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How do you determine which connector (if any) to use when building compound words?

For example, is history homework:

Geschichtehausaufgaben
Geschichtenhausaufgaben
Geschichteenhausaufgaben
Geschichtshausaufgaben
Geschichteshausaufgaben
Geschichteehausaufgaben

How can you determine which one to use, especially in words which you would probably not be able to find on the internet due to their obscurity (i.e two nouns that don't usually go together)?

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I don't agree with Janka's answer. You can't just pick any Fugenlaut that sounds good to you. In most cases there is only one correct version. In the case of Geschichte and Hausaufgaben it is true that there are two possibilities:

Geschichtehausaufgaben

and

Geschichtshausaufgaben

as mentioned by Janka. I have heard both. Personally, I prefer the latter. Also when you google Geschichtehausaufgaben it asks: "Did you mean Geschichtshausaufgaben."

But as I said, in most cases there is one possibility only. Haus (house) and Tür (door) can only be connected as Haustür (front door) although Hausetür or Hausentür are easy to pronounce as well. Steichenholz would even be easier to say than the correct form Streichholz (match) (the one to make fire) (compound of streichen - to strike and Holz - wood). But only the latter is correct.

Unfortunately, I'm not firm enough in grammar to tell you what rules apply or if there are any at all. But I am pretty sure that it is determined by the first word. If I think about a word, I have a clear preference how to connect it with another word even if I haven't thought about a second word or when the resulting word would be complete nonsense. E.g. if I want to build a word with Tisch (table) in front, I already know that I will use the Nullfuge no matter what the second word will be.

On the German Wikipedia page to Fugenlaut it is stated that two studies have shown that the Nullfuge is used in over 70% of all examined words. So if you're not sure what to use, the Nullfuge should be a good guess.

  • As I had put it: As a non-native speaker, you have to make a lucky guess. – Janka Oct 16 '19 at 21:25
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It's either

Geschichtehausaufgaben (Nullfuge)

or, also common

Geschichtshausaufgaben (s-Fuge)

The only other option from your list which isn't a tongue-twister is

Geschichtenhausaufgaben (n-Fuge)

But Geschichten are stories, not history, so you cannot use that variant.

Dialects may even use

Geschichtlhausaufgaben

for story writing homework.


How do you select the correct Fugenlaut? There isn't correct and incorrect here, just variants that are hard to pronounce (especially the Nullfuge may be hard to pronounce) and variants that create ambiguity. And variants that are common in your dialect and those which aren't.

As a non-native speaker, you have to make a lucky guess.

  • So you can use whichever one you like, so long as it doesn't have an alternate meaning and sounds normal? – lolad Oct 10 '19 at 19:39
  • Yes. As long you can pronounce it easily. German has enough tongue-twisters already. – Janka Oct 10 '19 at 19:39

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