I understand that the correct declension of an adjective without article follows the strong declension (starke Deklination) - here with a masculine substantive:

N. kalter Rauch
G. kalten Rauchs
D. kaltem Rauch
A. kalten Rauch

The only case that does not follow the strong declension is in genitive masculine (or neuter), and I was told the reason is that the substantive Rauchs shows the case mark -s.

What is the correct adjective flexion however when the attribute of an n-declined noun is in genitive? They do not have the final -s. So is it:

nettes Prinzen


netten Prinzen

Thanks a lot.

  • Jonathan: thanks. So the justification which is to say that the substantive shows the genitive case is not technically right, but is generally used because it covers 99% of masculine and neutral nouns, correct?
    – Zebulon
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 15:18
  • Well, imho it is not very well-defined speech to say: "The reason of the grammatical phenomenon A is the grammatical phenomenon B", I would understand such a sentence more like "There is the grammatical phenomenon A, and it is probably somehow related to B". And if you read the sentence like this, it is still true with some exceptions.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 15:28

1 Answer 1


In modern German, the endings of articles (pronominale Flexion: dies-er, -en, -em, -es) are no longer identical to the strong endings of adjectives (alt-er, en, -em, -en). As you pointed out, in the genitive singular masculine and neuter, -es has been replaced by -en.

In 19th century texts, you will find forms such as gutes Mutes sein, where the strong adjective ending corresponds to the ending of the article.

Conversely, there are contemporary examples where the article shows -en instead of -es:

allen Ernstes

Anfang diesen Jahres

The first example is a fixed expression. The supposedly correct alles Ernstes is much less common. The second example occurs quite frequently, but has been subject to criticism; dieses Jahres is the form preferred by editors and sticklers.

As jonathan.scholbach said in a comment he seems to have deleted: the adjective ending is independent of the ending of the noun. Therefore, it does not matter whether the noun has the ending -s, -n or -∅. The rule you have been given is, at best, a mnemonic aid.

  • You mean both forms are correct in the genitive nettes/netten Prinzen? Which one is more commonly used in everyday speech and in writing?
    – Abdullah
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 10:56
  • Since netten is an adjective, -en and nothing else is correct in contemporary German, spoken or written. The alternation between -es and -en in contemporary German concerns articles, not adjectives. One additional problem is that forms such as netten Prinzen (genitive), without an article, do simply not occur. It will always be des/eines/unseres/jedes/... netten Prinzen, where netten has a weak ending.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 11:03
  • Very interesting David, thank you very much for your explanation. About your previous comment, you can find some examples of genitive without article, such as in: "Vincent Price spielte eine Art verrückten Wissenschaftlers." You could then use a n-declined word here: "Indiana Jones ist eine Art abenteuerlustigen Archäologen".
    – Zebulon
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 8:31
  • I don't think native speakers would accept your second example. They would use the nominative (which is competing with the genitive in these constructions anyway) or von + dative.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 11:22

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