German Classes: Articles

German Articles

  • Introduction

    German has three words — der, die and das — for the definite article the. To make matters more confusing for someone learning German, these three definite articles change spelling according to the case of the noun that they appear with in a sentence. The same is true for the indefinite articles. Just as English has two indefinite articles — a and an — that you use with singular nouns, German also has two indefinite articles (in the nominative case): ein for masculine- and neuter-gender words and eine for feminine-gender words. Another similarity with English is that the German indefinite article ein/einedoesn’t have a plural form. Depending on how you’re describing something plural, you may or may not need to use the plural definite article. Consider the following generalized statement, which requires no article: In Zermatt sind Autos verboten. (Cars are forbidden in Zermatt [Switzerland].) The following table shows you the definite articles and the corresponding indefinite articles (nominative case):
    Gender/Number Definite (the) Indefinite (a/an)
    Masculine der ein
    Feminine die eine
    Neuter das ein
    Plural die (no plural form)
    In German language, there are three definite articles for nouns in singular: der for masculine nouns, die for feminine nouns and das neutral nouns. German native speakers know mostly intuitively what the article of each noun is. However, non-native speakers need to memorize the articles. There are several rules and guidelines determining the articles of some categories of nouns. But beware exceptions.
  • Rules for Article ‘Der’
    The following nouns have the article der:
    • Nouns for masculine persons and functions/professions: Vater, Pilot, Arzt;
    • Names of seasons: Frühling, Sommer, Herbst, Winter;
    • Names of months: Januar, Juli, Dezember;
    • Names of days of the week: Montag, Dienstag, Sonntag;
    • Names of compass directions: Nordwest(en), Süd(en);
    • Names of precipitations: Regen, Schnee, Hagel;
    • Names of car brands: Audi, BMW, Mercedes;
    • Names of trains: IC;
    • Nouns derived from verbs without suffix: Gang, Fang;
    The following categories of nouns have mainly the article der:
    • Names of alcoholic beverages: Cognac, Wein, Whiskey; exceptions: das Bier;
    • Names of rivers outside Europe: Amazonas, Mississippi;
    • Names of mountains: Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro; exception: die Zugspitze;
    Furthermore, nouns with the suffixes below have the article der:
    • –er (nouns derived from verbs): Fahrer, Lehrer;
    • –ismus: Kapitalismus, Journalismus;
    Most of nouns with the following suffixes have the article der:
    • –ant: Demonstrant, Elefant; exceptions: das Croissant, das Restaurant;
    • –ling: Lehrling, Schützling; exceptions: das Dribbling, das Bowling;
    • –ner: Rentner, Schaffner, Zöllner; exceptions: das Banner, die Wiener (Wurst);
    • –or: Motor, Traktor; exceptions: das Gegentor, das Chlor;

    Beware: this is applicable only to nouns in singular. All nouns in plural have the article die.

    Beware: diminutives have always the article das: der Kopfdas Köpfchen.

    Rules for Article ‘Die’

    The following nouns have the article die:
    • Nouns for feminine persons and functions/professions: Mutter, Friseuse, Ärztin;
    • Names of motorcycle brands: Harley Davidson, BMW (only motorcycle), Yamaha;
    • Names of planes and ships: Boeing 747, Titanic;
    • Cardinal numbers: Eins, Drei;
    The following categories of nouns have mainly the article die:
    • Names of plants and trees: Birke, Chrysantheme, Rose; exceptions: der Ahorn, das Veilchen;
    Furthermore, nouns with the suffixes below have the article die:
    • –falt: Vielfalt;
    • –heit: Freiheit, Sicherheit;
    • –keit: Möglichkeit, Schnelligkeit;
    • –schaft: Freundschaft, Mannschaft;
    • –t (nouns derived from verbs): Fahrt, Tat;
    • –ung: Leitung, Zeitung;
    Foreign nouns with the suffixes below have the article die:
    • –ade: Hitparade, Marmelade;
    • –age: Garage, Passage;
    • –anz: Eleganz, Dominanz;
    • –enz: Existenz, Tendenz;
    • –ik: Kritik, Musik;
    • –ion: Diskussion, Koalition;
    • –tät: Identität, Qualität;
    • –ur: Agentur, Reparatur;
    Most of nouns with the following suffixes have the article die:
    • –e: Grenze, Lampe; exceptions: der Junge, der Friede;
    • –ei: Abtei, Metzgerei; exceptions: das Ei, der Papagei;
    • –ie: Diplomatie, Psychologie; exceptions: der Junkie, der Hippie;
    • –in: Ärztin, Studentin; exceptions: das Benzin, der Harlekin;

    Beware: diminutives have always the article das: die Handdas Händchen.

