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Declension of decades: "1990er", etc.

Hi, I'm not really sure what to call this kind of declension and hence how to find resources about it, but I'm wondering by what logic you can end up with a phrase like in den 1990er, meaning "in the 1990s".

It looks to me like in den is dative plural, and then I would expect the year to decline like dates do, but in that case it would be 1990en.

Somehow this has gotten me quite confused - can anyone help or direct me to a rule that outlines it (in English or German)?


October 19, 2017



You are right: In den (19)90ern is correct.

The other thingy is made out of lazyness or grammatical ignorance.

Edit: In den 1990er would be valid if you say "In den 1990er Jahren", though


Right, but that still doesn't really help me understand what's going on there grammatically! :)


Hi az,

die Jahre - welche Jahre? alle, die in der Decade 1990+ sind.- alle 90er oder die Neunziger.

So I would say this phrase refers to the plural of years das Jahr / die Jahre. You define which years you exactly mean. So if someone asks "In welcher Zeit bist Du aufgewachsen" you say "in den (19)90ern" "Welche Zeit würdest Du gerne erleben?" "Die 60er"

It's a little bit hard to explain was it a little bit helpful?

best regards Angel


Well not really, because I'm still wondering why it's -er instead of -e or -en. When talking about days for example you'd say am Erst -en or der Erst -e, with those endings corresponding to adjective declension. I'm wondering why it's not adjective declension that applies to decades, and what reason if any there is for the -er to be there.


Ah, I think I understand. We use -er for groups of numbers or banknotes (also a kind of number) so whenever you have a group of numbers you can define you can put -er behind it. Think of them as a cluster of pebbles. You can sort them. Alle 2-er zusammen, alle 10-er zusammen, alle 20er (Geldscheine) zusammen. So it's always plural.

And it is a short cut.

In den 90er Jahren. Die 20er Geldscheine. The cluster of 5er pebbles. We just drop the definicion of the cluster/amount.

At the moment it is a little bit late but tomorrow I will see if I find something that answers your question about the grammar better than me. Promised.

best regards Angel


Knowing that it's for all (cardinal) numbers is helpful, if I'll need to remember it as an exception. I've been going around declining banknotes like adjectives until now!


Yes, you can say so. This short cut refers alway to a group of numbers. Better research has to wat until tomorrow, have only an old tablet today

Best regards Angel

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