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DER, DIE, DAS: HOW TO KNOW WHICH ARTICLE TO USE

The most difficult part of learning German is probably understanding the German articles. You’ve got the masculine der, the feminine die, the neutral das, and the plural die, whereas it’s just “the” in English.


These articles change a lot depending on the context. But don’t worry! We’ve designed a little guide on how to really understand the articles. You’ve got this!


The first essential step to understanding the different articles is to ensure you know this basic principle: All German nouns have an assigned gender.


How do I know what gender a noun has?

This is the million-dollar question! No qualities make a noun male, female, or neuter. You can’t just use feminine articles for words considered female. The gender of the noun has absolutely nothing to do with the noun itself. So, you can’t just think “Hmm... I feel like the word “lip stick” seems feminine, right?”

That even objects have a gender seems strange to many. People are familiar with gendered pronouns (he, she, it…), but the German language takes it a step further. Now, you have to, of course, try to memorize hundreds, even thousands of German articles. There isn't really a way around that. But that sounds more laborious than it is. After all, vocabulary has to be learned anyway. Just include the nouns' articles fromthe beginning. And, it will help to look at categories of words that share the same article:


Noun Groups


Masculine (der):

- Male persons and animals

- days of the week, months of the year

- seasons, and most weather elements

- car makes

- monetary units

- non-German river names

- rocks and minerals

- mountains and mountain ranges

- and alcoholic and plant-based drinks


Feminine (die):

- Female persons and animals

- Rivers within Germany, Austria, Switzerland

- Airplanes, motorcycles, ships

- Numbers used as nouns

- Trees, fruits, and flowers

- Nouns formed from measurement or size adjectives


Neuter (das):

- Young persons and baby animals

- metals and chemical elements

- names of continents, cities, provinces, and most countries

- scientific units & measurements

- letters of the alphabet and music notes

- hotels, cafes, restaurants, and movie theaters

- other parts of speech used as nouns (gerunds, colors, languages, English -ing forms).


Of course, as always, exceptions prove the rule.


Noun Endings


For determining its gender, the end of the noun is the most important.


Masculine: -ant, -ast, -ich, -ig, -ismus, -ling, -or, -us


Feminine: -a, -anz, -enz, -ei, -heit, -ie, -in, -keit, -ik, -sion, -tion, -sis, -tät, -ung, -ur, schaft


Neuter -chen, -lein, -icht, -il, -it, -ma, -ment, -tel, -tum, -um


Again, with a few exceptions, memorizing this is already a big step towards understanding the German articles.


Everything else becomes easy once you’ve determined whether a noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter! Remember, good things take time, so don’t give up. You’ve got this!


For full information about German nouns and their articles click here.

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