  • Rules for Article ‘Das’
    The following nouns have the article das:
    • Diminutives (–chen, –lein): Kaninchen, Fräulein;
    • Nouns derived from infinitives: Essen, Schreiben;
    • Nouns derived from adjectives: Gute, Böse;
    • Names of colors: Rot, Gelb, Blau;
    The following categories of nouns have mainly the article das:
    • Almost all of the 112 known chemical elements: Aluminium, Kupfer, Uran; 6 exceptions: der Kohlenstoff, der Sauerstoff, der Stickstoff, der Wasserstoff, der Phosphor, der Schwefel;
    • Names of metals: Blei, Messing, Zinn; exceptions: die Bronze, der Stahl;
    • Fractions: Drittel (⅓), Viertel (¼); exception: die Hälfte (½);
    Furthermore, nouns with the suffixes below have the article das:
    • –ial: Material, Potenzial;
    Most of nouns with the following suffixes have the article das:
    • –ment: Instrument, Parlament; exceptions: der Konsument, der Zement;
    • –nis: Ergebnis, Tennis; exceptions: die Fahrerlaubnis, die Wildnis;
    • –o: Auto, Konto; exceptions: die Avocado, der Euro;
    • –tum: Quantum, Ultimatum; exceptions: der Reichtum, der Irrtum;
    • –um (nouns of Latin origin): Publikum, Museum, Stadium;

    Beware: this is applicable only to nouns in singular. All nouns in plural have the article die.

German Definite Articles by Gender (Nominative Case)
German Definite Article (English meaning) Gender (Abbreviation Seen in Dictionaries) German Example (English meaning)
der (the) masculine (m) der Löffel (the spoon)
die (the) feminine (f) die Gabel (the fork)
das (the) neuter (n or nt) das Messer (the knife)
die (the) plural (pl) die Menschen (the people)
Some categories of nouns are consistently masculine, feminine, or neuter. For instance, noun gender usually follows the gender of people: der Onkel (the uncle) and die Schwester (the sister). In many other cases, the noun categories have to do with the ending of the noun. The following two tables provide some fairly reliable categories of nouns and their genders.
Common Genders by Noun Ending (Or Beginning)
Usually Masculine (der) Usually Feminine (die) Usually Neuter (das)
-er (especially when referring to male people/jobs) -ade, -age, -anz, -enz, -ette, -ine, -ion, -tur (if foreign/borrowed from another language) -chen
-ich -e -ium
-ismus -ei -lein
-ist -heit -ment (if foreign/borrowed from another language)
-ner -ie -o
-ik -tum or -um
-in (when referring to female people/occupations) Ge-
Common Genders by Noun Subject
Usually Masculine (der) Usually Feminine (die) Usually Neuter (das)
Days, months, and seasons: der Freitag(Friday) Many flowers: die Rose (the rose) Colors (adjectives) used as nouns: grün (green) das Grün (the green)
Map locations: der Süd(en) (the south) Many trees: die Buche (the beech) Geographic place names: das Europa(Europe)
Names of cars and trains: der Audi (the Audi) and der ICE(the Intercity Express) Names of aircraft and ships: die Boeing 767 (the Boeing 767), die Titanic (the Titanic) Infinitives used as nouns (gerunds): schwimmen(to swim) das Schwimmen(swimming)
Nationalities and words showing citizenship: der Amerikaner (the American) Cardinal numbers:eine Drei (a three) Young people and animals: das Baby (the baby)
Occupations: der Arzt(the doctor) Almost all the chemical elements and most metals: das Aluminium(aluminum) and das Blei(lead)
Names of most mountains and lakes:der Großglockner(the highest mountain in Austria)
Most rivers outside of Europe: der Amazonas (the Amazon)
Bestimmter Artikel I (Nominativ & Akkusativ) Singular
Nominativ Akkusativ
MASKULIN der (Tisch) den (Tisch)
FEMININ die (Schule) die (Schule)
NEUTRUM das (Kleid) das (Kleid)
Nominativ Akkusativ
MASKULIN die (Tische) die (Tische)
FEMININ die (Schulen) die (Schulen)
NEUTRUM die (Kleider) die (Kleider)
Unbestimmter Artikel I (Nominativ & Akkusativ Singular
Nominativ Akkusativ
MASKULIN ein (Tisch) einen (Tisch)
FEMININ eine (Schule) eine (Schule)
NEUTRUM ein (Kleid) ein (Kleid)
Nominativ Akkusativ
MASKULIN  (Tische)  (Tische)
FEMININ  (Schulen)  (Schulen)
NEUTRUM  (Kleider)  (Kleider)

German Definite Articles

The definite articles in German refer to specific persons, objects, ideas…etc. and they are : der, die, das, die (plural) they all mean the expression “the” in English, der is used for masculine nouns, die is used for feminine nouns, das is used for neuter nouns, and finally die used also for plural nouns.
German Definite Article
Masculine der Mann (the man)
Feminine die Frau (the woman)
Neuter das Brot (the bread)
Plural die Männer (the men), die Frauen (the women), die Brote (the breads)
Well, that’s not all; the form we went through above is only for the nominative case. Now let’s have a look at all the rest:
German Definite Articles
masculine feminine neuter plural
Nominative case der die das die the
Accusative case den die das die the
Dative case dem der dem den to the
Genitive cases des der des der of the
Here are some examples: Nominative: der Mann ist hier (the man is here) Accusative: Ich grüße den Mann (I greet the man) Dative: Ich gebe dem Mann ein Buch (I give the book to the man) Genitive: Ich habe das Buch des Mannes (I have the book of the man) You may have noticed how the definite article changes each time the case changes. So try to memorize the table above by heart, I’m sure it’s not that hard.]]>

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