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German for Beginners

Lesson 5: Adjectives and Colors

With Audio

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Adjective Endings

German adjectives, like English ones, usually go in front of the noun they modify: "der gute Mann" (the good man), "das große Haus" (the big house/building), "die schöne Dame" (the pretty lady). Unlike English adjectives, a German adjective in front of a noun has to have an ending (-e in the examples above). Just what that ending will be depends on several factors, including gender (der, die, das) and case (nominative, accusative, dative). But most of the time the ending is an -e or an -en (in the plural). With ein-words, the ending varies according to the modified noun's gender (see below).

Look at the following table for the adjective endings in the nominative (subject) case:

With definite article (der, die, das) - Nominative case

AUDIO Click on a phrase to hear it spoken.
Masculine
der
Feminine
die
Neuter
das
Plural
die
der neue Wagen
the new car
die schöne Stadt
the beautiful city
das alte Auto
the old car
die neuen Bücher
the new books
AUDIO: HEAR ALL FOUR PHRASES (MP3)

Hear all four phrases (MP3)

With indefinite article (eine, kein, mein) - Nom. case
AUDIO Click on a phrase to hear it spoken.
Masculine
ein
Feminine
eine
Neuter
ein
Plural
keine
ein neuer Wagen
a new car
eine schöne Stadt
a beautiful city
ein altes Auto
an old car
keine neuen Bücher
no new books
AUDIO: HEAR ALL FOUR PHRASES (MP3)

Hear all four phrases (MP3)

Note that with ein-words, since the article may not tell us the gender of the following noun, the adjective ending often does this instead (-es = das, -er = der; see above).

As in English, a German adjective can also come after the verb (predicate adjective): "Das Haus ist groß." (The house is large.) In such cases the adjective will have NO ending.

For more about adjective endings in the nominative, accusative and dative cases, see these extra lessons:
   • Adjective Endings (Nominative)
   • Adjective Endings (Accusative/Dative)
   • Adjective Endings: An Easier Way
   • The Nominative Case (The four German cases)

Test yourself > Self-Scoring Quiz on adjective endings


Colors - Farben

The German words for colors usually function as adjectives and take the normal adjective endings (but see exceptions below). In certain situations, colors can also be nouns and are thus capitalized: "eine Bluse in Blau" (a blouse in blue); "das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen" (to promise heaven and earth, lit., "the blue of the heavens").

The chart below shows some of the more common colors with sample phrases. For many more colors, see our German Colors page (with audio). And for more about colors and color idioms in German, see Farbenfroh: Colorful Expressions. You'll learn that the colors in "feeling blue" or "seeing red" may not mean the same thing in German. A black eye in German is "blau" (blue).

Farbe Color Color Phrases with Adjective Endings
See more German Colors - with sound!
rot red der rote Wagen (the red car), der Wagen ist rot
rosa pink die rosa Rosen (the pink roses)*
blau blue ein blaues Auge (a black eye), er ist blau (he's drunk)
hell-
blau
light
blue
die hellblaue Bluse (the light blue blouse)**
dunkel-
blau
dark
blue
die dunkelblaue Bluse (the dark blue blouse)
grün green der grüne Hut (the green hat)
gelb yellow die gelben Seiten (yellow pages), ein gelbes Auto
weiß white das weiße Papier (the white paper)
schwarz black der schwarze Koffer (the black suitcase)
See more German Colors - with sound!
  *Colors ending in -a (lila, rosa) do not take the normal adjective endings.
  **Light or dark colors are preceded by hell- (light) or dunkel- (dark), as in hellgrün (light green) or dunkelgrün (dark green).

German Colors (Farben)
More about colors and adjectives - with audio.

Farbenfroh: Colorful Expressions
German expressions that are colorful in a literal sense.

QUIZ > Adjective Endings Quiz - Test yourself!

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