How to remember articles in German

by Jakob Straub
January 08, 2021
a woman studying How to remember articles in German

German articles can give language learners a headache. They’re particularly tricky because they have to reflect gender, case and number of the noun, which isn’t the case in English. Other languages with cases modify the noun to indicate case and omit an article altogether. Learning German articles means declinating definite and indefinite articles and knowing the gender of every single noun you want to use, a seemingly daunting task. But we’ll show you a shortcut!

Quick overview: What are German articles?

German articles are the equivalent of “the” and “a” in English in reference to nouns. However, a major difference between the two languages is that each article has to agree in gender, case and number with the noun.

English has articles, but not cases; German has both. The four German cases are nominative, genitive, dative and accusative. The gender of a noun can be masculine, feminine or neuter. The number indicates if a noun is singular or plural.

The definite articles in German

The definite article refers to specific, countable nouns. In German, the definite articles are der, die, das for masculine, feminine and neuter, which in English are all “the”.

CASEMASCULINEFEMININENEUTERPLURAL
NominativeDer MannDie FrauDas HausDie Männer / Frauen / Häuser
GenitiveDes MannesDer FrauDes HausesDer Männer / Frauen / Häuser
DativeDem MannDer FrauDem HausDen Männern / Frauen / Häusern
AccusativeDen MannDie FrauDas HausDie Männer / Frauen / Häuser

The indefinite articles in German

The indefinite article is used for non-specific nouns, and in the plural, for an uncount number. English uses “a” and “an” as well as “some” in the plural. 

CASEMASCULINEFEMININENEUTERPLURAL
NominativeEin MannEine FrauEin HausEinige Männer / Frauen / Häuser
GenitiveEines MannesEiner FrauEines HausesEiniger Männer / Frauen / Häuser
DativeEinem MannEiner FrauEinem HausEinigen Männern / Frauen / Häusern
AccusativeEinen MannEine FrauEin HausEinige Männer / Frauen / Häuser

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Tricks for pairing German articles with nouns correctly

When you’re used to articles without case and gender as in English or even a language without articles, having to remember so many things to get German articles right can appear as the hardest part of learning the language.

However, there are arbitrary rules for the gender of some words, allowing you to infer their gender from their ending. We’ll give you an overview of these German nouns, which allows you to always use the correct article.

Der

There are a few word endings which indicate a noun is masculine and therefore requires the article “der”: -ant, – or, -ich, -ling, -us, -ist.

-ant-or-ich-ling-ismus-ist
Der Praktikant
Der Konsonant
Der Ministrant
Der Doktor
Der Motor
Der Humor 
Der Teppich
Der Abstrich
Der Rettich
Der Vergleich
Der Zwilling
Der Häftling
Der Säugling
Der Winzling
Der Frühling
Der Tourismus
Der Optimismus
Der Kapitalismus
Der Polizist
Der Pianist
Der Spezialist
Der Internist

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Die

The word endings -keit, -ion, -heit, -enz, -tät and -ung indicate a feminine noun and need the female article “die”.

-keit-ion-heit-enz-tät-ung
Die Geschwindigkeit
Die Gefälligkeit
Die Häufigkeit
Die Station
Die Nation
Die Situation
Die Seltenheit
Die Schönheit
Die Feigheit 
Die Tendenz
Die Präsenz
Die Differenz
Die Spezialität
Die Normalität
Die Solidarität
Die Handlung
Die Einladung
Die Anleitung

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Das

The endings -chen, -ium, -tum, -lein, -o, -ment and -is indicate a neuter noun and agree with the neuter article “das”.

-chen-ium / -tum-lein-o-ment-is
Das Händchen
Das Ständchen
Das Zeichen
Das Kaninchen
Das Aquarium
Das Ministerium
Das Sammelsurium
Das Ultimatum
Das Brauchtum
Das Votum
Das Fräulein
Das Büchlein
Das Blümlein
Das Verslein
Das Tempo
Das Video
Das Solo
Das Konto
Das Studio
Das Kompliment
Das Medikament
Das Instrument
Das Dokument
Das Zeugnis
Das Hindernis
Das Erlebnis
Das Geheimnis

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More tips how to remember articles in German

  • When learning a new noun, always learn the gender with it by remembering the definite article. The added benefit is that you’ll not only use the correct article, you’ll make it much easier to properly pair adjectives as well.
  • Roughly two thirds of German words with one syllable are masculine. When in doubt, guess masculine with these short words.
  • A majority of singular nouns ending in -er are masculine, but there are exceptions, such as “Die Mutter” (the mother). Keep in mind that -er can also form the plural of many words.
  • A large majority of nouns ending in -e are feminine.
  • Some word endings are misleading: -nd seems to be primarily masculine, as in “Der Mond”, “Der Mund”, “Der Hund”, but exceptions are “Die Hand” or “Das Band”.
  • The beginning of a word can be an indicator as well: Ge- can often be a neuter word, as in “Das Gesetz” or “Das Gespräch”, but again, der are exceptions: “Die Geschichte” or “Die Gebärde”.

Apart from articles, how else are German and English different? Find out the 7 major differences between English and German grammar!

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