Strong, Weak and Mixed Inflection of German Adjectives
As there is no grammar reference in this unit yet, I'll try to make one and give some explanations that may help to remember the endings. Please be aware that I am neither native German speaker not native English speaker, so corrections are appreciated.
The endings of German adjectives depend not only on their number, gender and case, but also on the determiner used before it.
Strong inflection is used:
When no article or determiner is used.
When a quantity is indicated by words like etwas, mehr, wenig, viel, mehrer.
With numbers greater than one.
A "strong" adjective is strong enough to give us all the necessary information without determiners :-)
The endings of adjectives in strong inflection are the same as the endings of definite article with two exceptions:
Masculine Genitive Singular takes "en" instead of "es"
Neuter Genitive Singular takes "en" instead of "es".
der Junge → guter Junge
dem Tisch → gutem Tisch
die Bücher → gute Bücher
But: des Lehrers → guten Lehrers. Indeed, the word "Lehrer" is changed to "Lehrers" in the Genitive case, so even a "strong" adjective can "relax" a bit :-) The same is with neuter nouns with adjectives.
Weak inflection is used with determiners that give us all the information about gender, number and case:
the definite article
words like "dies-" (dieser, diese, dieses, etc.), jed-, welch- and some other.
In presence of such "powerful" determiners it is only natural that the adjective becomes weak!
In weak inflection:
Singular adjectives of all genders take "-e" ending in Nominative Case.
Singular neuter and feminine adjectives also take "-e" ending in Accusative Case.
All the other forms take "-en" ending.
der Junge → der gute Junge
dem Tisch → dem guten Tisch
die Bücher → die guten Bücher
Mixed inflection is used after "ein", "kein" and possessive determiners. These give us no chance to distinguish between masculine and neuter in Nominative Case, compare: ein Junge (masculine) — ein Fenster (neuter), so the adjectives have to be a little "stronger" here!
In mixed inflection:
Singular adjectives take "-er" (masculine), "-e" (feminine) and "-es" (neuter) endings in Nominative case and in "-en", "-e" and "-es" respectively in Accusative case (like definite articles, or like "strong" adjectives).
All the other forms take "-en" (like in the weak inflection).
Thus, mixed inflection uses both "strong" and "weak" forms, that is why it is called mixed.
If you prefer tables, here you are: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_adjectives#Weak_and_strong_inflection
Here is another rule taken from that article:
Plural nouns being attributed by an adjective of any of the three inflections stated always have an -n added to the plural form in the indirect-object or dative case. This is so unless the plural already ends in -n or is a modern plural like Autos and Radios. This process then yields the following: den armen Leuten, ihren armen Kindern, or kalten Getränken.
If you use memrise, this course is designed to help you remember the inflections: http://www.memrise.com/course/16768/german-case-2/
They're actually pretty straightforward conceptually (and German is by far not the most complicated language when it comes to declensions, what? 4 cases? Please.), you only need some practice to get the hang of the appropriate endings.
Word order, on the other hand, seems to be a messier and more complicated thing (even though the rules appear kinda simple).
Some of the new courses in duolingo were developed with some good material in tips and notes (like Turkish from English). I think they're very important for the learners, that don't have to gather information here and there to capture what a lesson is trying to teach, everything we needed would be in a single place.
Languages with difficult grammar should have their tips and notes revamped, I think that this should be a quality requirement.
I know there are a lot of "thinkers" and few "doers", but it's really awkward that we find such a good article like this that is not a "tips and notes" article itself, I just don't get it.
Nice job olimo.
I think this is an excruciatingly difficult part of German and would suggest to split this course in three parts, as learning these charts at one go is quite a challenge. It would be also an idea to pepper the course with full-sentence examples, because I find it a bit confusing.
You can actually learn adjectival inflections without the "mixed declension" concept.
The strong, weak, and mixed charts overlap perfectly except in 3 places (masc. nom., neut. nom., neut. acc.).
I built ONE chart (instead of 3 separate ones) to reflect this and a 'declensions patterns graphic' so you know which declension (strong, weak, or one of the 3 times you need to use no declension) to put on which word (determiner or attributive adjective) when.
Give it a try! Check out the guide I wrote on declensions -- I walk you through using the All-In-One Declensions Chart & the declension patterns graphic there. https://germanwithlaura.com/declension/
Ahhh! That's why they're called Strong, Weak, and Mixed. Makes sense!
I believe there's an exception to your rules above. In mixed inflection, singular adjectives take "-er" (masculine), "-e" (feminine) and "-es" (neuter) endings in Nominative case, but not in accusative cases. In accusative, it's -en (masc) -e (fem) -es (neu).
Actually, terms 'strong' and 'weak' come from 19th century linguistics and were coined by the Grimm Brothers (IIRC, it was definitely a German linguist anyhow. So it's no surprise that these terms are still used in German). Words (particularly verbs) were called 'strong' if they had irregular forms, because such words were believed to be more ancient and therefore somehow 'better' and 'pure'. Words with (more) regular forms were called thus 'weak', because of the belief that they were more recent and 'decadent'.
If you notice a strong whiff of nationalism and Romanticism in all this, you are not mistaken, it couldn't have been any different back then.
Can I ask you when we would use strong inflictions in singular forms? Ever? It seems odd to say "Ich liebe fette Frau" for instance or any other instance of this construction I can think of. Is it that if there's a strong infliction on an adjective, its noun is plural? Obviously not, so what examples do you have?
I'm sorry if this question makes no sense, I'm a noob in German.
I realise it's been 3 years since this was posted, but the same question crossed my desk earlier today (and someone else might trip over this someday): it's actually not that far-fetched to have these sort of constructions... here are some examples in the different cases, which I hope don't sound too unnatural to German native speakers!
Alkoholfreies Bier schmeckt meist schlecht. (NOM)
Er trinkt normalerweise alkoholfreies Bier. (AKK)
Sie isst alles außer frischem Gemüse und heißer Suppe. (DAT)
Die kollektive Kraft einiger muskulöser Männer reichte nicht aus, um das Auto zu bewegen. (GEN)
(OK, the last one's not actually singular: I was just having fun finding examples of strong declension.)
What happens to "viel"? We learned in my German class that "viel" is like English "much" (because it's used for uncountable things; for example: water) and that "viele" is like "many" (because it's used for countable things; for example: friends).
And then I saw this:
And I'm thrown off now, because if you are adding these on the end of "viel" then what am I supposed to make of "viel" vs. "viele"- and also, when do I use these? I am extremely confused, especially with these quantity words.