Lesson 10: Use of Gender in German

You already have noticed that German just like English has articles. However, English is simplified, having just two articles, a and the. Strictly speaking, German also has only two articles, a definite one and an indefinite one. The only difference (major!) from English is that articles are gender-specific and also depend on the cases. We will talk about cases at some point later but for now we will talk about gender.

Like in most languages German nouns are categorized into masculine, feminine and neuter. Yet, it is very important not to mix them up if you want to use proper grammar. Here is when the article comes into play.

Der – for masculine nouns

Die – for feminine nouns

Das – for neuter nouns

You will ask how to know what gender the word is. Well, you won’t know unless you learn the words (this is the reason why it is recommended to learn German words together with the article). Of course, there are recommendations how to remember certain groups of words and their gender but they do not categorize all the nouns. You will have to use a dictionary to look the word up and your common sense. You will sure know that Mann (a man) is definitely masculine, and Frau (woman) is no doubt feminine.

Here are certain recommendations in relation to German genders.

Masculine nouns

~ masculine beings, such as der Mann, der Lehrer (a teacher), der Junge (a boy), der Sohn (a son), der Bruder (a brother), etc

~ weekdays, months, seasons, such as der Montag (Monday), der Januar (January), der Frühling (Spring)

~ cardinal directions and winds, such as der Norden (the North), der Passat (trade wind)

~ minerals, such as der Diamant (diamond)

~ currencies, such as der Dollar (dollar), der Frank (frank) but there are exceptions, i.e die Krone (krona)

~ most nouns that end at -ig, -ich, -ing, -ast, -en, such as der Honig (honey), der Teppich (carpet)

~ most celestial bodies, such as der Planet (planet), der Stern (star), der Mond (moon)

BUT: die Sonne (the Sun), die Venus (Venus)

~ lakes and non-German rivers, such as der Amazonas (Amazon river)

~ fall-outs, cars, alcohol beverages, such as  der Regen (rain), der Schnee (snow), der Mercedes (Mercedes), der Wodka (vodka)

Feminine nouns

~ feminine beings, such as die Frau (a woman), die Tochter (a daughter), die Kuh (a cow)

BUT: das Mädchen (a girl)

~ most nouns that end with -e and –a, such as die Themse (the Thames), die Sonne (the Sun), die Straße (street)

BUT: das Auge (eye), das Ende (end);

~ most of names for trees, flowers, fruits, such as die Tanne (fir tree), die Rose (rose), die Birne (pear)

~ nouns that end with -ei, -ie, – in, -ion, -tät, -heit, -keit, -ung, -schaft, such as die Melodie (melody), die Philosophie (philosophy), die Nation (nation), die Universität (university), die Wohnung (apartment)

Neuter nouns

~ young beings, such as das Kind (a child), das Lamm, das Kalb (a calf)

~ some animals, such as das Pferd (horse), das Schaf (sheep)

~ cities and countries when they are used with adjectives, otherwise they are used without an article with few exceptions: das große London (big London), das schöne Nürnberg (beautiful Nürnberg) , Exceptions: der Haag (the Hague), die Schweiz (Switzerland), der Irak (Irak), countries that end with -ei (they are feminine)

~ metals, such as das Gold (gold), das Kupfer (copper)

BUT: der Stahl (steel)

~ nouns that end with -chen и –lein, such as das Mädchen (girl)

~ nouns that end with -tum and -(i)um, such as das Gymnasium (gymnasium);

~ letters, physical units, such as  das A, das Ypsilon, das Kilowatt

These are just a few categories (not all the nouns can be categorized like this) but at least now you will have an idea of German genders. You will see later why it is important.

Next week we will talk some more about grammar and will learn how to use nouns in their plural forms.

This entry was posted in Learn German. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>