If I get it correctly, it's lernfähig not lernenfähig, Baugesellschaft not Bauengesellschaft. It is also Kinderschuhe not Kindschuhe, Frauenparkplatz not Frauparkplatz.

Could I conclude that verbs lose the -en and that nouns are plural like in the examples above? Is this a general rule?

2 Answers 2


No, sadly the rules are somewhat less predictable.

For verbs, the infinitive ending does get omitted most of the time. But nouns may use either the singular or the plural or even a form that the isolated noun never has:

  • Gast + Haus == Gasthaus (hotel)
  • Gast + Zimmer == Gästezimmer (spare room)

(Note that if there were a logical basis to this, it would predict the opposite, since a hotel is much more likely to house more than one guest than a spare room.)

And then there are combinations like

  • Liebe + Brief = Liebesbrief (love letter)

which use an -s suffix that is neither the singular nor the plural, in fact it never occurs with the word "Liebe".

The upshot is that compounding is an irregular process that morphologically works somewhat, but not entirely, like inflection.

  • 2
    To make things even trickier, "Gästehaus" is also a totally valid and idiomatic term, but it usually does not refer to a regular hotel, but rather to a separate building meant for guests (as opposed to permanent residents of a compound). Feb 24, 2021 at 11:28
  • 1
    I think even Gastzimmer can be used for the main room in an inn or the like (cf. Gaststube). Feb 25, 2021 at 10:04

Wortbildung does rule ;-), although it's complicated.

The verb rule that you propose seems correct to me.

For nouns, there are just too many different ways and reasons of combining nouns. The most common ways are to either use the plural:

Kinderschuh, Kinderschuhe (it's not Schühe but Schuhe, although it's Kühe)

or the genitive singular, where that makes sense (relation of belonging):


Very often, when the first noun is a specifying property of the second, they are just concatenated in nominative singular form. You can probably discuss at length about why it's used this way in each of these words, but it sometimes seems quite arbitrary really.

Meerenge (Why not Meeresenge?)
Muttertag (Why not Müttertag?)
Gasthaus (a very old word. There's also the newer creation Gästehaus, with a different meaning)

There are also cases where the first part looks like a plural or other form, but it's actually not a plural but just using a "Fugenlaut" (see: Hals-Nasen-Ohren-Arzt (HNO-Arzt) vs. Hals-Nase-Ohren-Arzt oder Hälse-Nasen-Ohren Arzt)


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