German noun plurals is a tricky topic! Making matters worse, there is a lack of consensus on even how many different plural forms there are (5? 6? 9?).
To write this guide for you, I ended up nerding out on a major German noun plurals rabbit hole.
And — would you believe it? — some of the BEST resources on German plurals that I found were written in 1914 and 1882 . The German in these books was in old script and everything!
Turns out, there are lots of predictable patterns to German noun plurals (just like for German noun gender!).
In this guide, we will talk about the categories of German noun plurals, tips & tricks for how to best learn (or guess) the correct plurals, and various key exceptions.
Are you ready to accurately predict a German noun’s plural nearly all the time? Let’s do it!
Whenever we learn a language — whether our 1st or our 10th — we usually start by learning nouns so that we can label things: table, floor, glass, plate, man, child, dog, tree.
Of course, to get anywhere with a language, you can’t just talk about one table, floor, glass, plate, etc. We need to be able to talk about any number of men, children, trees, dogs and more!
A plural noun is what we use to talk about 2 or more people, places, things, concepts, etc.
Bad News: German noun plurals are a bit trickier than in English (rats!).
Good News: In this guide, you’ll discover some shortcuts that make German noun plurals much more manageable!
Most English noun plurals are formed just by adding an -(e)s: table → tables, glass → glasses.
Sometimes we have to change letters, such as ‘y’ to ‘i’ as in baby → babies before adding on the -(e)s plural. Some (but not all — just to keep us on our toes) ‘f’s also change to ‘v’s: wife → wives, wolf → wolves.
Then, of course, we have some plurals that are actually quite different, such as child → children, goose → geese, mouse → mice, tooth → teeth, person → people.
Some English plurals that actually don’t change at all: 1 fish → 2 fish, 1 deer → 100 deer.
We also have collective nouns that don’t even have plurals (e.g. information or knowledge).
Finally, we also have funky plurals for foreign (-origin) words: alumnus → alumni, phenomenon → phenomena, analysis → analyses.
Whoa! I said that German noun plurals were tricky, but as it turns out … so are English ones. Maybe we have a leg up on German plurals after all. You can’t intimidate us, German nouns!
Most German noun plurals are formed based on how the singular noun sounds.
This can be a matter of …
It’s possible to calculate the categories of German noun plurals differently, but for our purposes, we’ll say there are these 6 regular categories because these cover the majority of nouns.
We’ll cover important exceptions, foreign-word plurals, and the oddballs later!
If you memorize a smattering of rules/guidelines and some short lists of key exceptions, you can be a master of German plurals!
Certain suffixes (i.e. endings) always* take the same plural, regardless of noun gender:
Read the Digging Deeper section below for specific masculine, feminine, and neuter plurals examples (& common exceptions) plus more details on German noun plurals hacks!
In this section, we’ll look at noun plurals arranged according to category, gender, and rules AND also delve into the oddballs:
We can examine German noun plurals several different ways (and we will), but one of them is to break things down according to plural type. Which nouns typically take which plural forms?
As I mentioned earlier, the number of German noun plurals categories can be interpreted differently. For our purposes here, I will list 6 categories and some exceptions.
For example, the ‘no change’ category has an important list of exceptions (with the only change being the adding of an umlaut). There are only about 24 of these nouns at all, and only about half of them so common they’re worth memorizing (jump to the exceptions list (1A) list here).
Exceptions: add umlaut
Another way to look at German noun plurals is through the lens of each gender. It’s the same information, just organized differently.
der Sessel (armchair)→ die Sessel
der Fahrer (driver) → die Fahrer
der Onkel (uncle)→ die Onkel
der Computer → die Computer
der Vetter (male cousin) → die Vettern
der Stachel (thorn)→ die Stacheln
der Charakter (character)→ die Charaktere
der Muskel (muscle)→ die Muskeln
der Garten (garden) → die Gärten
der Mantel (coat) → die Mäntel
der Vater (father) → die Väter
der Apfel (apple) → Äpfel
der Tisch (table) → die Tische
der Arm (arm) → die Arme
der Hund (dog) → die Hunde
der Versuch (attempt)→ die Versuche
der Bach (creek) → die Bäche
der Stuhl (chair) → die Stühle
der Fuß (foot) → die Füße
der Bart (beard) → die Bärte
der Gott (God) → die Götter
der Mann (man) → die Männer
der Wald (forest) → die Wälder
der Irrtum (error) → die Irrtümer
Feminine noun plurals are the most straightforward of the 3 genders.
