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Basic German Suffixes Every Learner Needs to Know

Suffixes are a big part of the German language. They’re literally everywhere, so you really can’t survive without them if you’d like to get anywhere with German grammar.

That’s why you should start learning what they are and how they work, ASAP!

Here’s a quick guide on the most essential German suffixes.


What is a Suffix in German?

A suffix is an addition to the end of a word that adds or alters its meaning, adds context or changes its part of speech.

In English, our suffixes include “-ly,” “-some,” “-ful,” “-ing” and so forth.

The German language has a very similar system, with some very similar sounding suffixes (great news for you German language learners!). In both English and German, the suffixes are added directly after the affected word with no space in between–very slight alterations to the root word may be made.

Suffixes for Forming Nouns

These suffixes can be added to verbs, adjectives or other nouns. Some suffixes may also change the gender of the original noun.


This suffix is known as a diminutive, making something a “smaller version” of itself. When added to nouns, it’s meant to give it a more endearing “cute” quality. Regardless of the gender of the noun beforehand, adding –chen to the end makes it neuter. It also sees no change between the singular or plural forms. 

If there is an a, o or in the first syllable of the word, you usually change it into an umlaut when adding -chen


This is a common ending for feminine nouns. It may also be used to form nouns from an adjective and verb, with some possible alterations to the root word (such as the addition of an umlaut or a vowel change).

–heit / –keit

These two suffixes are very similar to each other. They often turn an adjective into its respective abstract noun. A close English equivalent would be “-ness.” Handily, they are always feminine gender. 


Similar to -chen, -i is a common suffix that acts as a diminutive and adds an endearing, affectionate tone to whatever is being discussed. No gender change is required with the addition of -i. It’s common for a part of the root word to be cut when -i is added.

  • der Vater (father) → der Vati (dad, daddy, papa)
  • Schatz (sweetheart, treasure) → Schatzi (little treasure, sweetie)


A common suffix that can be equated to the English “-y.” It’s a frequently-used suffix when discussing fields of study and sciences.


An equivalent to the English “-ist.” It’s commonly used to denote a practitioner of a certain craft. The root word is typically Latin or Greek in origin.


An equivalent to the English “-graphy.” Sometimes, it may be spelled as -grafie.


Another diminutive suffix that works similarly to -chen, but is often only used for words ending in –ch. Using it for other words will sound antiquated. Like -chen, it transforms the noun into the neuter gender.


A suffix that suggests the bearing of a certain quality, or to indicate one is a follower of or connected to a certain practice or feature.


Equivalent to the English “-ology,” used in reference to fields of study. The nouns are always feminine in gender.

–tion : “-tion”

Equivalent to the English “-tion.” The root words are typically derived from Latin. They are also always feminine. 


A common suffix that creates nouns from verbs. Yet again, words ending in -ung are always feminine!


Though it seems like there is a lot to learn, the more you see and hear these suffixes used in context the easier they will become. But to speed things up a little, you could try looking out for them on FluentU.

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Suffixes for Forming Adjectives and Adverbs

There are many German suffixes used to indicate that words are adjectives and adverbs. Some are quite easy to interpret, as many are cognates of English suffixes.


A suffix that suggests the lacking of a quality. It can be translated to mean “low.”

It can also be used with lots of nouns to turn into an adjective that describes the lack of that thing:


A suffix added to nouns or adjectives to suggest they are of a certain manner, behavior or appearance. The equivalent would be “-like” in English.


When added to nouns or verbs, this suffix implies possession or capability of a certain trait, feature or action. A close English equivalent is “-able.”

–en / –n

When added to a noun, this suffix suggests that something is made of a certain substance or quality. The suffix –n is added if the modified word is pluralized and ends in R, or if R is already the last letter of the word.

  • die Hölzer (wood, plural) → hölzern (wooden)
  • das Silver (silver) → silbern (silver)


When added to a noun or verb, this suffix suggests that there’s a stability or resistance against it. A close English equivalent is the suffix “-proof.”


Equivalent to the English suffix “-free,” it forms an adjective that indicates that something is free of and lacks a certain feature or quality.


Similar to -artig, this is a suffix that further exaggerates the possession of a described feature or trait.


Similar to -artig and -haft, this suffix suggests something bearing a quality or present feature.


Equivalent in function to the English suffix “-ish,” this suffix suggests something is of a certain origin or somewhat bears a certain trait. It can also suggest that one takes on the manner of something.


Equivalent in function to the English suffix “-ive.” A very basic adjective-denoting suffix.


Like -arm and -frei, this suffix suggests that an object is without a certain quality or feature, or is simply absent. It’s equivalent to the English suffix “-less.”


Equivalent in function to the English suffix “-like.” It suggests the presence or embodiment of a characteristic, or that something is somehow involved with the root word.


Very similar to -leer, this suffix can also be equated to the English suffix “-less.” When added to a noun, it suggests the absence of a quality or thing.

  • die Sprache (speech) → sprachlos (speechless)
  • die Zeit (time) → zeitlos (timeless)
  • der Sinn (point, meaning) → sinnlos (meaningless)


An adverb-forming suffix that suggests a quantity of times or occurrences. It’s commonly added to numbers.


Meaning “rich,” this suffix indicates that something is full of a certain trait or feature.


Equivalent to the English suffix “-some,” this common adjective suffix describes the presence of a certain quality or ability.


Equivalent to the English suffix “-ful,” this suffix suggests the abundance of a quality or item.


Meaning “worthy,” this suffix suggests that an object is deserving of a certain trait or action. It’s similar in meaning to the English suffix “-able.”

  • der Glaube (belief) / glauben (to believe) → glaubwürdig (believable, credible)
  • die Anbetung (adoration) → anbetungswürdig (adorable, admirable)
  • die Frage (question) / fragen (to ask) → fragwürdig (questionable)


By knowing these suffixes, your knowledge and usage of German vocabulary will increase ten-fold (or, as I’d say in German, zehnmal )!

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