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I am having a terrible time understanding an area of declensions for adjectives. Let me see if I can explain it:


First let 's review the indefinite article.

Masculine: Ein Hund
Femenine : Eine Katze
Neuter   : Ein Kaninchen
Plural   : Vögel

As I was taught, the plural in this case uses no article at all, right?


Second, Let's see declensions for adjectives. It depends on what kind of articles they are using:

This is the declension with the Indefinite article (ein, eine..), possesive articles (meine, deine...) and negative articles (keine).

enter image description here

In this table it uses the possessive as example, but it would be the same for the indefinite, something like:

╔═════╦══════════════════╦═══════════════════╦═══════════════════════╦═══════════════╗
║     ║ Masc             ║ Fem               ║ Neuter                ║ Plural        ║
╠═════╬══════════════════╬═══════════════════╬═══════════════════════╬═══════════════╣
║ Nom ║ ein kleiner Hund ║ eine kleine Katze ║ ein kleines Kaninchen ║ kleinen Vögel ║
╚═════╩══════════════════╩═══════════════════╩═══════════════════════╩═══════════════╝

The only difference with the possessive is that there is not indefinite article in plural.


Third. Let's see the declensions for adjectives without article. (This in itself is already confusing, because as I just said, the indefinite article has cases where it has no article at all)

enter image description here

Here we see that the plural uses "warme Brötchen", but if we recall the table of the indefinite article, the plural did not use any article as well, but the ending of the adjective was -en.


So my question is, if I have a plural in nominative with no article, which ending should I use? -en or -e?

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Kleinen Vögel in your second table is incorrect. The adjective shouldn't be treated as though the (non-existent) plural form of the indefinite article were still in front of it but somehow invisible, even if the noun that you're changing to the plural originally included an article.

If there's no article or other determiner in front of the plural form of the noun, the adjective ends in e, as shown in your third table.

ein kleiner Vogel -> kleine Vögel

mein kleiner Vogel -> meine kleinen Vögel

der kleine Vogel -> die kleinen Vögel

  • If I understood correctly, what you mean is, even though Table 2 says "Indefinite & possessive article", the column for the plural does not apply in the case of the indefinite article. That in that case, it should be used the "no article" table. Right? – Enrique Moreno Tent Aug 13 '17 at 19:34
  • @EnriqueMorenoTent. Yes, that's right. There's no plural form for the indefinite article, so if you change ein kleiner Vogel to the plural, there's no longer a determiner in front of the noun, because the form just doesn't exist, and you must therefore switch over to the 'No article' table. – cnread Aug 13 '17 at 20:15
  • I see. I always thought that the plural form of indefinite article was "no article", but I didnÄt realize that I would have to jump to the other table. Kinda confusing, the way it is usually explained... Thanks, mate – Enrique Moreno Tent Aug 13 '17 at 20:48
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I fiddled out the source of your tables and found them entirely correct. In contrary, the text table you posted is wrong in nominative plural.

The fundamental adjective declension table is this one:

      m    f    n    p
Nom  -e   -e   -e   -en
Gen  -en  -en  -en  -en
Acc  -en  -e   -e   -en
Dat  -en  -en  -en  -en

So genitive and dative are super-simple, as plural. You only have to remember the five exceptions.

But WHEN DOES THIS TABLE APPLY? I think this is the problem you are facing. The answer is simple: This table applies as soon you have put the proper case ending ("the hard ending" in the tutorial linked above) on another connected word. For example an article. Or a pronoun. When you cannot put it there, you have to put it to the adjective and forget about the special adjective declension table.

Vögel fliegen.

Kleine Vögel fliegen. (proper nominative plural case ending)

Meine kleinen Vögel fliegen. (proper nominative plural case ending on meine, adjective ending on klein.)

Eine schwarze Katze kommt auf ihn zu. (nominative)

Die Augen der schwarzen Katze funkeln. (genitive)

Er begegnet einer schwarzen Katze. (dative)

Er sieht eine schwarze Katze. (accusative)


There is one exception, though: if you have a collation of adjectives, they either all take the proper case ending or all the special adjective ending.

Es ist ein großer brauner Hund entlaufen.

Es ist ein großer braune Hund entlaufen.

Der große braune Hund ist entlaufen.

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    This does not answer my question. We do not have to even go to Accusative, Dative nor Genitive. My question is "why is there 2 different answer to the plural of the Indefinite Article in nominative"? In the Table 2 we see "meine kleinen Vögel". If this table is meant for the Indefinite Article as well, the only conclusion I can take is that the plural from "ein Kleiner Vogel" is "Kleinen Vögel". But on table 3 that is contradicted. – Enrique Moreno Tent Aug 13 '17 at 18:04
  • You confuse yourself with "definite article" vs "indefinite article". This whole thing isn't about articles at all. It's about the need to put the proper case ending somewhere. First, you have to address that need. And after that, if there's still an adjective left without ending, you have to put the special adjective ending to it. That's all. – Janka Aug 13 '17 at 19:24
  • It's kleine Vögel, because the e happens to be the proper case ending for nominative plural. And it's die kleinen Vögel because die already indicates nominative plural, so the adjective can take the special adjective ending. – Janka Aug 13 '17 at 19:28

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