There are 2 plural forms that feminine nouns don’t use at all and over 90% of all feminine nouns use the same plural form.
Die Mutter (mother) → die Mütter
die Tochter (daughter) → die Töchter
die Erlaubnis (permission) → die Erlaubnisse
die Mühsal (hardship) → die Mühsale
die Finsternis (darkness) → die Finsternisse
TIP: 70% of nouns that end with -nis or -sal are neuter, but they also take an -e plural!
NOTE the doubled ‘s’: die Erkenntnis (insight) → die Erkenntnisse
die Kuh (cow) → die Kühe
die Nacht (night) → die Nächte
die Hand (hand) → die Hände
die Nuss (nut)→ die Nüsse
NOTE: also compound nouns ending with -brunst, -flucht, and -kunft (<– note the ‘u’ vowels and the ‘t’ endings!) take this e + umlaut plural form, too!
Remember: the bulk of -er and -el nouns are masculine or neuter and take the no change plural form with very few exceptions.
You clicked and found … no treasure 😔
There are three categories of neuter noun plurals were we find the bulk of neuter nouns and just a smattering of additional neuter nouns spread over the other three plural form groups.
das Fenster (window) → die Fenster
das Kissen (pillow) → die Kissen
das Mädchen (girl) → die Mädchen
das Büchlein (little book) → die Büchlein
Das Kloster (cloister) → die Klöster
das Wasser (water) → die Wässer
das Bein (leg) → die Beine
das Jahr (year) → die Jahre
das Verbot (prohibition) → die Verbote
das Zeugnis (witness) → die Zeugnisse
NOTE: just as for feminine nouns ending in -nis, the ‘s’ must be doubled before the -e.
Das Floß (raft) → die Flöße
das Bild (picture) → die Bilder
das Buch (book) → die Bücher
das Kleid (dress) → die Kleider
das Kind (child) → die Kinder
Notes: an umlaut is added in the plural wherever possible (so, on any a, o, or u).
This is my favorite way to think about plurals because, here, we lump nouns together functionally, which crosses gender lines.
Here are the fewest number of rules that still cover the vast majority of plurals (if you memorize the short lists of common exceptions, too, we’d be getting pretty darn close to 100%!).
You have to start at rule #1: does the noun have a suffix?
If none of the listed suffixes apply, move on to rule #2: is it a feminine noun OR a noun for a male person?
If that doesn’t apply, move on to rule #3: is it a monosyllable?
If rule #3 doesn’t apply, you’ve reached the end of the road! Put on the default add -e plural.
If you memorize the short lists of these common exceptions (note: there are more, but you really don’t need to worry about them!) to our broad, overarching rules, there will be scarcely a noun left that you wouldn’t be able to properly pluralize!
Exceptions: these 12 nouns (almost all masculine*) do take an umlaut
*Apfel (apple) → Äpfel
*Bruder (brother) → Brüder
*Garten (garden) → Gärten
*Graben (ditch) → Gräben
*Kasten (box) → Kästen
*Laden (store) → Läden
*Mantel (coat) → Mäntel
die Mutter (mother) → Mütter
*Schaden (damage) → Schäden
*Schwager (brother-in-law) → Schwäger
die Tochter (daughter) → Töchter
*Vater (father) → Väter
*Vogel (bird) → Vögel
Exceptions: some common foreign-origin words ending with -a take an -en plural:
das Drama → Dramen, Thema (topic) → Themen, die Firma (company) → Firmen
Exception: neuter Ge…e nouns, e.g. das Gebäude → die Gebäude
Exception: ~45 feminine monosyllables (and compound nouns that end with –brunst, -flucht, -kunft) take the -e + umlaut plural.
