In light of the highly regular pluralization in English, compound phrases are instinctively pluralized by likewise adding an s. For example, a parent might say to a child, "I'm really sick of hearing your constant I-didn't-do-its!" I have seen this sort of hyphenated compound construction in German in the translations of the Harry Potter books; e.g., du-weißt-schon-wer for you-know-who. But this is, of course, singular. Given the irregularity of German pluralization, how, in general are similar compounds made plural?

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    +s is the fallback plural morph. It’s employed for xenisms, acronyms and can usually be applied here, too. Phrasal compounds aren’t that idiomatic in German, though.
    – Crissov
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 23:39

3 Answers 3


I would do it just the same way as in english: pluralize the last part of the compound:

Ich habe genug von deinen "Ich-wars-nicht"s!


But i actually never hear it. Germans do not use such constructions too often. Instead, a paraphrase is used:

Ich habe genug von deinen Ausreden!

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    I wouldn't do it. I would use singular. "Ich hab genug von deinem ewigen Ich-war-es-nicht."
    – Em1
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 10:35

I don't think there is one way, that will always work, but let me suggest how I would translate your example using a compound:

Ich habe genug von deinen dauernden Ich-war-es-nicht.

Compare it to

Ich habe genug von deinem dauernden Ich-war-es-nicht.

deinen shows the following is plural, while deinem shows singular. This works here, but could fail for other hyphenated compunds.

As @marstato said, Germans would probably use a paraphrase here.


I think that such phrases with hyphens are used seldom. The thing I just remember is: Hanns Guck-in-die-Luft (Struwwelpeter), but then it is a replacement for a name and not a quotation used as a noun. I would write it just with quotes and without hyphens:

Ich habe genug von deinem ständigen "Ich war es nicht".

In this case I would prefer singular.

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