Adjective Formation in German Grammar

Introduction

Some German adjectives can be formed by adding a suffix to nouns, verbs or even other adjectives. There are too many combinations to list so we have put together a summary of the most common adjective-forming combinations.

Learn about adjective formation in German grammar then test yourself online in the exercises.

Adjectives from Adjectives

Adjectives derived from other adjectives almost always take the ending -lich. The new adjective emphasises that something has roughly the characteristics of the original adjective.

Example:
etwas ist nicht richtig blau, aber es schimmert bläulichsomething is not really blue, but it has a blueish shimmer

Sometimes -lich can change the meaning of an adjective:

Example:
klein (= not big) – kleinlich (= mean, petty)

Adjectives from Nouns

Adjectives derived from nouns generally take a suffix, or adjective ending. This means that the usual noun endings such as -ung, -ik, are left off. An -e at the end of the noun is also left off.

endingnounadjectiveexample
-lich die Feierthe celebration feierlichcelebratory eine feierliche Stimmunga celebratory mood
-ig der Schmutzthe dirt schmutzigdirty die schmutzige Wäschethe dirty laundry
-haft der Traumthe dream traumhaftdreamlike ein traumhafter Abenda dreamlike evening
-sam die Mühethe effort mühsampainstaking eine mühsame Arbeita painstaking job
-isch EuropaEurope europäischEuropean ein europäisches Landa European country
-ern das Holzthe wood hölzernwooden die hölzerne Brückethe wooden bridge

Adjectives from Verbs

Adjective derived from verbs loose their infinitive -en ending before taking a suffix. We can also use participles as adjectives.

verbadjectiveexample
-bar lösento solve lösbarsolvable eine lösbare Aufgabea solvable problem
-sam schweigento be silent schweigsamsilent ein schweigsames Kinda silent child
present participle fragento ask/question fragendquestioning ein fragender Blicka questioning glance
past participle gefährdento endanger gefährdetendangered eine gefährdete Tierartan endangered species