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My dictionary does not even have the word Kärtchen, and online translators have very little about this noun. I think that it's neuter (das), yet I would like to know if this word has a plural form and if so, how it is spelled.

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One reason you are having difficulties finding an adequate dictionary entry is because Kärtchen is what is known as a diminutive form. One of the diminutive endings -chen or -lein, when added to nouns, makes the modified noun smaller, cuter, or (less often) laughable. (Unfortunately for many words one of the two diminutives is much more common than the other, but there is no easy rule for it.)

Take for example:

Das Tierchen (the little animal)
Das Brötchen (small bread, here: a roll)
Das Häuschen (the little house)

You'll notice that all the diminutives are assigned the neuter (das) article. Additionally, all diminutive forms remain the same in the plural as their singular. Thus,

Die Tierchen (the little animals)
Die Brötchen (the rolls)
Die Häuschen (the little houses)

In the case of Kärtchen, this is the diminutive form of die Karte. As you can see, some vowels (a, o, and u) become the umlauted diphthongs (ä, ö, ü) when the diminutive is made. Additionally, nouns ending in -e often (but not always) drop this letter. Both of the above morphological phenomena can be seen in the example of die Karte -> das Kärtchen.

Following the above rule regarding the pluralization of diminutives, its plural is die Kärtchen. Since every noun has a possible diminutive form, most are left out of the dictionary. The only ones that are found in the dictionary are typically ones with concrete meanings such as Brötchen, Mädchen (girl), etc.

Note:
Not every word that ends in the letters chen is a diminutive variant, as Alexander has pointed out in the comments. A few examples:

Eichen (oak trees)
BUT Eichen (little egg[s]) from Ei + chen
Aachen (a city in Germany)

There are other diminutive forms depending on dialect as well. These are explained in more detail in this English-language Wikipedia article, as well as this German-language Wiki article.

  • 2
    bisschen! ----- – user6191 Aug 12 '14 at 2:49
  • 2
    Ei -> Eichen? ;) – Alexander Aug 12 '14 at 12:00
  • @Carlster Good point, not sure that this is the right place to get into indefinite pronouns though. – Milchgesicht Aug 12 '14 at 12:26
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    I think a, o and u becoming umlauts and the dissapearing vowels at the end are dictionary-relevant, too. – user6191 Aug 12 '14 at 12:34
  • But the diminutive form of "das Ei" is "das Eichen", right? And it is pronounced exactly like "das Eichen" an "Eichamt" (Office of Weights and Measures) does, and also "die Eichen" are pronounced the same. – Alexander Aug 12 '14 at 12:38
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enter link description hereYou can use Kärtchen in singular and plural.
It´s a diminutive form. In german it´s a Diminutiv (Verniedlichungsform, Verkleinerungsform)

This form is build from a noun and a suffix like: -lein, -chen, -ette, -erl.

The word Kärtchen comes from Karte
Singular: die Karte   ==> das Kärtchen
Plural:     die Karten ==> die Kärtchen


One approximation to get the root word:

  • Remove -lein, -chen, -erl, -ette from the end of the word.
  • Replace ä with a, ü with u, ö with o and ß with s.
    If the word is a "zusammengesetztes Hauptwort" only replace the letters of the "Hauptwort" at the end.
  • Add -e, -er, -en or nothing to the end of the word.

This does not cover all possibilities.


Examples:

Kärtchen to Karte
1.) Kärt (After removing the -chen)
2.) Kart (After replacing ä with a)
3.) Karte (After adding -e)

Häuschen to Haus
1.) Häus (After removing -chen)
2.) Haus (After replacing ä with a)

Kräutergärtchen to Kräutergarten
1.) Kräutergärt (After removing -chen)
2.) Kräutergart (After replacing ä of the last Hauptwort with a)
3.) Kräutergarten (After adding -en)

Märchen to Mär:
1.) Mär (After removing the -chen)

Stiefelette to Stiefel
1.) Stiefel (After removing the -ette)

Weckerl to Wecken
1.) Weck (After removing the -erl)
2.) Wecken (After adding -en)

Eichhörnchen to Eichhorn
1.) Eichhörn (After removing the -chen)
2.) Eichhorn (After replacing the ö with o)


An example where this approximation is wrong:

Mädchen to Magd:
1.) Mäd (After removing the -chen)
2.) Mad (After replacing the ä with a)
3.) You cant get to Magd by adding something to the end.

  • 1
    Maybe you want to give the OP tips on how to identify the root word. – user6191 Aug 12 '14 at 13:16

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