Compounds

Compounds

In German you can combine two or more nouns to make a new word with a different meaning. You can find many such "composites" that have become part of German vocabulary.

A compound noun consists of one base noun that always comes at the end of the combination and one or more further determining words that help to explain the base noun in more detail. The article of the base noun is also the article of the compound noun.

Look at a few compounds that can be formed from the basic word Schrank, together with different modifiers:

der Spiegel + der Schrank:
der Spiegelschrank
(a cupboard with mirrored doors)

die Küche + der Schrank:
der Küchenschrank*
(a cupboard that stands in the kitchen)

das Schlafzimmer + der Schrank:
der Schlafzimmerschrank
(a cupboard that stands in the bedroom)

die Bücher + der Schrank:
der Bücherschrank
(a cupboard used to keep books)

*When a word is made up of two or more nouns, a sound may be added between the defining word and the base word. After -e (e.g. Küche) this is often an -n. In many cases an –s  is used, sometimes also -es, ­-ens or -er. Since you usually do not form compound nouns yourself, but learn them like other words, you do not need to learn the rules for this.

 

The defining word is often a noun, although it can also be a verb or an adjective, e.g.:

schlafen + das Zimmer:
das Schlafzimmer

tanken + die Stelle:
die Tankstelle

hoch + das Haus:
das Hochhaus

 

Grammatical terms in German:

das Kompositum: A composite is a compound word. This word is often a noun but it can be, for example, a verb or adjective. The different components of a compound can also be different types of words. The base word determines which type of word this compound is.