Reasons for non-inflection of adjectives are

  1. Fixed expressions (ruhig Blut)
  2. Color words (lila Haus)
  3. derivations with -er (Hamburger Marktplatz)

But "prima" does not seem to fit into any of those categories.

  • It might disappoint you but the reason is because it isn't. It's probably a result of the etymology: dwds.de/wb/prima#etymwb-1
    – user6495
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 5:11
  • @Roland - It's from the feminine form of the Italian "primo", but I guess the Italian inflection was lost in the process. But I've never noticed that the fact that a word is imported stopped German speakers from adding their own endings, for example "Du babysittest ihn." But you're right that sometimes things just are with no particular reason. Perhaps in this case German declension would be too awkward; "ein prima-es Mädchen" doesn't really work.
    – RDBury
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 5:58
  • 1
    @RDBury An adjective without declination works well in German grammar because cases can be expressed by an article. A verb without conjugation is a very different kind of beast. Conjugation of "babysitten" would be avoided by most Germans. It feels akward. duden.de points out that the infinitive is mostly used.
    – user6495
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 6:13

2 Answers 2


The rule, that color words are not inflected is wrong. Here are counter examples:

  • rot: der rote Autobus, ein roter Luftballon. Ich sehe den roten Mantel.
  • grün: der grüne Autobus, ein grüner Luftballon. Ich sehe den grünen Mantel.
  • blau: der blaue Autobus, ein blauer Luftballon. Ich sehe den blauen Mantel.
  • gelb: der gelbe Autobus, ein gelber Luftballon. Ich sehe den gelben Mantel.
  • braun, türkis, schwarz, weis, ... They all are inflected, just like all other adjectives.

The reason, why »lila« and »rosa« are not inflected when they are used as attributes of nouns is a different reason:

Adjectives, that end with the letter »a« are not inflected.

Adjectives ending with »a« are very rare in German language. None of them is inflected:

  • rosa: der rosa Autobus, ein rosa Luftballon. Ich sehe den rosa Mantel.
  • lila: der lila Autobus, ein lila Luftballon. Ich sehe den lila Mantel.
  • extra: eine extra Gebühr verlangen; bitte mit extra Pommes
  • prima: eine prima Idee; prima Arbeit leisten

In colloquial speech I found two more. They are adjectives that in good-style standard German are only used predicative, i.e. not as attribute of a noun:

  • mega: Das Konzert war mega = Es war ein mega Konzert.
  • gaga: Meine Tante ist komplett gaga. → Meine gaga Tante kommt zu Besuch.
  • Many native speakers prefer not to inflect türkis. Also, of course color adjectives can be compared; see for instance dwds.de/wb/rot.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 8:01
  • @DavidVogt: Are you referring to using another word instead, "türkisfarben"? It is true that is sometimes used; personally, I perceive both "das türkise Auto" and "das türkisfarbene Auto" to sound idiomatic. Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 9:22
  • @O.R.Mapper Türkis is different from Braun, schwarz, weiß; a fact that the answer could address.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 10:31
  • @DavidVogt: The question was not about türkis and not mainly about color adjectives. If türkis really was different, I would delete it from my answer. But I can't see any difference to rot, grün and blau: Das türkise Geilomobil - die türkise Seilschaft - Was bleibt von der türkisen ÖVP? - I never heard or read »türkisfarben« or an uninflected usage of türkis. Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 6:41
  • Why search for examples with inflected türkis but not for türkisfarben? Wouldn't it be more useful to search for examples of the word you don't know?
    – David Vogt
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 7:58

Very likely the main reason is: Inflection would simply sound awkward to German speakers.

  • ein rosaer Wagen
  • ein superer Gewinn
  • eine spitzere (from "spitze", not "spitz") Note
  • ein schnuppes Argument (from "schnuppe")
  • zweierleie Pralinen

Non-inflectable adjectives often end with a vocal (like "rosa", "lila", "prima". Inflecting them makes them sound awkwardly stuttering.

(BTW: From my list of examples of indeclinable adjectives you can easily see that the three reasons you list in your question are by far not exhaustive)

  • 2
    "rosa" isn't the best example. "Flektierte Formen wie rosane finden sich nur selten und gelten als umgangssprachlich." To me, "ein rosaner Wagen" sounds just fine.
    – user6495
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 7:28
  • 3
    Farbworte werden gebeugt, indem "-farben" angehängt wird: "Der Wagen ist rosa." -> "Der rosafarbene Wagen". I wonder if "schnuppe" is really an Adjektiv, I know it only in phrases like "Das ist mir schnuppe." (that would be an Adverb)
    – bakunin
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 7:30
  • @bakunin All my dictionaries agree that "schnuppe" is an adjective.
    – tofro
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 13:10
  • @roland ngrams tells me "rosane" is really extremely rare. And no, to me it doesn't sound acceptable.
    – tofro
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 13:14
  • 1
    On the other hand, I only have ever heard, read or used "schnuppe" and "spitze" in combination with "sein", such as "Das is' mir schnuppe." Using them in front of a noun is surely much less common than "rosane". "spitze" would go into a compound noun and not be used as an adjective in such cases.
    – user6495
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 4:44

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