16 of the most common [all monosyllables] examples:
There are admittedly a lot of exceptions to this rule, but you’re still ahead of the game if you use it & work on committing the exceptions to memory!
Bett (bed) → Betten
Fakt (fact) → Fakten
*Fleck (spot, stain) → Flecken
Hemd (shirt) → Hemden
Herz (heart) → Herzen
*Nerv (nerve) → Nerven
Ohr (ear) → Ohren
*Staat (state) → Staaten
*Zeh (toe) → Zehen
Bad (bath) → Bäder
Blatt (page, leaf) → Blätter
Bild (picture) → Bilder
Brett (board) → Bretter
Buch (book) → Bücher
Dach (roof) → Dächer
Dorf (village) → Dörfer
Fach (subject; compartment) → Fächer
*Geist (spirit) → Geister
Glas (glass) → Gläser
*Gott (god) → Götter
Haus (house) → Häuser
Holz (wood) → Hölzer
Horn (horn) → Hörner
Kind (child) → Kinder
Kleid (dress) → Kleider
Kraut (herb) → Kräuter
Licht (light) → Lichter
Lied (song) → Lieder
Loch (hole) → Löcher
*Mann (man) → Männer
*Mund (mouth) → Münder
Nest (nest) → Nester
Rad (wheel) → Räder
*Rand (edge) → Ränder
Schild (sign) → Schilder
Tal (valley) → Täler
*Wald (forest) → Wälder
Wort (word) → Wörter
*Wurm (worm) → Würmer
*Arm (arm) → Arme
*Hund (dog)→ Hunde
*Punkt (point) → Punkte
Schaf (sheep) → Schafe
Jahr (year) → Jahre
*Diamant (diamond) → Diamanten
*Elefant (elephant) → Elefanten
*Hydrant → Hydranten
das Insekt (insect) → Insekten
*Komet (comet) → Kometen
*Konsonant (consonant) → Konsonanten
*Magnet → Magneten
*Planet → Planeten
Since you clearly want to master German noun plurals, let’s cover some other special situations and you will be SET!
In the following sections, you’ll learn about
There are many foreign-loan words that take and ‘s’ in the plural, just like in English — how nice!
Even if you don’t know for sure if the word is necessarily “foreign” or not, in general, if the noun ends with i, o, u, or y, its plural form takes an ‘s’.
Otherwise, there are also loan words from classical languages or Italian that tend to take -(i)en in the plural.
Many recent loan words from French and English take an -s in the plural, including after a y. Note that nouns ending in -o, -i, and -u take an ‘s’ plural.
In contrast, nouns that end with -e (or -ie), take an -n as per regular plural rules. And nouns that end with -a sometimes take an ‘s’ plural, sometimes an ‘en’ plural (read more below).
das Auto → die Autos
das Baby → die Babys
das Büro (office) → die Büros
der Chef → die Chefs
das Detail → die Details (note: French pronunciation!)
das Handy (cell phone) → die Handys
das Hotel → die Hotels
die Kamera (video recorder)→ die Kameras
der Opa (grandpa) → die Opas
der Ossi (resident of former East Germany) → die Ossis
der Park → die Parks
die Party → die Partys
das Sofa → die Sofas
der Tunnel → die Tunnels
der Uhu (type of owl) → die Uhus
The -s plural is also used after family names, colloquially, and with acronyms and abbreviations.
For loan words from classical languages or Italian, -o endings will change to -i OR -en in formal contexts (e.g. das Cello → die Celli, das Konto (account) → die Konten), but frequently take a simple -s plural in colloquial German (e.g. das Cello → die Cellos, das Konto → die Kontos).
Some of the foreign loan-word nouns that I’ll list here with -en plurals do have other, formal plurals that are still used in academic literature, etc.
But for your purposes and mine — to speak everyday German with everyday Germans — it’s best to learn these versions (so we don’t sound hoity-toity).
