"Many nouns get an -n ending in the plural, for example "die Affen", "die Studenten" and "die Russen". In most cases the -n ending applies in the nominative, accusative and dative, but some nouns only receive the -n ending in the dative, for example "die Jahre(n)". Why is this?

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    @Steve It is die Jahre, but the dative is den Jahren. – Björn Friedrich Sep 18 '18 at 8:12
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    Do I understand correctly that "Why is this?" or Why does Jahre only have the -en ending in dative plural, and -e in the other plural cases? is the main question? – Arsak Sep 18 '18 at 8:23
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    As Takkat wrote, a complete list might get too long, but maybe this overview on noun paradigms helps you for a systematic approach.It lists Topf and Monat as further examples. – Arsak Sep 18 '18 at 8:28
  • To Marzipanherz. Why does Jahre only have the -en ending in dative plural, and -e in the other plural cases? is the main question. – Steve Sep 18 '18 at 8:30
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    @BjörnFriedrich It is not complete (compare. e.g.: Herz, Hobel), yet a common (not detailed) way to denote the declension classes of German that cover the vast majority of the vocabulary. However, if done properly, one would denote the genitive -es in the various classes as -(e)s. With that, you would also see that Datum belongs to what Wikipedia refers to as "class 2" (masculines/neuters, mixed declension). – johnl Sep 18 '18 at 20:16

German nouns can be roughly divided into:

Weak nouns with plural and genitive ending with -en, example: Der Hase, plural die Hasen, genitive des Hasen.

Strong nouns with other nominative plural endings (such as -e or -er, sometimes with umlaut) and a genitive usually ending with -es or -s, example: Der Tag, plural die Tage, genitive des Tages.

There are also mixed cases, for example das Herz, plural die Herzen, but genitive des Herzens.

In all cases the dative plural ends with -en (or -n).

These forms have their origin in the declension classes of Old High German which originate in Germanic declension classes which in turn originate in Indo-European classes. The strong declension emerged out of vocalic declensions and the weak declension emerged out of the consonantic declension which in turn have their origin in the Indo-European thematic and athematic stems.

A good German dictionary contains the genitive and plural ending of each noun, which is generally sufficient to derive all forms.

A list of all weak or strong nouns would be very large and of little practical value, so I would advise to consult a dictionary and look at the genitive and plural endings supplied.

  • Thank you, but this doesn't explan why "die Jahre" becomes "den Jahren" in the dative, which is what I am asking. – Steve Sep 18 '18 at 8:45
  • All noun classes end with -en or -n in the dative plural. I added this information. The other cases have different endings, the reason for which I tried to explain in the answer. – RHa Sep 18 '18 at 8:51
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    It does explain that, by pointing out to you that this comes with the declension type of Jahr (which needs to be learned). (About 90% of masculine one-syllable nouns in German are of the Jahr declension type.) – johnl Sep 18 '18 at 8:52
  • Could you add an example of a vocalic and a consonantic declension, and possibly also Indoeuropean thematic and athematic stems? – Christian Geiselmann Sep 18 '18 at 13:14

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