How do adjectives become nouns in German?

How do adjectives become nouns in German?

Did you know that adjectives can become nouns in German? After reading this article, you will know how to recognize and form them.

Indefinite pronoun

In German, when using indefinite pronouns like: “viel, wenig, etwas, genug” or “manches” cause the word which follows to become a noun and therefore needs to be written with a capital letter. If, for example, you would like to say “There is much new” in German, it would be “Es gibt viel Neues”.

Adding “das”

Another possibility to form a noun is adding a “das” and an “-e” as an Ending like: “neu – das Neue”, “alt – das Alte”, “teuer – das Teuere” etc. 

The suffixes -heit, -keit, -igkeit and -tum

Another possibility to form a noun out of an adjective is by adding a suffix. Suffixes are endings which are added to form nouns. Even though they do follow a pattern and rules which will be explained in the following, trying to create own nouns of adjective might be still a bit tricky. But knowing the fact that these suffixes can be used to form a noun out of an adjective, gives you the possibility of a better understanding of the context and the noun itself if it is for example unknown to you. In some cases, you will be able to form the adjectives from the nouns. There are also rules about their gender which you can read in the article “The idea of gender in German”.

The following are:

-heit: This ending can be found in nouns that base on an adjective or another noun. If used with an adjective, the adjective will:

  1. end with -en or –ern as in “trocken” and “die Trockenheit!”,
  2. mostly be monosyllabic (inseparable) as in “schön” and “die Schönheit”
  3. if  polysyllabic (separable) it has an emphasis on the end of the adjective as in “gesund” and “die Gesundheit”

 

-keit: These nouns base on adjectives and the ending applies to the following cases:

  1. The ending “-bar” (in English this is -able) always geta a “-keit”: “furchtbar” = “die Furchtbarkeit”
  2. Adjectives with the ending “-ig” always get a “-keit”: “flüssig” = “die Flüssigkeit”
  3. Adjectives with the ending “-isch” always get a “-keit”: “mürrisch” = “die Mürrischkeit”
  4. Adjectives with the ending “-lich” always get a “-keit”: “ehrlich” = “die Ehrlichkeit”
  5. Adjectives with the ending “-sam” always get a “-keit”: “achtsam” = “die Achtsamkeit”
  6. Adjectives with the unstressed ending “-el” get a “-keit”: “eitel” = “die Eitelkeit”
  7. Adjectives with the unstressed ending “-er” mostly get a “-keit”: “eitel” = “die Eitelkeit”

-igkeit: These nouns base on adjectives or nouns and the ending applies to the following adjective cases:

  1. Adjectives with the ending “-los” (-less in English) always get a “-igkeit”: “arbeitslos” = “die Arbeitslosigkeit”
  2. Adjectives with the ending “-haft” always get a “-igkeit”: “schmerzhaft” = “die Schmerzhaftigkeit”

 

-tum: These nouns are based on adjectives or nouns but mostly refer to nouns. Mostly, adjectives that are already a bit older use this ending, and it is not common to use it anymore to form new nouns from adjectives these days. Anyhow, an example of its usage is:

  1. “eigen” – “das Eigentum”

 

Now, that you got a better understanding of the nouns that are based on adjectives, you can use your new skill in your next conversation!

Bis bald!

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