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When we have a German word composed of two or more terms, is there always an 's' between the two words? Someone who lived in Germany for a long time told me that there is always an 's', but as far as I remember there are words that don't need 's' in between. However, as my level is not that good in German, I can't think of any examples.

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

The s is called "Fugen-s" and is not always used. There is no general rule for its use, so its appliance is a question of feeling.

It is generally used when the first word ends with -tum, -ling, -ion, -tät, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -sicht, -ung as well as with Verbs used as Noun ending with -en:

Altertumsforschung, Frühlingserwachen, Kommunionsfest, Realitätsverlust, Einheitsfeier, Heiterkeitsanfall, Eigenschaftswort, Ansichtskarte, Erinnerungsvermögen

Essensreste, Lebensfreude, Leidensweg, Redensart, Schlafenszeit, Sehenswürdigkeit, Sterbenswörtchen, Wissenslücke

Schadensersatz, but: Schadenfreude

(and a lot more, not necessarily following the rule above)

There is no Fugen-s in

Weltkugel, Nachtzug, Fruchtsaft, Kammerdiener, Lageplan, Redezeit, Musikzimmer, Naturschutz, Schurwolle, Räuberhauptmann, Ritterburg, Steuererklärung, Zigeunerjunge, Nebelhorn, Paddelboot, Pendeluhr, Wendeltreppe, Nebenstraße, Ladenpassage, Rasenfläche, Wagenachse, Grußkarte, Lastwagen, Sitzkissen, Putzmittel, Herzkammer (and many more)

(from zwiebelfisch)

Note that the use of Fugen-s's differs in different German speaking Countries.

See Wikipedia: Fugenlaut (in German) for more information

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oder Schadenfreiheitsklasse – Emanuel May 23 '13 at 10:29
As described further in the Wikipedia article linked to above, there are also several other joining elements beside -s-. – chirlu May 23 '13 at 12:55
"Note that the use of Fugen-s's differs in different German speaking Countries." - exactly. Here in Austria, it's always "Schadenersatz", never "Schadensersatz" – ammoQ Dec 17 '14 at 14:35
I am a German native and I've never heard or use "Schadensersatz" either. Only "Schadenersatz". – Thorsten Dittmar Dec 18 '14 at 13:19

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