The diminutive in German

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The diminutive

We use the diminutive form ‑chen to indicate that something is “small” or “cute”. It can be added to most nouns in German.

das Tier → das Tierchen

the animal → the little animal, the little critter

der Stern → das Sternchen

the star → the little star

If the noun contains an a, o or u we generally add an umlaut to it. We also generally remove the final ‑e, if there is one.

der Schatz → das Schätzchen

the treasure → little treasure, darling, sweetheart

die Tortedas Törtchen

the cake → the little cake

die Blumedas Blümchen

the flower → the cute little flower

Notes

  • All diminutive nouns are neuter.

der Haifisch → das Haifischchen

the shark → the baby shark

die Katze → das Kätzchen

the cat → the pussycat, the kitten

  • The alternative diminutive ending -lein is mainly used for words that end in ‑ch. It can be used with other words too, but that sounds somewhat old-fashioned.

das Buch → das Büchlein

the book → the little book


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