In the hangout nthuleen provides about adjective declensions, it says that

enter image description here

But in the worksheet, question A.4, it says

Im Gasthof Luitpold gibt es originelle Musik (f).

To my understanding, the adjectives that fall into the category 1 (i.e when we answer NO to the question 1), we need to use the declensions of a masculine noun in nominative/accusative/dative/genitive position. In this case, Musik is in accusative - since it is a direct object - so originell should get ending -en, but instead it gets -e in the answer sheet - which is in fact the word-ending of a feminine word in the same position.

What is going on here?

  • What exactly is a "der-word"?
    – DonHolgo
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 20:47
  • @DonHolgo I suppose it refers to a masculine noun
    – Our
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 21:11
  • 2
    It seems that the wanted “der-word” here is “diese”.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 21:42
  • 1
    @DonHolgo: "Der" and "ein" words are names given to help learners understand German declension. A "der word" is a word which declines like "der", so "der" itself and "dieser", "welcher", "aller", etc. An "ein word" is a word which declines like "ein", so "ein" itself, possessive pronouns like "mein", also "kein". Adjectives have "weak" declension after der words, "mixed" after ein words, and "strong" if there are no such words are in front of it. (This does not include predicate adjectives.) You need to understand what these terms mean before you can follow nthuleen's method.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 22:55
  • 1
    Please do not post text as a picture. Some handicapped people can't read text from a screen, they use programs that read the text aloud so they don't read it with their eyes, but they hear it with their ears. And this will not work when there is no text but a picture. Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 6:26

4 Answers 4


First, native German speakers have no clue how difficult declining adjectives is for learners. (Mark Twain, who was a serious student of German, said "Now let the candidate for the asylum try to memorize those variations, and see how soon he will be elected.") So nthuleen's approach to teaching it is to use a kind of flowchart. Her flowchart isn't the only one possible, so you'll have to forgive me if my logic doesn't match hers 100%.

The three pieces of information you need are 1) What type of word precedes the adjectives, 2) the case, 3) the gender and number of the following noun. In this case the word in front of the adjective is es and this is not part of the phrase. So the answer to 1) is there is nothing in front of the adjective. This means you use what is called the "strong" declension. The "strong" declension pattern has, with two annoying exceptions, the same endings as the declined versions of der. From the case (accusative) and the Gender (female), you get die Musik so the adjective gets the same ending as die, in other words it gets a -e ending.

Note, the "decline strong like der" rule does not work in the genitive case for masculine and neuter nouns, and the last I checked nthuleen's flowchart did not account for this. The form of der you'd use is des, but the adjective ending is -en. For example Das Aroma frischen Heus ist entspannend. The strong genitive combination is not very common, so I'm not sure if many speakers would find Das Aroma frisches Heus ist entspannend a noticeable error. I do remember hearing though that the -en ending in this case is a relatively recent change.

  • I can't imagine parsing das Aroma frisches Heus as unnoticably correct. Maybe this can happen to speakers who have very little contact with written language (old rural dialect speakers), but never an average educated person, I'd say. Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 8:11
  • @phipsgabler: That's good to know. It's hard to make up a natural sounding example, so I've wondered how often the combination even comes up.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 13:02

"Orginelle Musik" is akkusative form. Maybe you mixed up the endings of a male word with those of a female? The image you paste has the neuter and male versions for examples (das Bier, der Kaffee).

definitive / indefinitive form Nom.: die orginelle Musik / orginelle Musik Gen.: der orginellen Musik / orgineller Musik Dat.: der orginellen Musik / orgineller Musik Akk.: die orginelle Musik / orginelle Musik Please mind I use the order of cases as I got taught in school. There usually is no plural form of 'Musik'.
  • But the rule says that in the case where the noun has no article, you would use the word-ending of a der-word, meaning that the actual gender of the word that is being modified is irrelevant.
    – Our
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 20:40
  • Not sure which rules you learn(t). Declension of male and female words is different, also in the indefinitive form. e.g. see de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Deklination#Substantive Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 21:37
  • 2
    @Our no, this interpretation is wrong. The handout does not tell what a der-word is, but a demonstrative pronoun works here. For female singular it's nominative: diese, accusative: diese, dative: dieser, genitive: dieser. The same endings are used for female adjectives without an article.
    – RHa
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 21:52
  • @RHa so if I understood you correctly, I need to look at how "dies" is declined and use that declension with the adjective in question?
    – Our
    Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 18:21

If I understand what you wrote correctly, you're misinterpreting ending on a der-word. It does not mean ending of the masculine singular, but refers to the endings of determiners, e.g. dies-er, dies-es, dies-e (which doesn't work as well for the definite article itself, as the feminine form has to be interpreted as di-e). This gets you originell-e Musik as required.

In technical parlance: der is not intended to be understood as masculine, or as the word form der (which is the masculine singular form of the definite article, among others), but the lexeme der, which includes all word forms d-er, d-(a)s, di-e etc.

I think the term der-word is used because by the time learners need to acquire rules for adjective endings, they should be very familiar with the forms of the definite article. The disadvantage being minor annoyances such as das Bier, frisches Bier and die Musik, originelle Musik.


Let's use the correct names:

In German grammar we have:

  • Artikel (article)
    • bestimmter Artikel (definite article)

      der, die, das, des, dem, den

    • unbestimmter Artikel (indefinite article)

      ein, eine, eines, einer, einem, einen

This list of German articles is complete. There are just 6 defines articles (which all translate to "the" in English) and 6 undefined articles (in English: "a" or "an"). No other German word is an article.

