I found this sentence in a German children's book:

Jeden Tag entdeckt Katrin etwas Neues.

Neues is a noun here? How can that be? I'd think that 'new' was an adjective.
As a noun, I found Neue in the dictionary, and then I found other cases of 'etwas Neues'

So what is happening here? Is it, in fact, "Neue" that's been changed for some reason?

5 Answers 5


There is a difference between the lexical part of speech and the functional. The lexical is kind of like the default part of speech while the functional is the actual usage. The lexical part of speech of "neu" is adjective. But it can have 3 funtions

Das neu gekaufte Auto .. (neu - adverb)

Das neue Auto.... (neu - adjective)

Das Neue ... (Neue - noun)

The last use, the use as a noun, is something that German can do which English cannot. You can use any adjective as a noun if you want to. It then can take all three genders and come in all 4 cases. It stands for the prototypical entity of the respective gender plus the added characteristic of the adjective.

Der Neue ist nett (the new guy/one)...

Hast du der Neuen schon guten Tag gesagt? (the new woman)

Ich nehme lieber das Neue (the new thing).

  • This answer doesn’t mention “Neues” at all. Seems like it should mention the “S” at the end.
    – JohnAllen
    Sep 12, 2022 at 9:05
  • What case is "der Neuen". Shouldn't it be den Neuen Dec 8, 2023 at 12:34

"Das Neue" is a noun. English translation : "Novel thing".

It is actually quite brilliant, as a lemma, since it perfectly fits for anything new or novel.

Of course it has the adjective "neu" at its root, similar to the nouns "Gutes", "Böses", "Altes" etc. (usw.) These mean "Good thing", "Old thing" and "Evil thing", respectively.

  • 1
    This was not about „das Neue“, but about „Neues“. And „Gutes“ or „Neues“ is more abstract than a good or new thing.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 15, 2014 at 21:38
  • @Carsten I think you are splitting hairs, finely.
    – RQ'
    Jan 16, 2014 at 21:47
  • 1
    no he isn't...... Jul 1, 2014 at 13:19
  • He isn’t splitting hairs. The answer does not address the ending S. It should at least mention the ending s one time. It doesn’t.
    – JohnAllen
    Sep 12, 2022 at 9:03

Words like etwas, keine, viele are called Indefinitpronomen. There is a good explanation of the capitalisation in the context of Indefinitpronomen on Wikipedia

Adjektive und Verben werden in diesem Fall substantiviert, z. B. etwas Großes, viel Neues, wenig Berauschendes, usw. Das gilt allerdings nur, wenn diese auch das Bezugswort darstellen, ansonsten fungieren sie als zusätzliche Attribute:

  • Es gab viel Neues zu bestaunen.
  • Es gab viele neue Dinge zu bestaunen

You can read more about those Indefinitpronomen in the linked/quoted article.

  • Interesting that „wenig Berauschendes“ can have two different meanings, one in which „wenig“ is an indefinite pronoun, the other in which it is an adverb.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 15, 2014 at 21:35

After the German orthography reform you're supposed to write every noun with a capital letter. It's always been that way, but there were some inconsistencies before (there still are some), so after this reform it was decided that adjectives made nouns were written with a capital letter.

Now, as to why this Neues is a noun. There are some words in German that turn an adjective into a noun. Among them is this little etwas. Here are some more:

etwas, nichts, alles, jemand, usw.

You have to be careful, though, since these words have other functions and can stand alone in a sentence.

There are other ways of turning an adjective into a noun, of course; e.g.:

Das ist eben das Blöde!

Note that Blöde is a noun in this case because of the das article.

Some sources:

Link http://odl.vwv.at/deutsch/odlres/res4/gk_RS2.htm

  • Also before the reform you were supposed to write every noun with a capital..because they're nouns. The point is what counts as a noun. Also, I do not need any of those little ords to turn an adjective a noun. I turn it a noun and then I can use these words, that how it is "Ich habe Gutes über dich gehört." no small words here.
    – Emanuel
    Jan 15, 2014 at 10:13
  • @Emanuel Yes, the last part of my reply was an attempt at implying that this, of course, isn't the only way to turn adjectives into nouns, but I guess I did that poorly.
    – clinch
    Jan 15, 2014 at 15:23

Neues is a noun here?

Neues is a substantiviertes Adjektiv

This ngram gives the following common ones

etwas Neues
etwas Fremdes
etwas Anderes
etwas Bestimmtes

Also note that sometimes you must not use caps (see second stanza):

Nun gibt es aber auch die Kombination aus Präposition und flektiertem Adjektiv, die ohne Artikel auskommt. Hierbei ist es Ihnen freigestellt, das Adjektiv eher substantivisch zu sehen oder auch nicht vor kurzem ist genauso richtig wie vor Kurzem; seit längerem oder von neuem können Sie ebenso schreiben wie seit Längerem oder von Neuem. Falls Sie sich lieber feste Regeln merken: Die Dudenredaktion empfiehlt in diesen Fällen die Großschreibung.

Der Vollständigkeit halber sei noch erwähnt, dass es auch unflektierte Adjektive bzw. Adverbien gibt, die mit Präpositionen verbunden auftauchen können. Hier gilt dann die Kleinschreibung: von nah und fern, von klein auf, in bar.

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