8

I'm wondering what the correct pluralisation of English abbreviations (or other words) is in written German. I heard there is a lot of fun going on with words that have an added 's to make it plural because this seems to be a no-go (?)

In this case I'm particularly interested in the German plural form for:

API

SDK

knowing that these are English abbreviations for Application Programming Interface and Software Development Kit. But it seems that these are used (in computer science) as well in German documents.

But what is the plural of these? Is it API's or APIs (and SDKs or SDK's) ?

  • It's not been mentioned so far in the answers: The plural-s in abbreviations in German is entirely optional (as typically the abbreviation is built from initials and doesn't take endings into account). In most cases, the article will make it clear what is meant: "der PKW" - "diePKW". So it's entirely acceptable to simply omit the plural-s: "das API/die API", "das SDK/die SDK") if it's clear from the context whether you are talking of one or more of them. – tofro Jul 24 '17 at 8:14
  • Also note that abbreviations ending on "s" or any other sibilant will never receive a plural-s in German: "das/die PS", "der/die Citroen DS" – tofro Jul 24 '17 at 8:21
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    This is, for that matter, a no-go in english as well. For the plural it is "APIs" and not "API's". Greengrocer's apostrophes exist in English as much as in German, it feels to me. – Cornelius Jul 24 '17 at 12:02
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    @tofro Speaking from personal experience as a software developer, I disagree. Omitting the plural s is not acceptable at all. I’ve never seen it used like that anywhere and it simply sounds wrong. It is always – like in the accepted answer – »die APIs« and »die SDKs«. – besc Jul 24 '17 at 15:47
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    @tofro OK, you’re right. “Wrong” was probably too strong a word. Call it “extremely unusual” then. It’s still a far cry from “entirely acceptable”. You will take readers by surprise when you omit the plural s. – besc Jul 24 '17 at 17:39
15

In both English and German a simple -s will suffice:

APIs

SDKs

German is much stricter on this; 's must never be used for plurals.

  • 1
    Nonetheless you will see 's often ("Deppenapostroph"). On shop signs it is de facto more the rule than the exception. – RHa Jul 23 '17 at 22:10
  • @RHa: Das ist wohl etwas übertrieben, obwohl man es schon manchmal sieht. – Rudy Velthuis Jul 24 '17 at 0:44
  • German is not stricter, it is just different. English has very strict rules for building the plural too. Apostrohe-s is only used in certain special cases of plural. – Rudy Velthuis Jul 24 '17 at 0:46
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    @RudyVelthuis those cases in English are mostly (numbers, abbreviations, symbols) debatable, leaving very few plurals indeed that require an apostrophe. I don't think I've ever used one except in examples (wikipedia has a list including some of the debatable ones). – Chris H Jul 24 '17 at 8:26
  • Some think it is debatable, other see this a little differently. Anyway, what I meant is that German is not stricter, just different, in this respect. – Rudy Velthuis Jul 24 '17 at 11:31
11

According to the Duden we usually append an 's' for the plural form of such abbreviations, but you can also use the same form for singular and plural (in particular when it is not a feminine abbreviation, hence singular and plural can be distinguished by the article; but still the form with 's' is more common):

Bei Abkürzungen, die auch als solche gesprochen werden, ist im Plural die Beugung häufiger.

die Lkws, seltener: die Lkw (weil im Singular: der Lkw)
die MGs, seltener: die MG

Das gilt vor allem bei weiblichen Abkürzungen, weil bei ihnen der Artikel im Singular und Plural gleich lautet.

die GmbHs, selten: die GmbH (weil der Singular gleich lautet: die GmbH)

So it is die APIs or (less common) die API, and die SDK(s) respectively.

Do not use an apostrophe, because there is nothing left out.

  • Ich finde Plurale von deutschen Abkürzungen mit 's' nicht gut (auch wenn sie zugegebenermaßen sehr etabliert sind). LKWs und MGs würden dann nämlich Lastkraftwagens und Maschinengewehrs heißen. Aber ich schätze diese Inkonsistenz muss bleiben, da die Singularform mit gleichzeitiger Pluralbedeutung zu Verwirrung führt. – Ian Jul 24 '17 at 7:25
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    Allerdings sind diese Art Abkuerzungen eigenstaendige Begriffe geworden; aehnlich wie es mit LASER und RADAR auch passiert ist. Beide sind Abkuerzungen fuer einen Effekt (Lichtverstaerkung durch stimulierte Strahlungsemission, und Funkwellen-Detektion und Entfernungsbestimmung), werden aber verbatim fuer Geraetschaften verwendet. Hut ab, wenn du Kohaerentlichtgenerator oder RADAR-Anlage sagst (oder eben MGe schreibst); aber ich denke, dass sich "ein paar Laser" und eben auch "ein dutzend LKWs" als praktikabler erwiesen haben. – Cornelius Jul 24 '17 at 12:00

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