Tricky Masculine Nouns in German

These German nouns have somewhat irregular endings

World Languages. Getty Images/myillo

German is a pretty rule heavy language, but as with any rules, there are always exceptions. In this article we'll dive into masculine nouns that have irregular endings.

Masculine Nouns Ending in 'e'

Most German nouns ending in -e are feminine. (See Gender Hints.) But there are some very common e-ending masculine nouns—sometimes referred to as "weak" nouns (and many derived from adjectives). Here are a few common examples:

  • der Alte (old man)
  • der Beamte (civil servant)
  • der Deutsche (male German)
  • der Franzose (Frenchman)
  • der Fremde (stranger)
  • der Gatte (male spouse)
  • der Kollege (colleague)
  • der Kunde (customer)
  • der Junge (boy)
  • der Riese (giant)
  • der Verwandte (relative)

Almost all such masculine nouns ending in -e (der Käse being a rare exception) add an -n ending in the genitive and plural. They also add an -n ending in any case other than the nominative, i.e., in the accusative, dative, and genitive cases (den/dem Kollegen, des Kollegen). But there are a few more variations on this "ending" theme:

Some Masculine Nouns Add 'ens' in the Genitive

Another small group of German masculine nouns ending in -e requires an unusual ending in the genitive case. While most German masculine nouns add -s or -es in the genitive, these nouns add -ens instead. This group includes​:

  • der Name/des Namens (of the name)
  • der Glaube/des Glaubens (of the belief)
  • der Buchstabe/des Buchstabens (of the letter, referring to the alphabet)
  • der Friede/des Friedens (of the peace)
  • der Funke/des Funkens (of the spark)
  • der Same/des Samens (of the seed)
  • der Wille/des Willens (of the will)

Masculine Nouns Referring to Animals, People, Titles, or Professions

This group of common masculine nouns includes some that end in - e (der Löwe, lion), but there are also other typical endings: -ant (der Kommandant), -ent (der Präsident), -r (der Bär), -t (der Architekt). As you can see, these German nouns often resemble the same word in English, French, or other languages. For nouns in this group you need to add an -en ending in any case other than the nominative: "Er sprach mit dem Präsidenten." (dative).

Nouns That Add -n, -en 

Some nouns add an 'n', 'en', or another ending in any case other than the nominative. 

(AKK.) "Kennst du den Franzosen?" (Do you know the Frenchman?)
(DAT.) "Was hat sie dem Jungen gegeben?" (What did she give the boy?)
(GEN.) "Das ist der Name des Herrn." (That's the gentleman's name.)

Other Irregular German Masculine Nouns

Endings shown are for (1) the genitive/accusative/dative and (2) the plural.

  • der Alte old man (-n, -n)
  • der Architekt architect (-en, -en)***
  • der Automat vending machine (-en, -en)***
  • der Bär bear (-en, -en)*** Often des Bärs in informal genitive usage
  • der Bauer farmer, peasant; yokel (-n, -n)
  • der Beamte civil servant (-n, -n)
  • der Bote messenger (-n, -n)
  • der Bursche boy, lad; fellow, guy (-n, -n)
  • der Deutsche male German (-n, -n)
  • der Einheimische native, local (-n, -n)
  • der Erwachsene adult (-n, -n)
  • der Franzose Frenchman (-n, -n)
  • der Fremde stranger (-n, -n)
  • der Fürst prince (-en, -en)***
  • der Gatte male spouse (-n, -n)
  • der Gefangene prisoner (-n, -n)
  • der Gelehrte scholar (-n, -n)
  • der Graf count (-en, -en)***
  • der Heilige saint (-n, -n)
  • der Held hero (-en, -en)***
  • der Herr gentleman, lord (-n, -en)
  • der Hirt herdsman (-en, -en)***
  • der Kamerad comrade (-en, -en)***
  • der Kollege colleague (-n, -n)
  • der Kommandant commander (-en, -en)***
  • der Kunde customer (-n, -n)
  • der Löwe lion; Leo (astrol.) (-n, -n)
  • der Mensch person, human being (-en, -en)***
  • der Nachbar neighbor (-n, -n)
  • Often the -n ending is only used in the genitive singular.
  • der Junge boy (-n, -n)
  • der Käse cheese (-s, -)* Plural is usually Käsesorten.
  • der Planet planet (-en, -en)***
  • der Präsident president (-en, -en)***
  • der Prinz prince (-en, -en)***
  • der Riese giant (-n, -n)
  • der Soldat soldier (-en, -en)***
  • der Tor fool, idiot (-en, -en)***
  • der Verwandte relative (-n, -n)

A final comment about these special masculine nouns. In common, everyday German (casual versus more formal register), the genitive -en or -n endings are sometimes replaced by an -es or -s. In some cases, the accusative or dative endings are also dropped.