I often encounter nouns that I do not find in dictionaries, mostly compound nouns. Can I combine any noun, adjective, verb, adverb, etc., to another noun to form an accepted noun in German? For example, can I form:

  • Autosgeschäft, Autosfan, Autoreifen... etc.
  • Schlangeangst/Schlangenangst?!, Spinnenangst... etc.

If the answer is yes, then what is the difference in meaning between 'Autosgeschäft' and 'Geschäft der Autos' or 'Geschäft von Autos'?

Should I worry about using my own compound nouns? Would it not be odd to a native speaker?

5 Answers 5


In German, you are encouraged to invent new compound words. People do it all the time. Sometimes it's snappy enough to make it through the rows of your friends and eventually become widespread enough to make it into dictionaries. And eventually, it's forgotten again.

It's often said the Fugenlaut is unpredictable. That's true only to some extent, just use the same pattern you know from an existing combined word with the same combination of phonemes at the joint.

Native speakers don't learn those patterns apart from everything else, they simply learn the vocabulary and how to use it right. You will also get better at this as your vocabulary grows.

  • 1
    A personal opinion: Those Fugenlaute show how much the language (any language?) is meant to be "sung", with anything, the smooth parts as well as the parts you topple over, placed by purpose. Don't make people topple at the wrong places.
    – Janka
    Sep 1, 2018 at 19:27
  • Thanks a lot, that was a very helpful advice. I guess I will do just as you have suggested. I will try and predict the linking element based on the vocabulary I already know. Before I posted this question I was very afraid of making my own new words, but since you've said that 'I am encouraged to do so', then it is a whole new story and a new way looking into this issue. 🌹
    – user34137
    Sep 1, 2018 at 19:54
  • 1
    If people laugh about a new compound, that's usually a good thing. It means the new word rings a bell. It's snappy.
    – Janka
    Sep 1, 2018 at 20:07

Ja, man kann jedes Hauptwort mit anderen kombinieren und tut das auch.

  • Autosgeschäft, Autosfan, Autoreifen... etc.

Das muss aber, wie im letzten Beispiel, jeweils ohne s gebildet werden, also Autogeschäft, Autofan.

  • Schlangeangst/Schlangenangst?!, Spinnenangst... etc.

Hier jedoch mit n, also Schlangenangst. Beachte: In einem Buch über die Psychologie der Schlangen könnte es auch die Angst der Schlangen, nicht die vor Schlangen bezeichnen. Das ergibt sich aus dem Kontext. Bei vielen etablierten Begriffen wird man sich aber um Eindeutigkeit nur bemühen, wenn man die ungewohnte Bedeutung meint.

What is the difference in meaning between 'Autosgeschäft' and 'Geschäft der Autos' or 'Geschäft von Autos'?

Autos betreiben keine Geschäfte, deswegen wird man weder das zweite, noch das dritte sagen. Man kann aber ein Geschäft mit Autos betreiben. Einen Bedeutungsunterschied macht das, zu Autogeschäft, nicht.

  • Thank you a lot, I really appreciate it. Apart from the linking element between the two parts of the compound noun, a question came to my mind, should the first part of the compund noun be in plural or in singular for example, is 'Autosfan' where I used 'Autos' in plural (fan of cars) considered always wrong? Can't I use 'ein Geschäft von Autos/ein Geschäft der Autos' to mean ' a shop for selling/trading cars'?
    – user34137
    Sep 1, 2018 at 15:37
  • The easy part first: No, as already written, "Ein Geschäft der Fugger/der Medici" oder "ein Geschäft von Landwirten/von Waffenschiebern" kann man sagen. Das ist der Genitiv: Wessen Geschäft? Wieso es mal Plural ist (Katzenfutter), mal Einzahl (Babynahrung) kann ich nicht beantworten. Bei Säften habe ich mal gelernt, dass das N in Orangensaft kein Plural-N sei, sondern ein Fugenlaut, um es besser sprechbar zu machen (siehe Apfelsaft, nicht Äpfelsaft) aber dafür entspricht es für meinen Geschmack zu oft dem Plural (Hundefutter). Ich fürchte es gibt keine Regel. Sep 1, 2018 at 15:57
  • Thank you very much. One last question regarding your comment. I have read in a grammer book that the 'Fugenelemente' is used approximately only in one third of the compound nouns and it's unpredictable. As a non-native speaker, would it not be odd when I use compound nouns without the linking element or with a wrong one in my own 'invented' compound nouns, what do you recommend me to do?
    – user34137
    Sep 1, 2018 at 16:15
  • Practise, try and encourage your speaking partners to correct you. For written texts, you can look words up. Chances are good that somebody else used them before. Sep 1, 2018 at 18:03
  • 2
    Jaja, die Bedeutung... Schokokekse vs. Hundekekse und der Klassiker Putendöner/Rinderdöner/Schülerdöner.
    – Stephie
    Sep 2, 2018 at 10:25

