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I have just started learning German on my own through online material. On one website I found an example which used -es with the adjective 'neu':

Ein NEUES Auto

From what I have understood, the reasoning is the adjective needs to agree with the gender, case, and the article appearing before the noun. In the sentence "Das neue Buch ist da" the word Buch (book) is neuter hence the article 'das', and nominative. So why doesn't 'neu' (new) take -es ending becoming neues? Is there any rule for when -es applies to adjectives and when not?

Would be helpful if I am given any good and UPDATED grammar book recommendations!
Vielen Dank!

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2 Answers 2

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The difference is the definiteness of the nominal group in which the adjective is used as attribute:

  • ein neues Auto, ein neues Buch
    Here we have an indefinite article (»ein«) and therefore we need mixed declension (»gemischte Beugung«)
  • das neue Auto, das neue Buch
    Here we have a definite article (»das«) and therefore we need weak declension (»schwache Beugung«)

The third possibility is strong declension (»starke Beugung«) which must be used if there is no article at all.


The declension of adjectives that are used as attributes of nouns depend on 5 different properties. I will explain this with your examples:

  • Ein neues Auto ist teuer.

    • Comparison: positive (it's neither comparative nor superlative)
    • Definiteness, degree of declension: indefinite = mixed declension (Gemischte Beugung)
    • Number: singular
    • Grammatical gender: neuter
    • Grammatical case: nominative

    Now you can look up the word in a declension table like this: declension of »neu«. The result is:

    neues

  • Das neue Buch ist da.

    • Comparison: positive (it's neither comparative nor superlative)
    • Definiteness, degree of declension: definite = weak declension (Schwache Beugung)
    • Number: singular
    • Grammatical gender: neuter
    • Grammatical case: nominative

    Look it up in the same declension table. The result is:

    neue

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Hubert's answer is correct. There's a snag however.

Those tables are horrible. We can't expect you to memorize them.

Luckily, they follow a scheme, which this teacher explained pretty well. Only one addition: in genitive singular masculine and neuter, the strong adjective ending is -en. Not -es as you would guess it from that recipe. So it's

  • trotz grünen Grases

and not

  • trotz grünes Grases
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  • I like the principles of this answer, but I'm confused by the point about checking if the article shows gender. It says: "Der Mann, den Mann, dem Mann, einen Mann, and einem Mann all show the gender of Mann, but ein Mann does not. Das Buch, dem Buch, and einem Buch all show the gender of Buch, but ein Buch does not. Die Frau, der Frau, eine Frau, and einer Frau all show gender. As you see, pretty much the only articles which do not show gender are ein and its equivalents (mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, Ihr)." Surely einem or dem distinguishes between masculine and neuter no more than ein?
    – ajor
    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 4:17
  • Question 2 filters for ein, eine, ein, der, die, das, question 4 filters for ein.
    – Janka
    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 13:59

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