This page is about the old city hall of Munich.

The title is

Altes Rathaus

and in the text it says

Das Alte Rathaus entwickelte sich ...

Now AFAIK the indefinite form is ein altes Rathaus, but the title is about the (definite) city hall of Munich.

So why is it Altes Rathaus? Is the s taken from the left out das?

  • Sorry, I'm not sure I got your point. You mean it should be Alte Rathaus instead of with the s, because the Rathaus is of Munich? Isn't any city's Rathaus then definite? And the same for airports determined by their location: der gescheiterte Berlin-Brandemburg Flughafen, should it be gescheiterte BB Flughaften because it's definite? I try to understand what's behind your question. – c.p. Jun 9 '14 at 13:50
  • @c.p. Well, yea. I mean both times it's about a certain, definite object (Munich's city hall). Yet, the adjective is inflected differently. – user5513 Jun 9 '14 at 15:08

This is a case of „starke Flexion“ of the adjective „alt“. Generally, the adjective „alt“ adapts to the noun „Rathaus“. There are different forms of inflection of the adjective:

  • if there's an definite article („das Rathaus“), „schwache Flexion“ is applied;
  • an indefinite article („ein Rathaus“) requires „gemischte Flexion“;
  • if there's or no article at all („Rathaus“), you'll use „starke Flexion“.

In this case, there's no indefinite form - it's either „das Alte Rathaus“ (if speaking about the old city hall) or „Altes Rathaus“ (if referencing the old city hall on a map or on a signpost). There's no indefinite form, because there's only one "Old city hall" (even if in history, the city hall was situated in different places).


Note that the adjective in „das Alte Rathaus“ is capitalized. In contrary, if writing „ein altes Rathaus“, you would use lower case. This is because „Altes Rathaus“ represents a proper name („der Bayerische Wald“; „der Stille Ozean“). In those cases, capitalization is preserved even if the name is used in the middle of a sentence („Rechts sehen Sie das Alte Rathaus, das im Jahre ... erbaut wurde.“ - „Er macht Urlaub im Bayerischen Wald.“ - „Die Flotte durchquerte den Stillen Ozean.“).

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    I would call it a proper name rather than a geographical name. In any case, the "Altes" is part of the name proper, not an optional adjective. – stevenvh Jun 9 '14 at 14:02
  • @stevenvh: TY - i've edited my answer. But IMHO being part of the name proper doesn't explain why the adjective has to be "Altes". So i think it's required to point to the „starke Flexion“. – tohuwawohu Jun 9 '14 at 15:32
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    Oh, you're right, don't get me wrong: I find your answer very informative in that sense. (It's something we will attack next year in night school.) My point was that "Altes" (no matter which Flexion) is an inseparable part of the name, in contrast with other adjectives, which you may choose to use or not. – stevenvh Jun 9 '14 at 15:56
  • Yes, it's part of the name; you actually have to decide whether it's a proper adjective, or has become part of the actual name, so that it's taken as it. Consider the Swiss newspaper "Neue Zürcher Zeitung", if you will: when talking about a recent article, would you say ... habe ich in der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung gelesen or ... habe ich in der "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" gelesen? You can native speakers hear both variants (and could get around it by referring to it as the "NZZ" :-) What I'm trying to say, I guess: it's complicated. – Ingmar Jun 9 '14 at 16:46

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