Yes. As long, as the compound word makes any sense in the context of the sentence that contains it, everything is allowed.

Many established compound words have specific meanings, that du no longer depend just to the context only. For example:

Gasthaus - Gästehaus

Both words are built fron the same components (guest + house), but have different meanings.

About the Fugenlaut

Someone said in his answer, that the letters, that you use to fill in between the components of a compound word would be unpredictable. This is not true. There are rules, but they are complicated, have lots of exceptions and often vary across different regions:

North of Germany:

Adventskalender, Schweinebraten


Adventkalender, Schweinsbraten


You asked about the difference between *»Autogeschäft«, »Geschäft der Autos« and »Geschäft von Autos«?

The answer is: Only »Autogeschäft« exists, the other two are not used. I explain you why with some different expressions:

  • Autogeschäft
    This is a shop where you can buy cars.
  • Geschäft der Müllers
    This is a shop owned by some people who's name is Müller. Mr. and Mrs. Müller are owner of this shop. So, »Geschäft der Autos« would mean, that Mr. and Mrs. Auto own a shop. (And there they sell vegetables, or books, or what ever they have in their shop.)
  • Geschäft von Jürgen
    Same as before. Jürgen is the owner of the shop.

German native speakers invent new compound words all the time. Do't worry about it.

  • Thanks a lot 🌹. This clears many things up. But still I have two questions. 1. I have read some rules about predicting the linking element, but in the end they are full of exceptions and can't be relied on. They are similar to the rules about predicting the gender of nouns, although there are a whole bunch of them, but they are never complete. Are these rules you talked about act the same, not complete?
    – user34137
    Sep 3, 2018 at 13:38
  • 2. When I have read about the genitive, it is not used only for possession or owning. It's used in expressions like: die Ansicht vieler Politiker, der Bau moderner Kraftwerke, die Zerstörung Dresdens.. so that is why I though Geschäft der Autos might be possible as well.
    – user34137
    Sep 3, 2018 at 13:41
  • 2
    Maybe as an addition: Geschäft für Autos would mean the same as Autogeschäft, even though für could also suggest an intended target audience. Sep 3, 2018 at 15:51
  • 1
    1. What do you mean with »not complete«? Read this article: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugenlaut it contains lots of references to more elaborate documents. 2. Maybe it could be possible, but we say »Autogeschäft« instead. Sep 3, 2018 at 15:53

The formation of nominal compounds is productive in German. But (as others have said) the use or non-use of a "Fugenlaut" is not predictable. You say "Rathaus" but "Ratskeller". Does that have any logic? I think not.

  • Yes, I think it is by instinct to German native speakers to get this added sound correctly, as for us non-native speakers :( May god help us!
    – user34137
    Sep 3, 2018 at 13:03
  • 1
    I don't think it's that unpredictable, or else lacking or surplus Fugenlaute wouldn't sound odd. to a native speaker. I think it's somewjat predictable within the current language style (e.g. I'd almost invariably favour Rats for compounds with Rat), and apparent counterexamples are usually leftovers from times when other language styles were prevalent that have become common and are rather not intuitively thought of as compounds anymore. Sep 3, 2018 at 15:48

Ich kann dir hier die gute Nachricht geben, dass das Deutsche vollkommen frei ist von jeglicher


Du kannst Substantive beliebig aneinanderreihen. Dabei solltest du lediglich die leider ziemlich komplexen


anwenden. Und natürlich besteht, wenn du es übertreibst, eine gewisse


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.