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Rules for words of fiction in German?

Say I was writing a book in German, and I wanted to create a specie that I decided to name "Klaufer"s. Is there any set rules that say what gendered article I'm supposed to assign to it? ( der, das, die ), or can I choose whatever I wan't?, and how about plurals?, should I only add an "s", or could I change the word to something like Kläufer?

Are there any rules to words created by a writer, or are writers free to choose whatever they wan't for a word?

( drawing was made by me, using Fire Alpaca )

July 8, 2017



Hey! Fellow German learner here!

My take on it is: as with any work of fiction, you can do whatever you want; first and foremost (in any language). What may play a role in your decision is how easy it is to be understood, and how easy it is to follow. If it follows a general trend with other pre-existing German words, then that should make it easier to understand.

So, with this specific example: automatically my brain told me "Klaufer" would be masculine (therefore "der" in the nominative case). The two reasons behind this are:

  • Words ending in "er" are typically masculine (more on that below)

  • "Klaufer" looks pretty close to "Käufer", which is masculine

With the plural form, I believe there would be even less consensus between German speakers. Personally, I prefer the umlaut (or possibly even leave it completely unchanged) over the "s" ending. There are two reasons behind this also, which are:

  • Using the umlaut or leaving the word unchanged allows for the dative "n" ending (more on that below)

  • I feel the "s" ending is typically an anglicism, and is generally only used for Denglisch/imported words

Once again, this is just my take and I think you can do what you want; but following well-known trends should help it to be more easily understood.

This section is just for anyone that's interested

Typical Genders for Word Endings

From a few resources I've used in the past I've found some word endings that are a pretty good indicator of a word's gender.

A quick caveat:
Some of these are universal and others have several exceptions; but all are correct in at least the majority of cases.

  • Masculine: Der -ig-ling-or-ismus-ant-er

  • Neuter: Das -o-ma-ment-chen-ing-lein-um

  • Feminine: Die -ei-heit-e-schaft-ion-ie-keit-tät-ik-ur-ung

The Dative "n"

Pretty much what is says on the tin. The vast majority of words add an ending of "n" in the plural dative case. (Exceptions include plural words that already end in "n" and plural words that end in "s")

Example: der Schüler

  • Nominative - singular: der Schüler; plural: die Schüler

  • Accusative - singular: den Schüler; plural: die Schüler

  • Dative - singular: dem Schüler; plural: den Schülern

  • Genitive - singular: des Schülers; plural: der Schüler

Example sentence:

Ich gehe mit den Schülern in die Schule.

  • 1606

Hallo Adam, ich mag beide Ibibs8 und deine Antwort auf diese Frage. Es ist hilfreich. - Susan

P.S. (Does German have a P.S.?) Wie du schon wisst, nehme ich jede Gelegenheit, ich kann mein Deutsch üben.


yepp, Germans use a post scriptum as often as brits and yanks.

P.S.: I like it, too

P.P.S: I am native German


Hallo wieder Susan :) dankeschön, das freut mich :)

(Yes and according to Wikipedia Duden it's written „PS:“ (with a colon and without full stops)) Das ist eine großartige Gewohnheit, die dir mit deinem Deutsch auf jeden Fall helfen wird!

Wenn ich deinen letzten Satz zu korrigieren versuchen darf:

PS: Wie du schon weißt, ich nehme jede Gelegenheit, die ich kann, mein Deutsch zu üben.

  • 1606

Danke Adam, ich möchte wirklich Feedback.


That is weißt, not weiß, isn't it?


Yep, cheers. Will go and edit that now.


Hallo, Adam! Das mit dem "er" am Ende und dem männlichen Geschlecht wird aber sehr häufig durchbrochen: "Das Opfer", "die Natter", "die Kammer", in Österreich auch "die Butter" (in Vorarlberg und der Schweiz übrigens "das Butter"). Aber du hast mich auf etwas anderes gebracht: Mehrzahl könnte auch "die Klaufern" sein - zumindest in meine Ohren. Klingt das für Norddeutsche zu Bayrisch?


Hallo, Ibins8! Ja, da hast du recht. Ich hatte ganz vergessen, es gab einen Grund, weshalb „er“ am Ende des Wortes (ich spreche es wie ein Wort aus, um es sich besser zu erinnern) gestellt wurde; und das war er!
Also, es ist wahr, „er“ geht als Männliches nicht so oft wie „heit“ & „keit“ als Weibliche und „chen“ & „lein“ als Sächliche; doch es geht öfter als nicht.

