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In German, there are three genders, four cases, two numbers and irregular words. It’s a lot and I can’t learn the declension of each word one by one by heart. Of course, I’m not talking about der, das and die but all the substantives.

Are there some strategies to remember noun declensions such as ordering them into groups that are declined in the same way?

  • The rules for the declensions and the plural. – Archa Jun 25 '15 at 14:04
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    Nothing special with German. Swahili has 15 "genders" (noun classes), Hungarian has 31 cases, Arabic has three numbers. – Hubert Schölnast Jun 25 '15 at 14:04
  • In other words, I have to learn each word's declension one by one. You cannot say ''this group of words have this declension, but that other kind has that declension''. – Archa Jun 25 '15 at 14:10
  • This is a perfectly reasonable and answerable question. No reason whatsoever to put it on hold or close it. – TehMacDawg Jun 25 '15 at 18:59
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    @TehMacDawg... I voted close because I don't understand what OP wants to know. Noun declension? What is that? N-declension? I guess I should have chosen "unclear" instead of "too broad but I stand by my vote. What is there to learn about noun declension in German? – Emanuel Jun 25 '15 at 21:09
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Here's what my teacher did: - on rectangular small bits of paper, she had the certain masculine, feminine, and neuter endings, only one on each. (Then the more typical, but not a rule endings.)

Masculine

  • -ig
  • -er
  • -ismus
  • -ant
  • -ist

More typical masculine

  • -ich
  • -ing
  • -ling
  • -or
  • -us
  • -ast
  • -est (double check)

Feminine

  • -e
  • -heit/keit
  • -schaft
  • -ung (there's one exception I know to this ending, and that's der Stimmungsumschwung)
  • -ion
  • -ik

More typical feminine endings

  • -a (a lot of confusion with "ma")
  • -age
  • -anz
  • -el
  • -enz
  • -tät
  • -ur

Neuter

  • -chen
  • -lein
  • -um
  • -ium

More typical neuter endings

  • -at
  • -ett
  • -icht
  • -ma (causes confusion with "a")
  • -nis
  • -sal
  • -tal
  • -tel
  • -tum

It's easier if you know an example for each one.

Align them out under "der" "die" and "das" respectively, and then go through the endings so that you can recall an example for each one.

Then mix them up, and put them under the correct category. Keep doing this until you get all of them correct.

Find some written practice exercises online if you can.

There are irregulars in the more typical endings, so go online and find a game which will help teach you the most common ones.

Here's the examples I used.

  • der Konig
  • der Sportler
  • der Terrorismus
  • der Elefant
  • der Terrorist

  • (can't remember one for "-ich")

  • der Frühling
  • der Frühling
  • der Direktor
  • der Bus
  • der Palast
  • (I think I remember "-est" being mentioned, but double check. Can't remember any examples to confirm.)

  • die Karte

  • die Gesundheit/die Möglichkeit
  • die Freundschaft
  • die Bewegung (with that one exception)
  • die Lektion
  • die Musik

  • die Firma

  • die Etage
  • (can't think of one for "enz")
  • die Etiquette
  • die Realität
  • die Tur

  • das Brotchen/das Mädchen

  • das Fräulein
  • das Forum
  • das Stipendium
  • das Gesicht (though if it has an "-e" feminine, it usually takes priority, I think)

  • das Diktat

  • das Bett
  • das Licht
  • das Thema (confused with "a" of feminine)
  • das Ergebnis
  • das Schicksal
  • das Tal
  • das Mittel
  • das Eigentum

.

.

. P.S. Learn how to do this first before going onto plurals, don't try to simultaneously do both.

Now, to form plurals.

To form "der" plurals (the hardest gender), add an umlaut (ä, ö, ü), and an "-e".

  • der Ball --> die Bälle

2nd way is to just add an "-e"

  • der Film --> die Filme
  • der Hund --> die Hunde (no umlaut)

3rd way is to just add an umlaut

  • der Apfel --> die Äpfel
  • der Bruder --> die Brüder
  • der Garten --> die Gärten

Or no change.

  • der Lehrer --> die Lehrer (all the examples I see of this seem to be e.g. a teacher, butcher, runner waiter, Englishman etc.)

