Essential German Grammar – Singular and Plural

General Rule

Here are three examples to get a better idea of how to form the plural forms of German nouns. This rule applies to 70 percent of the existing German nouns:

Masculine Feminine Neutral
Singular Der Stuhl (chair) Die Frau (woman) Das Ding (thing)

The plural of these three nouns can be like the following examples:

Masculine Feminine Neutral
Singular Der Stuhl (chair) Die Frau (woman) Das Ding (thing)
Plural Die Stühle Die Frauen Die Dinge

Remember:
The article must be changed to plural if the noun is changed to plural. There is an easy way to express the plural article by just using the article die. Nevertheless, one must not change the plural article, because it is the same article as the feminine singular.

Exceptions

There are extra rules that apply to certain German nouns. There are some exceptions, especially for the masculine nouns, and there is no overall rule that tells you when to use these extra rules. The only way to find out whether the word you are using has an irregular or exceptional plural is by checking the dictionary. Every German dictionary clearly defines the noun’s gender and plural form after the word.

Example:
Film
 der; –e    film, movie     (Oxford Duden English-German Dictionary)

Additional rules:

This is the most important and easiest rule for the exceptions:

Masculine and neutral nouns ending in –el, -en, -er, -lein or –chen stay the way they are and do not add another ending. Some of the vowels change to a mutated vowel (umlaut).

Examples:

Der Vogel ► die Vögel
Der Wagen ► die Wagen
Der Retter ► die Retter
Das Büchlein ► die Büchlein
Das Mädchen ► die Mädchen

Just as in other languages, there are some German nouns that are “singularia tantum” or even “pluralia tantum.” These terms come from the Latin words “singularis” (non-recurring, uniquely), “pluralis” (multiple, repeated), and “tantum” (only).

A “singulare tantum” is a word that only occurs in the singular form and does not have an equivalent plural, such as die Milch (milk) or die Post (post office/mail). There are also words in the German language that only occur in the plural form. These words are called “pluralia tantum.” Examples are die Ferien (holidays), die Eltern (parents) or die Geschwister (siblings).