„Die Klaufern“ hört sich übrigens ganz gut an! Leider kann ich als weder Norddeutscher noch Bayer (nicht einmal als jemand aus irgendwo dazwischen!) antworten. Als Deutschlerner aus England jedoch klingt das schön :)


Wow, ich hätte dich für einen Muttersprachler gehalten (und ich habe Deutsch als Muttersprache). Gratulation!


Boa, vielen Dank! Du hast ja keine Ahnung, wie viel das mich freut! Vielen vielen Dank!

Ich dachte eigentlich, dass meine Korrektur da oben vielleicht nicht stimmt, und dass ein Muttersprachler mich schnell korrigieren würde!


Usually, with "er" at the end the gender is male, though as a German native speaker I wouldn't object to a neuter gender either. Only "die Klaufer" (singular) would sound odd, although I can't think of any grammar rule against it. As a plural it could be "die Klaufer" oder "die Kläufer". Die Klaufers would be an Anglicism. Klaufer sounds to me like a mixture of "Läufer" (runner, from "laufen" to run) and "Klauer" (colloquial for thief), but also reminds me of "Käufer" (buyer). So I'm really interested in what a Klaufer does! There are no rules for inventing new words, but a lot of things sound odd to German ears. For instance we don't usually create nouns out of verbs and vice versa as English native speakers do all the time. But I can't point my finger to any specifics right now. Would have to look it up myself, if there are any official rules, and I doubt there are.


Danke für Ihre Antwort!, es war sehr hilfreich!


Ich werde dich einen Klaufer nennen. (Akkusative!) or Ich werde dich Klaufer nennen. (without article, like you would give someone a nickname).

Its your word, you can decide the Plural. If you wish to make it Kläufer or Klaufers, its up to you, if you decide the Plural of Klaufer is Klauferetti (then the plural nominative is like this, the rest will be indeclinable and just looks like this) , then it is like this. Foreign word and new creations are flexible, but they will still have a gender and the article follows the declination even when the noun is indeclinable.


I was treating the word as if it was "das Klaufer" ( neuter gender ) in the sentence. I believe the accusative neuter form of "ein" is still "ein".


Yes, the neutral form akk. is ein, but it sounds strange. I can not reproduce any real scenario where you would say "Ich nenne dich "ein neutralword". This does not mean, it isnt possible, but its very unusual. I'd then go without article and treat it as name.

Er nennt dich einen Esel (as insult, article not needed but possible). We now swap it for a neuter animal. Er nennt dich ein Zebra. This should be possible but I never heard something like this and therefore it sounds very strange.

So I'd rather say "Ich nenne dich Klaufer". I say it like it would be his name, but its metaphorical for all of his species or I'd go with a different sentence that uses plural. Ich nenne euch (euch for all of them) Klaufer(pluralform).

Also I woudlnt create a neutral word for any kind of "being" that is able tospeak (not only repeating sounds). I'd see that as degredation but when its a dimutive (or well, you could also see the dimutive as a degredation, but its a very mild one since might just make you smaller and cuter etc.). Neuter (beside dimutives) are rarely living beings, most noteable is then das tier, which is still very different from a reasonable being.


Wenn das Klaufer beide Geschlechter beinhaltet (wie eine Schnecke), dann kann es auch die neutrale Form haben.

If theKlaufer has both genders in one go (like a snail) you could use the neuter. After all, we're dealing science fiction, don't we? For me, a plural without Umlaut sounds better, so it would be das Klaufer, die Klaufer. Anyway, we have seen names in SciFi where it looks like the author has been fallen asleep on his keyboard, so Klaufer is a nice and readable name.


I didnt say it can not. I just say it would seem unusual in the current state of the german language. I simply dont know any fictional (or nonfictional) being that has a grammatical neuter gende. I mean even many zwitter animals have a grammatical masculinum or femininum. For plural the author can choose whatever he likes most any regular looking ending or any ending + no declination in plural.


Das Nasobem (fictional by Christian Morgenstern), das Zebra, all animals ending on -tier (Faultier, Maultier, Beuteltier usw.), das Pferd, das Nashorn, das Schaf, das Reh - there are a whole lot of animals with grammatical neuter gender in German! But I do agree that "der Klaufer" somehow sounds more convincing then "das Klaufer", although I don't really know why.


Thanks for the explanation. I guess it will be "der Klaufer" from now on.


Great question--I love this question! I asked something like it very recently. Here are the responses I got.


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LavethWolf - Cool drawing. I think you got the answers you needed already but I had to compliment your drawing. You can call me Susan, - Susan


Thank you Susan!

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