"die" feminine words a lot easier :) usually '-n' or '-en'

  • die Tasse --> die Tassen
  • die zeitung --> die Zeitungen

"-in" on teacher, schoolgirl etc. simply becomes "-innen"

  • die Lehrerin --> die Lehrerinnen
  • die Schülerin --> die Schülerinnen

A few "die" words add an "-e"

  • die Stadt --> die Städte
  • die Kuh --> die Kühe

"das" words either add an "-er", and an umlaut if possible

  • das Kind --> die Kinder
  • das Buch --> die Bücher

or add an "-s" (Generally loan words, I think)

  • das Auto --> die Autos ('Auto' used in many languages.)
  • das Hotel --> die Hotels

or an "-e"

  • das Jahr --> die Jahre
  • das Haustier --> die Haustiere

This took over an hour to write (70 minutes I think), so I hope it was useful.

It's a bit messy, as I never preplanned the structure to it.

Go through it bit by bit, making notes, slowly working your way through it like a booklet as it probably looks really daunting. Also very helpful if you had someone to test you.

Make some nice summaries, as this can be summarised to remember better. perhaps on the back of the cards/pieces of paper put the example.

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P.S. I know this isn't the entirety of declensions in nouns, but it's something. I'm nothing of an expert either (only recently started A2), so people correct me if I'm wrong, please.

  • as for missing examples: der Estrich, der Rest/Test, die Dekadenz – Philip Klöcking Oct 16 '15 at 0:17
  • It's "der König" and "das Brötchen". – Roland Oct 16 '15 at 12:18
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The first rule of language learning is: Don’t strive for perfection! Nobody cares when foreigners make mistakes in the border and exception cases. They will automatically learn to handle these with actual practice – and only with actual practice.

That’s why I’ll provide some simple facts and some rules of thumb.

Facts

  • No feminine word has any singular inflection.
  • Masculine and neuter words decline the same way.
    They do have some singular inflection.
  • The nominative form is always the shortest one and
    it is always at least as simple in singular as in plural.
  • If you know a word has N genitive, it also has N plural.
  • If you know a masculine or neuter word has anything but N plural, it has S genitive.
  • With R and feminine E plural, the stem has an umlaut if possible (a, o, u).
  • Umlaut is also possible in other E plurals and in all null plurals, but nowhere else (S, N).
  • In compounds and derived substantives, the right-most part determines the inflection (and gender). Learn your derivative suffixes!
  • The kinship marker -ter/-der has null plural with umlaut regardless of gender.
  • Proper nouns, i.e. names, use S genitive,
    but if they already end in an S sound or letter, it gets replaced by an apostrophe.
  • N, S and foreign vowel plurals (ending in anything but E) do not inflect any further,
    all others add an n in dative.

Rules of thumb

  • Use the respective nominative form for accusative, too.
    Also use it for dative in singular and genitive in plural.
  • For any short masculine or neuter noun, use the E plural and S genitive,
    unless you know better.
  • For a noun stem ending in -en or -em, use the null plural and S genitive.
  • For a noun stem ending in -el or -er, use the N plural if it’s feminine and
    the null plural and S genitive otherwise.
  • If the stem ends with a vowel other than E, use the S plural (without further declension).
    Replacing the vowel with N plural works about as well.
  • If in doubt, try the N plural (without further declension).
  • If in doubt, try the S singular genitive.

PS: If I have messed up one of the facts, I shall silently update this answer upon respective comments.

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All the declensions of almost any word are found in Wiktionary, if they are to be declined. As I see that you aim at a basic vocabulary, you won't need in the following pair of years a bigger data basis. Fortunately, in German, nouns are barely declined.

Example: you want to know how to decline Elefant. Then you directly search for it

 http://de.wiktionary.org/wiki/Elefant

A declension table is presented. Same for adjectives, pronouns and all words.

  • Barely declined? Cool. I found that interesting page on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_nouns#Declension_classes – Archa Jun 25 '15 at 14:16
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    Nouns are barely declined, adjectives aren't. – c.p. Jun 25 '15 at 14:20
  • I already made a table about the adjective endings. The good thing is that they generally follow the same path. – Archa Jun 25 '15 at 14:21
  • This answer doesn't address the problem described in the question (even in its first version). – TehMacDawg Jun 25 '15 at 19:00
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Take all relevent classes, then note down one word of each class in all cases, both singular and plural. Then learn it by heart. Here's a link to a table that I have created for learners of German, I hope it helps.

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    What are the relevant classes? What classes are you talking about anyway? This information would be kind of needed for this answer to be helpful. – Emanuel Aug 8 '15 at 21:28
  • I am talking about all classes. – PoohBear Aug 9 '15 at 14:03
  • What classes? Noun classes? I don't know what you're talking about and I'm sure I'm not alone. – Emanuel Aug 9 '15 at 22:31

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