Bonus: now we have fewer plural endings to learn! YAY.
der Rhythmus (rhythm) → die Rhythmen
das Museum → die Museen
das Zentrum (center) → die Zentren
das Album → die Alben (or Albums)
Exceptions: there are some nouns that have adopted native plurals, e.g.: der Bus → die Busse, der Bonus → die Bonusse.
das Dogma → die Dogmen
die Firma (company) → die Firmen
die Pizza → die Pizzen (or Pizzas)
das Thema (topic) → die Themen
die Veranda → die Veranden
die Villa → die Villen
Exceptions: some nouns ending with -a take an -s plural in colloquial speech instead: das Dilemma → die Dilemmas, das Komma → die Kommas.
Many other nouns (listed in the previous section) that end with -a take an ‘s’ — in fact, you can think of the -a words going 50/50 either way.
das Epos (epoch) → die Epen
der Mythos (myth) → die Mythen
die Basis → die Basen
die Praxis (practice) → die Praxen
das Prinzip (principle) → die Prinzipien
das Privileg (privilege) → die Privilegien
das Material → die Materialien
das Utensil → die Utensilien
Uncountable nouns are generally materials (e.g. water, tea, rice, sugar, air, wool) or abstract concepts (e.g. love, hatred, anger, fear, intelligence, beauty, safety).
German and English have very similar lists of uncountable nouns (hooray!).
However, even when a noun is technically countable, oftentimes both German and English will prefer the uncountable version.
For example, both English and German prefer to use people (Leute) over the countable person(s) (Menschen):
Many people [not persons] travel to Germany each year.
(Viele Leute reisen jedes Jahr nach Deutschland.)
There are some nouns that German prefers to use in the plural, whereas in English those same nouns are used in the singular form.
Check out this example with die Flitterwochen (honeymoon).
Our honeymoon was [singular noun-verb agreement] in France.
Unsere Flitterwochen waren [plural noun-verb agreement] in Frankreich.
Here are some other nouns that German uses in the plural, but English uses in the singular:
die Immobilien (real estate)
die Lebensmittel (food)
die Wirren (turmoil)
die Zinsen (interest, as on a loan)
Of course, now we have the opposite scenario: nouns in German that are used in their singular form that have English equivalents in the plural.
For example, das Archiv in German is a singular noun that means archives in English, as in:
I checked the office archives for her hire date.
(Ich habe nach ihrem Einstellungsdatum im Archiv gesucht.)
If you were to use the plural in German — die Archiven — that would mean multiple buildings of archives. See the difference?
Likewise, here are some other nouns used in their singular form in German, but plural form in English. Note that there isn’t necessarily a plural version in German at all! Some of these nouns exist only in singular form:
der Besitz — possessions
die Brille — eyeglasses
die Hose — pants
der Lohn — wages
die Politik — politics
der Pyjama — pyjamas
die Zange — tongs
Some singular nouns don’t take a regular plural form, so another word (that does have regular singular and plural forms) is added.
For example, what is the plural of lightning?
In English, lightning is a noun that doesn’t have a standard, regular plural. We don’t say ‘wow! I saw many lightnings!’
The clever way around this problem is to use another noun that we can count, e.g. flash → flashes. Wow! I saw many flashes of lightning!” is an acceptable phrase in English.
In English, we can’t say advice → advices, either, for example. Rather, we say pieces of advice. And in German, is the same: der Rat (advice) → die Ratschläge(pieces of advice)
Similarly, der Schmuck (jewellery) → die Schmuckstücke (pieces of jewellery)
In most instances, English and German use plural forms (e.g. die Ferien for holidays) in the same way. But some German nouns don’t have regular plurals like our English equivalents do.
These plurals in German have to be formed in a ‘roundabout’ way, using other nouns that can be counted, e.g. Stufen – degrees/levels/stages.
das Alter (age) → die Altersstufen (ages)
der Atem (breath) → die Atemzüge(breaths)
der Käse (cheese) → die Käsesorten (cheeses)
der Kohl (cabbage) → die Kohlköpfe(cabbages)
der Kummer (anxiety) → die Kümmernisse(anxieties)
der Luxus (luxury) → die Luxusartikeln(luxuries)
der Rasen (lawn) → die Rasenflächen(lawns)
der Sport (sport) → die Sportarten(sports)
der Streit (quarrel) → die Streitereien(quarrels)
der Tod (death) → die Todesfälle(deaths)
In these examples, English has a regular plural form only. But in German, a distinction is drawn between one and multiple.
