The Easy Guide to German Plural Formation
What are plurals?
Singular nouns are the ones that describe a single person or object: a boy, my girlfriend, their bed, our house, this moment
Plural nouns describe more than one person or object: six boxes, the cats, a few pounds, their parents, these dishes.
In English, most nouns become plural by adding an -s.
A few German nouns also form their plural by adding an -s.
Most German nouns, however, form their plural in other ways.
There are 6 ways in total to form the plural of a noun. Unfortunately, there is no single straightforward method to know which one it is for a certain noun.
How to know the plural of a noun?
So how can you tell the plural whenever you see a new noun?
It’s pretty much the same situation as knowing a nouns gender.
There are two options: you either have memorized it beforehand along with the noun or you can try and make it out from the grammar rules.
Studying the plural with every new noun you learn is the most common and recommended option.
There are plenty of rules with lots of exceptions and learning them can bore even a grammar buff.
In this post, we are giving you a shorter, 80-20 version but keep in mind that therefore it is also less accurate.
The shortest and easiest way to study plural formation is grouping nouns by gender and learning the most common form for each group.
Most masculine nouns form their plural by adding -e.
der Freund → die Freunde
der Tisch → die Tische
If possible (have an a, o, or u) they usually add an Umlaut.
der Sohn → die Söhne
Masculine nouns ending in -e, however, add an -n.
der Name → die Namen
Most neuter nouns form their plural with -er.
das Kind → die Kinder
If possible (have an a, o, or u) they also add an Umlaut.
das Haus → die Häuser
Some neuter nouns add -n or -en if hard to pronounce.
das Bett → die Betten
Most feminine nouns form their plural with -n or -en if the -n alone would be hard to pronounce.
die Giraffe → die Giraffen
die Tür → die Türen
Foreign words usually form their plural by adding an -s.
das Kino → die Kinos
der Cousin → die Cousins
NOUNS ENDING IN -ER, -EN or -EL
These nouns have no additional ending but stay the same.
der Onkel → die Onkel
And sometimes they also add an Umlaut.
die Tochter → die Töchter