AS Grammar: Word Formation

AS Grammar: Word Formation

Word Formation in German: Overview

  • Word formation refers to the construction of new words by combining, modifying, or using words in a new context.
  • German has a rich system of word creation consisting of four main methods: compounding, prefixing, suffixing and conversion.


  • German is known for its long compound words, which are words made by combining two or more separate words.
  • For instance, the word ‘Handschuh’ (‘glove’) combines ‘Hand’ (‘hand’) and ‘Schuh’ (‘shoe’).
  • A compound’s gender is determined by the last component of the word. In the previous example, ‘Handschuh’ is masculine because ‘Schuh’ is masculine.


  • Prefixes are letters or groups of letters added at the beginning of a word to alter its meaning.
  • For example, ‘ver’ is a common prefix that can change ‘kaufen’ (‘to buy’) into ‘verkaufen’ (‘to sell’).


  • Suffixes are added after the base word, often to create a word of a different grammatical category.
  • For instance, the noun ‘Freund’ (‘friend’) can become the adjective ‘freundlich’ (‘friendly’) with the addition of the ‘-lich’ suffix.


  • Conversion changes an existing word’s grammatical category without altering the word’s form.
  • For example, ‘schau’ (look) can be changed from a verb to a noun in the phrase ‘ein Schau’ (‘a look’).

Understanding Word Order

  • When constructing sentences, it’s crucial to abide by the rules of word order.
  • The standard word order of a declarative sentence in German is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO).
  • However, when using a subordinate clause, the word order becomes Subject-Object-Verb (SOV).

The practice of deconstructing and constructing words not only improves vocabulary but also gives insight into cultural and historical nuances of the German language. Always look out for compound words, their structures, and how context can change meaning.