In English, these singular versions are formed in a ‘roundabout’ way using countable nouns, e.g. piece.
die Auskunft ([piece of] information) → die Auskünfte (information)
die Hausaufgabe ([piece of] homework) → die Hausaufgaben (homework)
die Information ([piece of] information) → die Informationen (information)
die Kenntnis ([piece of] knowledge) → die Kenntnisse (knowledge)
die Nachricht ([piece of] news) → die Nachrichten (news)
Similarly to those words that have double genders (e.g. der Leiter — leader, but die Leiter — ladder), there is a small group of words that have the same gender in the singular (so, the meaning is ambiguous) but then different plural forms.
For example, der Strauß means either ostrich OR bouquet, but the plurals are die Strauße (ostriches) and die Straüße (bouquet).
die Bank — die Banken (banks), die Bänke (benches)
der Effekt — die Effekte (results), die Effekten (valuables)
die Mutter — die Mütter (mothers), die Muttern (nuts, for bolts)
das Wort — die Wörter (countable words, as in ‘there are many words in this article’), die Worte (collection of words, as in a saying or the phrase ‘thank you for your kind words’)
*feminine nouns ending with -er, or -el DO take the -(e)n plural (<– with no ‘e’)
Of course, a lot of study tips have broad application regardless of the German grammar topic. So, you will see some overlap in my recommendations when you read multiple guides on my website.
To break it down for you for plurals specifically, here you go:
However, the smarter-not-harder way is to relate the gender AND plural form to the hard-and-fast rules (or, in some cases, guidelines) that I’ve spelled out for you here.
If you can better understand WHY the plural form is what it is, it will be easier to commit that information to memory.
For example, if you learn the word die Blume (flower) and its plural, die Blumen, you can reinforce either that the vast majority of feminine nouns take the -(e)n plural AND/OR the principle that polysyllabic nouns (regardless of gender) tend to take the -(e)n plural.
Sticking with the same die Blume(n) example, when you practice this vocabulary word, invision purely BLUE flower(s) — even the usually green parts of the plant. This can help you more easily remember that the gender of Blume is feminine.
NOTE: I say BLUE just because that is the color that I randomly chose for myself when I first started learning German at age 14. Of course, you can pick whatever color for whatever gender that suits you!
The simplest way to learn a language is organically, by osmosis, without even realizing that you’re learning! That’s how we learned English as our native language, right?
So, watch German shows / movies (preferably undubbed, since it is confusing to hear sounds that don’t perfectly line up with the talking mouths), listen to German music, read German books (at your level, no matter how simple!).
Do this and you’ll be naturally exposed to German noun genders and plurals (since the two concepts are pretty intertwined, I mention both). You’ll pick up on proper forms without knowing it, without really trying to. It’s a nice way to learn!
As a fringe benefit, you’ll also be improving your pronunciation and/or accent (just by listening to authentic spoken German) and otherwise building a subconscious framework for proper German usage. Learn language within context is huge!
Keep a little notebook in which you record new German words. You can devise your own methods for regularly reviewing and practicing (or read my other study tips! I get into details elsewhere!)
Beyond including basic categories for parts of speech –nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. — consider breaking things down into subcategories.
For nouns, specifically, then, I recommend you reserve several pages of your nouns section for each of the 6 regular plural forms and a 7th for the -s plural form. View the 6 regular forms again here.
Then, using a different colored pen (for whatever color you’re associating with each of the 3 genders), record each new noun under the plural form that it takes.
For example, check out which plural form sections these nouns would be recorded:
Hund → -e plural form
Katze → -(e)n plural form
Sofa → -s plural form
Bonus: if you color-code your noun entries, you don’t need to write der, die, or das each time. Gender info is included in the color — handy!