One of my favorite stories in German is Rhabarberbarbara (rhubarb Barbara). It is a great video that shows you how to build compound nouns in German. If you want to see the video, it is embedded below. If you want to learn more about forming compound nouns, you can keep on scrolling.
In German, you can make a ton of great nouns in German by putting other nouns together. In general there aren’t very many rules for doing this, but there are a few. The main one is that the gender of the last noun in the compound noun dictates the gender of the entire compound noun.
Let’s take a look at the examples from the video in order to examine this rule in more detail.
= der Rhabarberkuchen
= der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart
= Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier (neuter)
Occasionally, you have to add a few other letters in between the nouns. The most common of these letters is “s”. This can occasionally be used to show ownership between the nouns. Other times, it is to aid pronunciation. Some of the more common times that you use an “s” are with the following endings: -keit, -heit, -tät, -ung, and -schaft. Take a look at these examples.
+ die Zeit
= die Jahreszeit (possessive -es added)
+ das Gefühl
= das Einsamkeitsgefühl (-s added)
+ die Karte
= die Gesundheitskarte (-s added)
+ die Mensa
= die Universitätsmensa (-s added)
+ das Mittel
= das Reinigungsmittel
+ der Ring
= der Freundschaftsring
Occasionally, you will need to add an -n or -en between the words. This happens most often if the first noun ends with an -e. Check out these examples.
+ der Zahn
= der Löwenzahn
+ das Zimmer
= das Klassenzimmer
While there are other letters that you will sometimes need to add in the middle of your compound nouns, they don’t have such solid rules for when you use them, so I will just say that they exist and you will pick them up the more you see compound nouns in German sentences. So, go out and read some German stories and articles and look for the compound nouns. Try to break them apart and see if there are any letters that were added. If there were, what were they and why were they added?