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Adjectives:Adjektive

Adjectives describe nouns, and can either precede or follow the noun in German without affecting the meaning of the article. In German, just like English, adjectives can be graded to express comparisons between two (comparative) or more (comparative and superlative) things, places, people or thoughts. Unlike in English, however, adjectives that precede nouns take endings depending on the case, gender and number of that noun.

I. Before and after

Attributive adjectives

Adjectives that precede nouns (and most often come between an article and a noun) are called attributive adjectives.

Es war einmal ein reicher Mann. Once upon a time, there was a rich man.
Seine Frau rief ihre einzige Tochter zu sich ans Bett. His wife called her only daughter to her bed.

Predicate adjectives

Adjectives that follow nouns are usually separated by a verb such as sein, werden, heißen and are called predicate adjectives.

Die Frau war leider sehr krank. Unfortunately, the woman was very sick.
Sie sagte ihrer Tochter: Liebes Kind, sei fromm und gut! She said to her daughter: Dear child, be pious and good!

II. Comparisons

Comparative and superlative

Adjectives can be graded to express comparative and superlative qualities.

Aschenputtels Leben wurde viel schlimmer, als sein Vater die andere Frau heiratete. Cinderella's life became much worse when her father married the other woman.
Das arme Mädchen wurde jeden Tag immer trauriger. The poor girl was sadder and sadder every day.
Als der Vater von einer Reise zurückkam, brachte er den Stiefschwestern die schönsten Kleider, Perlen und Edelsteine mit. When the father returned from a trip, he brought the most beautiful clothes, pearls and gems for the two stepsisters.

III. Adjective endings

Attributive adjectives (the ones preceding the noun they describe) can take three different types of endings, depending on what precedes them:

  • adjectives preceded by definite articles or der-words take weak adjective endings
  • adjectives preceded by indefinite articles or ein-words take strong adjective endings
  • unpreceded adjectives take a different set of strong adjective endings

a) adjectives after definite articles or der-words

When an adjective comes between a definite article or der-word and the noun it modifies, it takes weak adjective endings (because the article already gives enough grammatical information to signal the noun's gender, case and number).

Das kleine Aschenputtel wollte nur einen Zweig von einem Haselbusch; sie pflanzt den Zweig auf das Grab ihrer Mutter. The little Cinderella wanted only a twig from a hazel bush; she plants the twig on the tomb of her mother.
Der schöne Baum ist der einzige Trost für das arme Mädchen. The beautiful tree is the only consolation for the poor little girl.

b) adjectives preceded by indefinite articles or ein-words

Adjectives that are preceded by an indefinite article (ein, eine, keine) or other ein-words (meine, deine, seine) receive strong endings because the article does not give enough grammatical information to signal the noun's gender, case and number.

Ein weißes Vöglein kam jeden Tag zum Baum. A white bird came to the tree every day.
Im Reich gab es einen alten König. In the realm there was an old King.
Er arrangierte ein großes Fest für seinen Sohn, um für ihn eine Frau zu finden. He arranged a large feast for his son, in order to find him a wife.
A white bird came to the tree every day

c) unpreceded adjectives

Then there are some adjectives that are either not preceded by any determiners or are preceded by quantifiers such as many (viele), some (einige) or few (wenige). These adjectives take a different set of strong endings to compensate for the lacking grammatical information about the noun's gender, case and number.

Viele schöne, junge Frauen im Lande wurden eingeladen. Many beautiful young women in the kingdom were invited.
Aschenputtel durfte nicht auf das Fest gehen; sie hatte nur schmutzige und staubige Kleider. Cinderella is not allowed to go to the feast; she only has dirty, dusty clothes.
Aber zwei weiße Täubchen kamen zu Aschenputtel und brachten ihm goldene und silberne Kleider, und es ging aufs Fest. But two white turtle doves came to Cinderella and brought her golden and silver clothes, and Cinderella went to the feast.
Der Prinz verliebte sich in Aschenputtel und bestrich die Treppe mit klebrigem Pech, um das Mädchen bei sich zu behalten. The prince fell in love with Cinderella, and covered the stairs with sticky tar, to keep the girl with him.
Aschenputtel lief weg, aber verlor ihren Schuh. Nach einigen falschen Versuchen findet der Prinz seine Braut und heiratet sie. Cinderella ran away, but lost her shoe. After a few false attempts, the prince finds his bride and they marry.

IV. No declension

There are a numbers of adjectives, mostly colors and foreign loan words, that do not take adjective endings. Interestingly, they also do not exist in comparative and superlative forms.

