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I am really new to German and need a simple explanation for what goes in the blank.

Unser [form of best] Lehrer.

I'm not sure whether it should be "Unser bester Lehrer" or "Unser beste Lehrer". Could someone please explain which it is, and in layman's terms? I know about adjective endings, but I was told the correct answer is "bester".

Is it also then "Der bester Lehrer"? Thanks!

Just FYI, I searched, and I can't find anything that has some sort of article in front of the superlative, so that I why I am asking here.

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Best/e/r, the superlative form of gut, is treated like other regular adjectives (alt, grün, schön, schlau, ungewöhnlich, karzinogen, etc.)

Here are all possible forms for best/e/r - always in Nominativ, Genitiv, Dativ, Akkusativ:

1) Bestimmter Artikel

Singular

  • Der beste Lehrer (bekommt einen Schnaps)
  • Des besten Lehrers (Worte bleiben in Erinnerung)
  • Dem besten Lehrer (gönnen wir eine Pause)
  • Den besten Lehrer (mögen wir am meisten)

Plural

  • Die besten Lehrer (bekommen einen Schnaps)
  • Der besten Lehrer (Worte bleiben in Erinnerung)
  • Den besten Lehrern (gönnen wir eine Pause)
  • Die besten Lehrer (mögen wir am meisten)

2) Unbestimmter Artikel

Singular

  • Ein bester Lehrer (ist stets allein)
  • Eines besten Lehrers (Schüler lernen am meisten)
  • Einem besten Lehrer (trauen wir das meiste zu)
  • Einen besten Lehrer (möchte jeder gerne haben)

Plural

  • Einige beste Lehrer (unterschreiben eine Petition)
  • Einiger bester Lehrer (Schüler unterschreiben auch)
  • Einigen besten Lehrern (hört das Kultusministerium vielleicht zu)
  • Einige beste Lehrer (gehen in den Ruhestand)

3) Ohne Artikel (kommt selten vor, am ehesten in Poesie)

Singular

  • Bester Lehrer
  • Besten Lehrers
  • Bestem Lehrer
  • Besten Lehrer

Plural

  • Beste Lehrer
  • Bester Lehrer
  • Besten Lehrern
  • Beste Lehrer

4) Mit Possesivpronomen (note that adjective endings are the same as with unbestimmtem Artikel)

Singular

  • Unser bester Lehrer
  • Unseres besten Lehrers
  • Unserem besten Lehrer
  • Unseren besten Lehrer

Plural

  • Unsere besten Lehrer
  • Unserer besten Lehrer
  • Unseren besten Lehrern
  • Unsere besten Lehrer

Andere Adjektive

You can replace the root best with the root of any other such adjective:

  • Der schlau-e Lehrer
  • Des schlau-en Lehreres
  • Dem schlau-en Lehrer
  • Den schlau-en Lehrer

And so on.

(Yes, the morphology is a mess. I am happy that I do not have to learn it actively. I am amazed that people are able to learn this as a second or so language. And some really do, flawlessly. Amazing!)

  • Thanks! Really helpful. So much to memorize though. :( – Jerry Qian May 12 at 14:29
  • I like the mnemonic that there are only two types of endings: the "strong endings" and the "weak endings" and you use the strong endings when the determiner doesn't have a case marker, and the weak endings otherwise. Unless I'm mistaken this rule covers everything – Denis Nardin May 12 at 14:40
  • so if it is mein/dein/euch/unser/etc, then follow the gender of the noun, and if it is der/die/das/die, then just do standard adjective endings if I understand correctly? – Jerry Qian May 13 at 2:12
  • @JerryQian That works for all cases but Accusative: _ den besten, but _die beste and das beste. But then, the forms that have -e look the same as the Nominative, so it's definitely a mnemonic that can work. – sgf May 13 at 9:21
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To keep it short and simple: The example you gave is one of the exceptions in the German language. It is an irregular adjective. Adjective endings do not really apply on this one, because it is an exception that - sadly - you have to memorize seperately. The other form of the superlative beste is used if you initiated the superlative with the article "der", which means that "Der beste Lehrer" is correct as "Unser bester Lehrer" is correct, while "Unser beste Lehrer" and "Der bester Lehrer" isn't.

Does this answer your question enough in detail? Please let me know if I should clarify something for you.

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    One could add, for clarity, that the "exception" you are mentioning is regarding the superlative, not regarding the use of morphology (= endings). Standard superlative: alt - älter - ältest, grün - grüner - grünst, but for gut it is gut - besser - best (as in English: good - better - best). - This however does not answer the question, because the question was not "Why isnt it Unser gutester Lehrer?" It was "Why is it Unser bester Leher instead of Unser beste Lehrer." – Christian Geiselmann May 12 at 9:35
  • Good addition, Christian. But there is one correction I got: You are already using another exception regarding superlatives: vowel mutation is added mostly on monosyllabic adjectives. For non native speakers its important to recognize :) As you wrote: morphology is a mess... – Runamaus May 12 at 13:34
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German adjectives endings do not only depend on case, number, and gender, but also on definiteness.

The rule of thumb is that definiteness is expressed only once in a noun phrase. If the adjective comes first in the noun phrase or if it is only preceded by an indefinite article, it takes the definite ending:

Kannst du, o bester Lehrer, uns helfen? – ‘Can you, o best teacher, help us?’

Er ist ein bester Lehrer._ – ‘He is a best teacher.’

If, however, the adjective is already preceded by a definite element such as a definite article or a demonstrative pronoun, then it takes the indefinite ending:

Er ist der beste Lehrer. – ‘He is the best teacher.’

Nur dieser beste Lehrer kann uns helfen. ‘Only this best teacher can help us.’

So much for the clear-cut cases. Unfortunately, an adjective can be preceded by words where the usage varies. After these words, either the definite ending or the indefinite ending can occur. One such group of words are the possessive pronouns that have their own definite endings (unser ‘our’ and euer ‘your’).

The adjective following such a possessive pronoun can have the indefinite ending:

Er ist unser beste Lehrer. – ‘He is our best teacher.’

But it might as well have the definite ending:

Er ist unser bester Lehrer. – ‘He is our best teacher.’

There is no difference in meaning, but the use of the indefinite ending is more old-fashioned.

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