Compound nouns in German

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Compound nouns

In German, as in English, we can combine several words to create a new noun. Words created like this are called compound nouns, or compound words. The last word in a compound noun is the most important as it determines the gender, while the words before it provide more detail about the noun.

der Taucher + die Brille = die Taucherbrille

the diver + the goggles = the diving goggles

die Sonne + die Brille = die Sonnenbrille

the sun + the glasses = the sunglasses

die Brille + der Träger = der Brillenträger

the glasses + the wearer = the wearer of glasses

There are several ways to form compound words:

  • We can simply combine several words.

alt + der Bau = der Altbau

old + the building = the old building

die Lippen + der Stift = der Lippenstift

the lips + the pen = the lipstick

  • Many nouns ending in -tum, -ing, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -ung, -ät and infinitives used as nouns are joined with an -s- in between them.

essen → das Essen + die Zeit = die Essenszeit

to eat → the food + the time = the mealtime

die Qualität + die Kontrolle = die Qualitätskontrolle

the quality + the control = the quality control

der Liebling + das Essen = das Lieblingsessen

the favorite + the food = the favorite food

  • Some nouns are joined with -n-:

die Sonne + die Blume = die Sonnenblume

the sun + the flower = the sunflower

die Nummer + das Schild = das Nummernschild

the number + the plate = the number plate

  • When using a verb to form a compound word, we leave out the last syllable:

schwimmen + das Bad = das Schwimmbad

to swim + the bath = the swimming pool

malen + die Farbe = die Malfarbe

to paint + the color = the paint color

In compound words, the article and the plural are determined by the last noun in the combination.

das Wort + die Kunst = die Wortkunst

the word + the art = the word art

das Wort + die Künste = die Wortkünste

the word + the arts = the word arts


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