Holy cow, I wrote a book!
I may have scared a bunch of people with
that chart of German adjective endings,
but as several commenters noted,
native speakers don't refer to the charts;
they just say what comes naturally.
(Well, except for
who claims that native Russian speakers actually study these charts
in grade school.)
Helga Waage noted
that one quickly sees patterns in the charts that make them much
easier to digest.
And that's true.
But I taught myself the German adjective endings a completely different way.
If you're a student of German, you might find this helpful.
If you're not, then you probably just want to skip the rest of this entry.
As a side note,
you have to make sure you put the columns in the right order.
In many textbooks, the columns are ordered as
"masculine, feminine, neuter, plural",
but this fails to highlight the strong similarity between the masculine and
From a grammatical standpoint, German neuter nouns are
"90% masculine, 10% feminine";
therefore, it's more natural to put the neuter column between the masculine
and feminine columns.
I therefore prefer the order
"masculine, neuter, feminine, plural",
which as it so happens appears to be the order that Germans themselves use.
I'm going to do away with the terms "strong", "weak", and "mixed".
Instead, I'm going to reduce it to the question "How much work does
the adjective have to do?" which breaks down into two inflections.
In my mind, I don't have terms for these two inflections, but for the
purpose of this discussion I'll call them
"hardworking" and "lazy".
We start with the lazy inflection, which is used when
the definite article
or a word that has the same ending as the definite article
The lazy inflection is simple:
In the singular of the nominative and accusative cases (the "easy cases"),
the ending is "-e".
In the plural and in the genitive and dative cases (the "hard cases"),
the ending is "-en".
There is only one exception to this general rule, which I highlighted
in the table above.
But even that exception is natural,
because the masculine gender is the only one whose articles
change between the nominative and the accusative, from
"der" to "den" and "ein" to "einen",
so you're already used to sticking an extra "-en" in the masculine
(By the way, I call the nominative and accusative the "easy" cases
since most textbooks teach them them within the first few weeks,
which means that you've quickly become familiar with them and treat them as
On the other hand, the dative and genitive are not usually
introduced until second year, thereby making them "hard" due to
their relative unfamiliarity.)
The hardworking inflection is even easier than the lazy inflection.
You use the hardworking inflection when there is no
word that has the same ending as the definite article.
In this case, the adjective must step up and take the ending itself.
(I've included the definite article in the chart for reference.)
Hey, wait, I left two boxes blank.
What's going on here?
Well, because in those two cases,
even if there is nothing else to carry the ending of the definite article,
the noun itself gets modified by adding "-s".
For example, the genitive of the neuter noun "Wasser" (water) is "Wassers"
The word that carries the ending of the definite article is the noun itself!
That's why I leave the boxes blank:
The scenario never occurs in German.
It is those empty boxes, however, that always trip me up.
When it comes time to decide what ending to put on the adjective,
and I'm in one of those two boxes,
the word with the ending of the definite article hasn't
appeared yet so I think I'm in the "hardworking" case.
And then when I get around to saying the "-s" at the end of
"Wassers", I realize,
"Oh, crap, there's that indicator.
I should have used the lazy form."
But it's too late, I already said the adjective with the wrong ending.
I could go back and fix it, but that would interrupt the
flow of the conversation, so I usually decide to let it slide and take the
hit of sounding stupid.
(Or, more precisely, sounding more stupid.)
If you listen carefully, you may notice me pause for a fraction of
a second just as I reach the "-s"
and the realization dawns on me that I messed up
If you compare my charts to the official charts with strong,
weak and mixed inflections, you'll see that my "lazy" inflection
matches the weak inflection exactly,
and my "hardworking" inflection matches the "strong" inflection
except for those empty boxes.
(Because, under my rules, those empty boxes are lazy.)
The mixed inflection matches the "lazy" inflection except in three places,
which I count as "hardworking"
because the indefinite article "ein" does not take an ending
in exactly those three places.
Anyway, so there's how I remember my German adjective endings.
Mind you, I don't work through the details of these
rules each time I have to decide on an ending.
I just have to make the simple note of
whether the definite article ending has already appeared
(or in the case I always forget: will soon appear).
If not, then I put it on the adjective.
A common suggestion is that if a problem is detected which the system
automatically recovered from but which an administrator might be
interested in knowing about, then an event log entry should be created.
Be careful, however, not to abuse the event log in the process.
If the problem is not security-related and it can
occur, say, more than a few times a day,
then generating an event log entry may do more harm than good.
The event log has a maximum log size (default 512KB on Windows XP),
and when the log fills, older log entries are discarded to make room.
If you generate a lot of events, you can end up filling the event
log with your events, pushing out all the other events that the
administrator might have been more interested in.
Even worse, the administrator may have disabled automatically discarding
old event log entries, in which case the system will generate error
messages once the event log fills.
Network administrators make it a habit to go through the event logs
of the machines on their network looking for unusual activity.
If you fill the event log with chatter, this makes it harder for
them to spot the real problems.
Another episode in the
sporadic series on the wisdom of seventh graders:
The topic this time is
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
The students really enjoyed this topic because,
as one young man put it,
"I could write a book about myself!"
Here are what some students had to say.
Spelling mistakes are intact, but ellipses are editorial.
(I have provided tooltips to assist non-native English speakers.
Actually, even native English speakers may have trouble with
some of the spelling errors...)
(And I thought I didn't have to say this, but apparently I do:
These are just the funny-bad sentences.
There were of course plenty of well-written essays,
but they're not as funny.)
the previous series of essays on
humanity's greatest invention or discovery,
one of the responses was "marrying a princess".
I had to ask my friend for an explanation of that one.
"Well, one student decided to ignore the assigned topic and instead
wrote a fairy tale about a beautiful princess who gets married."
Mistakes were made.
Mistakes such as
having Windows NT put Notepad in a different
location from Windows 3.1.
(Though I'm sure they had their reasons.)
Mistakes such as having a TCS_VERTICAL
when there is already a CCS_VERT style.
Mistakes such as having listview state images be one-biased,
whereas treeview state images are zero-biased.
But what's done is done.
The mistakes are out there.
You can't go back and fix them—at least not until
time travel has been perfected—or you'll break code
that was relying on the mistakes.
(And believe me, there's a lot of code that relies on mistakes.)
You'll just have to do the best you can with the situation as it is.
Often, when I discuss a compatibility problem,
people will respond with
"That's your own damn fault. If you had done XYZ, then you wouldn't
have gotten into this mess."
Maybe that's true,
maybe it isn't,
but that doesn't make any progress towards solving
the problem and therefore isn't very constructive.
I sure hope these people never become lifeguards.
"Help me, I'm drowning!"
"Are you wearing a life preserver?"
"Well, if you had worn a life preserver, then you wouldn't be drowning.
It's your own damn fault."
When faced with a problem,
you first need to understand the problem,
then you set about exploring solutions to the problem.
Looking for someone to blame doesn't solve the problem.
I'm not saying that one should never assign blame,
just that doing so doesn't actually solve anybody's problem.
(If you want to blame somebody, do it at the bug post-mortem.
Then you can
study the conditions that led to the mistake,
assign blame, if you're looking for a scapegoat,
and take steps to prevent a future mistake
of the same sort from occurring.
As a lifeguard, you first rescue the drowning person,
and then you lecture them for not wearing a life preserver.)