Rules for Forming Plurals of Nouns
In German there are several ways to form the plurals of nouns, including:
a) zero plurals (indicated by ‘—’ at end of word in dictionaries) have no changes from the singular form of the noun
Example: das Mädchen (the girl), die Mädchen (the girls)
b) add an umlaut to vowel (indicated by ‘—’ with an umlaut above the line)
Example: der Vater (the father), die Väter (the fathers)
c) add ‘er’ to end (‘—er’)
Example: das Kind (the child), die Kinder (the children)
d) add ‘e’ to end (‘—e’)
Example: der Tisch (the table), die Tische (the tables)
e) add ‘e’ or ‘er’ to end and an umlaut to vowel (‘—er’ or ‘—e’ with umlaut above the line)
Examples: der Nuss (the nut), die Nüsse (the nuts); das Haus (the house), die Häuser (the houses)
f) add ‘n’ or ‘en’ to end (‘—n’ or ‘—en’)
Examples: die Katze (the cat), die Katzen (the cats); die Wohnung (the apartment), die Wohnungen (the apartments)
g) add ‘s’ to end (‘—s’; typically used on loan words (i.e. words borrowed from other languages))
Example: die Party (the party), die Partys (the parties)
Forming Plurals of Gendered Nouns (e.g. Professions)
The plural forms of nouns for professions follow a particular pattern. Many masculine forms of professions end in ‘er,’ and their female counterparts add ‘in’ and sometimes an umlaut over the stem vowel (if it is an ‘a,’ ‘o,’ or ‘u’). The feminine plural adds ‘nen’ to the feminine ‘in’ ending, whereas the masculine singular and plural endings (‘er’) are usually the same (NOTE: professions ending in ‘ist,’ ‘ent,’ or ‘ant’ add ‘en’). This is illustrated in the table below:
der Angestellte / die Angestellten / die Angestellte / die Angestellten
- Die Schule hat vier Lehrer und sieben Lehrerinnen.
The school has four teachers (m) and seven teachers (f).
- Alle Busfahrer fahren abends den Bus ins Busdepot.
All bus drivers (m/f)* drive the bus to the station in the evenings.
*When there is a mix of feminine and masculine, the plural is the plural masculine form.