  • Artikelwort (article word) = Determinativ (determiner)
    These are words that can be used like an article. All articles belong to this category, but also some other words which are not articles. Both terms Artikelwort and Determinativ are valid, and so are also Determinans, Determinierer, Determinator, Determinant, Determinante and Determinativum (English names: determiner or determinative), but I prefer Determinativ because Artikelwort implies too much similarity with the articles, which can lead to misunderstandings.

Ein Determinativ (a determiner) can be:

  • ein Artikel (an article) (definite and indefinite, as listed above)
  • ein Demonstrativpronomen (a demonstrative pronoun)
    • Proximaldemonstrativum (proximal demonstrative) for things nearby

      dieser, diese, dieses, diesem, diesen

    • Distaldemonstrativum (distal demonstrative) for things far away

      jener, jene, jenes, jenem, jenen

  • ein Fragedemonstrativum (interrogative demonstrative)
    • ask for identity

      welcher, welche, welches, welchem, welchen

    • ask for quality (and identity) (the complete group of 3 words behaves as one determiner)

      was für ein, was für eine, was für einer, was für einem, was für einen

    • ask for quantity or number

      wie viel, wie viele, wie vielen

    • Ask for affiliation


  • ein Possessivpronomen1 (a possessive pronoun)

    mein, meine, meines, meinem, meinen
    dein, deine, etc.
    sein, ihr, unser, euer etc.

  • ein Indefinitpronomen (indefinite pronoun)

    kein, keine, keines, keinem, keinen
    jeder, jede, jedes, jedem, jeden
    alle, aller, allen, allem
    etliche, einige, mehrere, etc.

  • sometimes (but not always) also these word behave like a determiner (they are determiners when they are used as indefinite pronouns):

    viel, viele, vieler, etc.
    wenig, wenige, weniger, etc.

1 A possessiv pronoun is only a determiner when it is used attributive:

Mein Auto steht in der Garage.

But you can use possessiv pronouns also in other ways, but then they are not a determiner:

Das Auto, das in der Garage steht, ist meines.


Der kleine Mann trägt einen dunklen Hut. Dieser Hut sieht dem grauen Hut, der dort drüben liegt, sehr ähnlich.
Welchen Hut meint du?
Ich meine jenen Hut, der dort drüben auf dem kleinen Tischchen liegt.
Aus was für einem Material ist dieser Hut?
Wie viele Hüte besitzen Sie?
Wessen Hut ist das?
Das ist der Hut meiner Tante.
Euren Hüten sieht man an, dass sie billig waren.
Egon besitzt keinen Hut, ihm gefallen auch keine Mützen.
Manche Menschen glauben ja, dass jeder Mann einen Hut haben sollte, aber nur wenige Männer haben tatsächlich einen.

So, is any word, that is connected to a noun a determiner? No, it's not! Any adjective is not a determiner, also any participle:

Der kleine Mann trägt einen dunklen Hut.

The words kleine and dunklen are adjectives. They describe the noun, but they do not determine it. So, you need an extra determiner, wich in both cases is an article here. The same is true for participles. They also need an additional determiner:

Der schlafende Mann hat einen gefärbten Schnurrbart.

And this is why viel and wenig sometimes are no determines, because you also can use them as adjectives:

2 Adjectives: Die vielen Leute kaufen ein wenig Brot.
2 Determiners: Viele Leute kaufen wenig Brot.

Any Noun can have at most one determiner, but as many adjectives and participles as you want:

wrong: Die diese Frau sitz an einem meinem Tisch.
correct: Die große alte blondhaarige unscheinbare Frau sitz an einem kleinen wackligen runden hölzernen braunen Tisch.


Sometimes you can use a noun also without a determiner. This is always the case then you want have a noun that you would use with an indefinite article, but you need it in plural:

Singular definite: Der Mann schläft.
Plural definite: Die Männer schlafen.
Singular indefinite: Ein Mann schläft.
Plural indefinite: ∅ Männer schlafen.

The sign ∅ shall indicate that there is an invisible determiner, the so called null-article. (Same in English: Men are sleeping.)
This is just another way to say that there is no determiner where you would expect one. But the concept of the null-article helps to better understand what is going on here.
If we use the null-article, wen can say, that every noun always has exactly one determiner.

And you also use the null-article for singularia tantum. A singulare tantum is a noun that exists only in singular form, i.e. there is no plural like water, health, money etc. You can use them in English without a determiner ("He drinks ∅ water.") and this is true in German too:

Er trinkt ∅ Wasser.

But also Bier, Kaffee and Musik are singularia tantum:

∅ Bier schmeckt gut.
Ich trinke gerne ∅ Kaffee.
Im Gasthof Luitpold gibt es ∅ Musik.

Of course you can add a determinative, but it's optional:

Mein Bier schmeckt gut.
Ich trinke gerne diesen Kaffee.
Im Gasthof Luitpold gibt es viel Musik.

And then you can add an adjective:

Mein deutsches Bier schmeckt gut.
Ich trinke gerne diesen kalten Kaffee.
Im Gasthof Luitpold gibt es viel originelle Musik.

But you can also use the null-article as determiner. This does NOT turn the adjectives into determiners!

Deutsches Bier schmeckt gut.
Ich trinke gerne ∅ kalten Kaffee.
Im Gasthof Luitpold gibt es ∅ originelle Musik.

  • I think part of the problem was that the person asking the question was trying to dive into adjective declension without understanding this, and you need to understand at least some of it before the rules can make sense. I'm not a fan of the term "null-article" since it assumes that the default for a noun is to have a determiner. Some languages don't use articles at all and they certainly aren't putting null-articles everywhere. I have seen the term used though, and it's a valid interpretation, like "holes" in a semiconductor, the things that aren't there whose movement carries charge.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 14:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.