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Declension of Adjectives(German: Rektion)
The German term Rektion derives from Latin casus rectus, which is the basic case, the nominative form. Rektion addresses two questions:
1.) when does an adjective get declined; and,
2.) what is its ending when it does?

Let us examine the topic in the view of syntax logic. It is Rektion that enables a preceding preposition to govern the declension case, thus narrowing the definition of the associated Satzglied. Satzglied is any of the phrase's word groups other than subject and predicate. The following frequently used prepositions are thus listed under the name of the case they demand (i.e. govern). By definition, no preposition governs casus rectus.

ab, bis, durch, entlang, für, gegen, ohne, um, wider
Examples: Er fährt ohne sie. Für Bargeld. Er handelt wider alle Vernunft.

In addition, die direction-defining prepositions govern the accusative. See the following Sec. "Dative."

an, auf, aus, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zwischen
Note: The dative case is governed only when a locality is defined. Test question: "wo?" (where?). When a direction is being defined, the accusative case is governed. Test question: "wohin?" (whither?)
Examples: aus dem Fenster (winken). An die Einfahrt (herfahren).

Genitiveabseits, anläßlich, anstatt, anstelle, aufgrund, außerhalb, diesseits, infolge, inmitten, innerhalb, jenseits, kraft, mittels, oberhalb, seitens, statt, ungeachtet, unterhalb, unweit, vermittels, während, wegen, zufolge
Example: Wegen des Unfalls

The Endings of Declined Adjectives
There are three declension systems in German, Type I, stark (strong), Type II, schwach (weak), and Type III, gemischt (mixed). Each system declines in 3 genders and plural. The following tables are different from those in many American grammar books, which tabulate only endings. We tabulate here Satzteil examples consisting of, at least, preposition + adjective + noun, which can thus be easily memorized and are of practical use. We indicate the adjective endings by hyphenating them to the word root. Each governing preposition example used is shown in parentheses.

Type I, Strong Declension

  Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nom. roter Wein warme Speise hartes Metall harte Metalle
Acc. (für) roten Wein (für) warme Speise (für) hartes Metall (für) harte Metalle
Dat. (aus) rotem Wein (aus) warmer Speise (aus) hartem Metall (aus) harten Metallen
Gen. (statt) roten Weins (statt) warmer Speise (statt) harten Metalls (statt) harter Metalle

Usage, where hyphen is placeholder for a possible ending or construct,


Type II, Weak Declension

  Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nom. der bunte Stoff die alte Burg das kleine Kind die kleinen Kinder
Acc. (für) den bunten Stoff (für) die alte Burg (für) das kleine Kind (für) die kleinen Kinder
Dat. (aus) dem bunten Stoff (aus) der alten Burg (aus) dem kleinen Kind (aus) den kleinen Kindern
Gen. (statt) des bunten Stoffs (statt) der alten Burg (statt) des kleinen Kinds (statt) der kleinen Kinder

Usage, where hyphen is placeholder for the required ending,


Type III, Mixed Declension

  Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nom. kein bunter Stoff keine warme Speise kein hartes Metall keine harten Metalle
Acc. (für) keinen bunten Stoff (für) keine warme Speise (für) kein hartes Metall (für) keine harten Metalle
Dat. (aus) keinem bunten Stoff (aus) keiner warmen Speise (aus) keinem harten Metall (aus) keinen harten Metallen
Gen. (statt) keines bunten Stoffs (statt) keiner warmen Speise (statt) keines harten Metalls (statt) keiner harten Metalle

Usage, where hyphen is placeholder for a possible ending,


Parallel Declension
When several equivalent attributive adjectives are strung, they are declined in parallel. That is sharing of the same ending and comma separator. Examples:

ein breiter, tiefer Graben;
eines breiten, überaus tiefen Grabens;
auf bestem, holzfreiem, hochglänzendem Papier;
(on the best grade of pulp free, high gloss, paper)
eine große, nervige und ruhige Hand; (a big, sensory, steady, hand);
nach langem, außerordentlich schwerem Leiden.

The last example illustrates the important distinction that an attribute (außerordentlich) of an adjective (schwer) carries, when compared to adjectives of equal weight. Some distinct differences in sense follow, such as, for example:
ein guter, brauchbarer Bericht; versus ein gut brauchbarer Bericht;
a report that is useable and good; versus a report well usable (in the sense of suitable).

Note the separation between parallel adjectives, by comma or conjunction. However, these commas, and any conjunction, are omitted when the attributes are to indicate a joint concept with the noun, such as in dunkles bayrisches Bier.

Watch the subtle distinctions! Liegt hinter mancher, alten Burg noch ein Goldschatz begraben? An manch alter Burg sind wir vorbei gekommen (manch being the attribute of alter Burg, meaning several old castles).

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Created: 13.04.98
Last modified: 17.06.98
Author: H.Vogel email: hvogel@travlang.com
Site maintained by: H.Vogel

Copyright (c)H.Vogel at The Travlang Company, 1998.

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