We're learning about adjectival nouns in our German course, and I've studied the declension table for two general cases:

  1. Definite article (der- word) present
  2. Indefinite article (ein- word) present

What I'm having trouble with is distinguishing between the following two sentences:

  1. [Die Deutschen] sprechen Deutsch.
  2. Ich kenne [viele Deutsche].

Since Deutsche is plural, why does it not become Deutschen in the second sentence?

  • 2
    Close Voters please do take notice of the fact that we do not close to dupes in another language
    – Takkat
    Jan 31, 2019 at 8:50
  • It’s definite (die) vs indefinite (viele). It’s the same as for the adjective itself: die deutschen Biere, viele deutsche Biere. I cannot give you rules (hence no answer), your declension tables should be able to help you, or you need even more of them.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 31, 2019 at 10:13
  • @CarstenS So "viele" counts as an indefinite article? (That's not sarcastic, by the way. I'm still learning :D I was under the impression that it's not an article.) Jan 31, 2019 at 14:08
  • @AleksandrH, it’s not an article, whether it would sense to treat it as one for this discussion is something that I do not know and also are not that interested in, that part I would leave to grammarians. I am sure that the answer that you got is more reliable in that sense.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 31, 2019 at 14:58

2 Answers 2


Only articles trigger weak inflection, yet viele is an adjective.

die/alle/unsere/keine/... Deutschen (weak ending -en)

viele arbeitslose Deutsche (strong ending -e, no article present)

die vielen arbeitlosen Deutschen (weak ending -en)

For further details, refer to my answer to this question.

  • So really, the two categories are "definite article present" and "definite article absent", not "indefinite article present" for the second one, right? Jan 31, 2019 at 13:35
  • Very close. As the first example shows, it isn't really about the definite article: all articles that have an ending (-e in this case) behave in the same way. In the singular, Guter Vorschlag! and Ein guter Vorschlag! both show -er because for the adjective, it makes no difference whether there is no article (first example) or an article without an ending (ein in the second example; could also be mein, kein).
    – David Vogt
    Jan 31, 2019 at 13:41
  • Oh, so the adjectival nouns just follow the three-scenario rules for normal adjectives: 1) weak if definite article present, 2) strong if no article at all, 3) mixed if indefinite article or ein- word (like a possessive)? That seems to be the case, at least. Thanks again for your help. Jan 31, 2019 at 14:03

Ok, no 100% guarantee that my answer is correct, but i think this is a very special case: The difference is "[Die Deutschen] sprechen Deutsch." means "the Germans are speaking German" while "Ich kenne [viele Deutsche]." means "i know may German people".
While "die Deutschen" is a standard noun, Deutsche is (I don't know the english term for it) an adjektiv turned into a noun. But this is an exception. It only applies to "German"/"Deutsche".
And it happens because ot the 'sch' in "deutsch". this leads to this strange case. e.g. Russians would be "Die Russen" and "viele Russische" or "viele Russen". Hope i could help.

  • It’s perfectly normal for a nominalised adjective: die Kleinen, viele Kleine.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 31, 2019 at 9:51
  • 1
    It actually is a standard noun :) See also here: wortwuchs.net/standart-standard Jan 31, 2019 at 12:42
  • ah, snap. I'm always doing that mistake. Why can't i learn from them? x.x
    – miep
    Jan 31, 2019 at 12:53

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