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German Adjective Formation

Adjective Formation in General

In German, with the help of prefixes and suffixes, we can create many new adjectives out of nouns, verbs and other adjectives.

›These additions can change the meaning of the adjectives.

›Sadly there are too many possibilities to count.

The forms I talk about in this lesson are the most common ones. But unfortunately there is no universal rule because there are more than 30 different prefixes and suffixes to create new adjectives.

Adjectives from Adjectives

With the prefixes „in-“, „des-“ and „un-“ we can create an adjective’s opposite:

  • „kompetent“ vs. inkompetent“   ⇒  not competent
  • „interessiert“   vs. desinteressiert“ ⇒  not interested
  • „beliebt“   vs. unbeliebt“      ⇒  not popular

›There is no universal rule determining which prefix to use.

Adjectives from Verbs

›With the ending „-bar“ we can show that it is possible to do something.

›The verb ending „en“ goes away.

  • essbar   ⇒  You can eat it.
  • trinkbar   ⇒  You can drink it.
  • machbar   ⇒  It is doable/makeable.

Adjectives from Nouns

We use the ending „-isch“ to describe many nationalities.

›The original ending goes away

  • „der Italiener“   ⇒ „italienisch
  • „der Russe   ⇒ „russisch

BUT: „der Deutsche“  ⇒ „deutsch

›With the ending „-lich“ we can talk about the frequency or ownership of something (one-syllable words gain an umlaut).

  • „der Tag“   ⇒  täglich   ⇒  jeden Tag
  • „der Monat“  ⇒  monatlich  ⇒ jeden Monat

Ownership: „das Haus der Eltern“„das elterliche Haus“ (Seldomly used)

›We use the ending „-los“ to talk about the absence of something ⇒ in the sense of the word „without“

›Sometimes we have to add an „s“ before the „-los“.

  • „Ich habe keine Arbeit.“    „Ich bin arbeitslos.“
  • „Es gibt keine Aussicht auf Erfolg.“     „Es ist aussichtslos.“
  • „Ich habe keinen Erfolg.“    „Ich bin erfolglos.“

›With the ending „-arm“ we can express that there is very little of something.

  • fettarm.“  ⇒ „Das Essen ist fettarm.“ ⇒ There is little fat.
  • kalorienarm  ⇒ „Der Jogurt ist kalorienarm. ⇒ The yogurt has few calories.
  • vitaminarm  ⇒ „Cola ist vitaminarm.“ ⇒  Cola has few vitamins.

›With the ending „-frei“ we can express that there is NONE of something.

  • fettfrei   ⇒ „Das Essen ist fettfrei.“ ⇒ The food contains no fat.
  • zuckerfrei   ⇒ „Das Getränkt ist zuckerfrei.“ ⇒ The drink contains no sugar.
  • fehlerfrei  ⇒ „Der Text ist fehlerfrei.“ ⇒ There are no mistakes in the text.

›With the ending „-reich“ we can express that there is a lot of something.

  • erfolgreich  ⇒ „Ich bin erfolgreich.“ ⇒ I am very successful.
  • vitaminreich   ⇒ „Das Essen ist vitaminreich.“ ⇒ There are a lot of vitamins in the food.
  • kalorienreich  ⇒ „Das Essen ist sehr kalorienreich.“ ⇒ The food has a lot of calories.

Further Information


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