g. sicher [sure] > unsicher [unsure]; schön [pretty] > unschön [not pretty] ).
Adjectives Derived from Verbs
The adjectival suffix ‘-bar’ is added to the root of a verb to make it an adjective. Below are a few examples in German with their English definitions.