Adjectives in Action

There are two main ways to use adjectives in German that parallel the ways adjectives are used in English. These usages are illustrated in the table below.

Predicate AdjectivesAttributive Adjectives
1. Sara ist arbeitslos.2. Saras arbeitsloser Mann sucht einen Job.
Sara is unemployedSara's unemployed husband is looking for a job
3. Der Kunde wurde wütend.4. Der wütende Kunde verließ den Laden.
The customer became angry.The angry customer left the store.
5. Viele deutsche Wähler sind gut informiert6. Informierte Wähler sind wichtig für eine Demokratie.
Many German voters are well informed.Informed voters are important for a democracy.

Predicate adjectives are part of a sentence's predicate, the part that states something about the subject. When used in this way, as in examples (1), (3), and (5), the adjective typically follows a verb like sein ("to be") or werden ("to become"), and appears in its most basic form. Attributive adjectives directly attribute a quality to a noun by appearing before it in the sentence; no verb comes between the adjective and the noun it describes. In attributive uses, such as (2), (4), and (6), endings are added to the adjectives. At a minimum, an attributive adjective in German gets an "e" at the end, although there are several possibilities. Adjective endings are difficult to master, so if you are in your first few years of study, the take-away here is that attributive adjectives get endings (an "e" or more), and predicate adjectives do not. If you are further in your studies or just tenaciously curious, you can learn more about adjective endings here, here and here.

Comparisons using Adjectives

In the Alternate Forms tab, you can see the comparative (e.g. gut - besser, "good" - "better") and superlative (e.g. gut - am besten, "good" - "the best") forms of an adjective. German and English are similar in their uses of comparative; both languages add an "-er" ending to make comparative forms, for example: wütend, wütender ("angry, angrier"), informiert, informierter ("informed, more informed"), etc. The main difference is that English sometimes does not allow such an ending (e.g. *stupider, *informeder, *loster), but in German, the "-er" ending is always possible, and "more" does appear with an adjective to convey the comparative meaning. There are a few more rules for German comparatives and superlatives (including some irregular forms) that you can read about here.