Tricky Masculine Nouns in German

These German nouns have irregular endings

German men drinking beer at an outdoor event.

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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. But there are some very common e-ending masculine nouns — sometimes referred to as "weak" nouns. Many of them 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 — for example, 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, -) The 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.