8. Noun Formation

Word Formation

These sections of the textbook help improve your speed during the skimming phase of reading and help you gradually build vocabulary.

Knowing how words are formed is most helpful in learning vocabulary and preparing yourself to be able to determine the meaning of new vocabulary. It is very useful to know that German forms nouns from verbs, from adjectives, and from adding suffixes to other nouns and adjectives among other ways. Study the following examples of word relationships, and as you work on translating the exercises in this book, look for possible connections between words. Check your guesses in the dictionary and list related words together for purposes of learning them more quickly. Remember, these are just some examples; there are thousands of words formed in these various ways.

Noun – Verb Relationships

Related to simple verbs:

Noun Verb
das Band (string / band) binden
die Bindung (bond / binding) binden
die Fahrt (drive / ride) fahren
die Reise (journey) reisen
der Spruch (saying) sprechen

Related to verbs with prefixes:

Noun Verb
die Abfahrt (departure) abfahren
der Ausgang (exit) ausgehen
der Eingang (entrance eingehen
der Gewinn (gain / winning) gewinnen
der Niedergang (decline) niedergehen
der Übergang (crossing) übergehen
der Umgang (circuit) umgehen
der Verstand (reason) verstehen
der Widerstand (resistance) widerstehen

Noun – Adjective Relationships

Noun Adjective
die Breite (breadth) breit
die Dicke (thickness) dick
die Größe (size) groß
die Länge (length) lang
die Kälte (cold) kalt
die Röte (redness) rot

Noun Suffixes

  1. chen and –lein (diminutives, always neuter)

    Bettchen (little bed) Bett
    Städtlein (little town) Stadt
  2. er denotes “doer” or “that which does”

    These are always masculine, but can take feminine form with -in ending if appropriate (see number 4 below).

    Musiker (musician) Musik
    Tänzer (dancer) tanzen
    Zeiger (pointer / indicator) zeigen
  3. heit and –keit denotes “state of being” (always feminine)

    Abhängigkeit (dependence) abhängig
    Aufmerksamkeit (attentiveness) aufmerksam
    Freiheit (freedom) frei
    Gesundheit (health) gesund
    Schönheit (beauty) schön
  4. in denotes females

    Lehrerin (female teacher) Lehrer
    Professorin (female professor) Professor
  5. schaft denotes “relationship,” “collective state” (always feminine)

    Bruderschaft (brotherhood) Bruder
    Freundschaft (friendship Freund
    Landschaft (landscape) Land
    Wissenschaft (science) wissen
  6. tum denotes “condition”

    der Reichtum (wealth / richness) reich
    das Wachstum (growth) wachsen
  7. ung (always feminine)

    Sammlung (collection) sammeln
    Vergrößerung (enlargement) vergrößern
    Zeitung (newspaper) Zeit

The topic of word formation will continue to be covered throughout later units to help you both with building vocabulary and with quickly guessing the meaning of unfamiliar words.

Last revised on July 12, 2016.