beige rosa lila happy prima super

Common adjectives

blau blue (also: drunk)
rot red
grün green
orange orange
lila purple
schwarz black
weiß white
bunt, farbenfroh colorful
schwarzweiß black and white
dunkel dark
stockdunkel pitch dark/pitch-black
hell bright
braun brown
gelb yellow
grau gray
weit far
entfernt distant
weit entfernt far away
nah near
genau exact
offen/geöffnet open
zu/geschlossen closed
lustig funny
schön beautiful
wunderschön gorgeous
der/die/das allerschönste the most beautiful
hübsch pretty
übrig left over/remaining
einfach simple
richtig right/correct
falsch wrong/false
echt real/true
derselbe the same (one and the same)
dergleiche the same (identical)
weitere another
anderer/andere/anderes another
fremd foreign/strange/unfamiliar
neu new
frei free
kostenlos/kostenfrei free/at no charge
toll great
cool cool
geil cool (also: horny)
schick cool/chic
früh early
spät late
alt old
jung young
knapp ('das war knapp!') short ('that was close')
eng narrow/tight (clothes)
kurz short
lang long
sauber clear
dreckig dirty/muddy
schmutzig dirty
breit wide
schnell fast
blitzschnell fast as lightning
langsam slow
schleunig speedy
steif stiff
schwach weak
stark strong
dick thick/fat
fett fat
fettig greasy
dünn thin
schlank slim
offen (zu) honest (with)
intelligent intelligent
schlau sly/sharp
klug smart
vernünftig reasonable/sensible
dumm stupid/dumb
blöd foolish/stupid
doof dumb
schüchtern shy
oberflächlich superficial
scheu shy
interessant interesting
schwul gay
hetero(a) straight
schwül humid/stuffy
feucht humid/moist
warm warm
heiß hot
kalt cold
eiskalt ice cold/freezing
eisig icy/frosty
frisch fresh (food)/cool (tempearture)
kühl cool
neblig foggy
regnerisch rainy
reif ripe (also: mature)
ausreichend adequate/sufficient
genügend adequate/sufficient
mangelhaft inadequate/deficient
ausgezeichnet excellent
gut good
besser better
der/die/das beste the best
der/die/das allerbeste the very best
gutaussehend good-looking
feuerfest fire-proof
Promi- VIP
tapfer/mutig brave
versehentlich accidental
zuverlässig reliable
zuversichtlich confident
ruhig calm/quiet
schweigsam silent (person)
respektlos disrespectful
brav good (child, animal)
gemein mean
fies mean/nasty
mies mean/nasty
schlecht bad (also: sick)
schlimm bad
übel evil (also: sick)
böse evil (also: angry, bad [child])
zwanglos casual/informal
formell formal
sauer sour (also: angry/bitter)
stocksauer furious
wütend angry
süß sweet (food)/cute (person)
lieb dear/sweet (person)
teuer expensive
sauteuer expensive as heck
billig cheap
preiswert inexpensive
zäh tough
salzig salty
scharf spicy
lecker tasty
köstlich delicious
satt full (having eaten enough)
krank sick
grippig - 'Ich fühle mich grippig' flu - 'I feel like I have the flu'
ansteckend contagious
schwindlig dizzy
wacklig wobbly/(also: groggy)
schmerzhaft painful
wund sore
blind blind
taub deaf
behindert disabled
gelähmt paralyzed
stumm mute
einfallsreich imaginative/resourceful
freundlich friendly
komisch strange
witzig funny
wettbewerbsfähig competitive
kindisch childish
empfindlich sensitive (also: picky)
überempfindlich hypersensitive
rücksichtsvoll considerate
selbstbewusst self-confident
selbstsicher self-confident
aufmerksam attentaive/observant
bekannt well known
berühmt famous
beliebt popular
populär popular
hochnäsig snobby/snotty
gebildet educated
verbildet spoiled
eingebildet conceited
unverschämt imprudent/rude
beeindruckend impressive
beeindruckt impressed
besonders special
groß big
riesig huge
klein small
winzig tiny
fabelhaft wonderful
großartig great/wonderful
stur stubborn
eigensinnig opinionated/obstinate
spießig narrow-minded
aufgeschlossen open-minded
frankiert stamped (envelope)
gültig valid
endgültig final/definite
neugierig curious
tief deep
hoch high
niedrig low
laut loud
leise quiet
blass pale
bleich pale
besoffen trashed/inebriated
betrunken drunk
normal normal
beschwipst tipsy
nüchtern sober
akzeptabel acceptable
unangebracht inappropriate
angenehm pleasant
unangenehm unpleasant
unaufgefordert uninvited
fassungslos stunned
kräftig strong/hearty (meal)
schwervorstellbar hard to imagine
hinter back
leer empty
voll full (also: drunk)
fertig finished/ready
bereit ready
erfinderisch inventive/innovative
originell original/creative
original original (the first one)
hart hard/tough
schwer heavy/difficult
schwierig difficult
leicht light/easy
einfach simple
trocken dry
nass wet
tropfnass dripping wet
pitschnass soaking wet
klebrig sticky
eklig gross
ekelhaft disgusting
glatt smooth, slippery
rutschig slippery
fließend fluent
irre crazy (slang)
verrückt crazy
wach awake
hellwach wide awake
müde tired
erschöpft exhausted
glücklich happy
froh glad
traurig sad
deprimiert depressed
gespannt anxious
angespannt tense
besonder special/exceptional
üblich common
herzlich sincere/cordial/hearty
seriös serious
ernst/ernsthaft serious
religiös religious
weiter further, another
nächster, nächste, nächstes next, closest
sonstig other/sundry
seltsam strange
täglich daily
heutig today's
morgig tomorrow's
gestrig yesterday's
jetzig current
örtlich local
regional regional
foot