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”.
|Nominative||Der Mann||Die Frau||Das Haus||Die Männer / Frauen / Häuser|
|Genitive||Des Mannes||Der Frau||Des Hauses||Der Männer / Frauen / Häuser|
|Dative||Dem Mann||Der Frau||Dem Haus||Den Männern / Frauen / Häusern|
|Accusative||Den Mann||Die Frau||Das Haus||Die 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.
|Nominative||Ein Mann||Eine Frau||Ein Haus||Einige Männer / Frauen / Häuser|
|Genitive||Eines Mannes||Einer Frau||Eines Hauses||Einiger Männer / Frauen / Häuser|
|Dative||Einem Mann||Einer Frau||Einem Haus||Einigen Männern / Frauen / Häusern|
|Accusative||Einen Mann||Eine Frau||Ein Haus||Einige Männer / Frauen / Häuser|
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.
There are a few word endings which indicate a noun is masculine and therefore requires the article “der”: -ant, – or, -ich, -ling, -us, -ist.
The word endings -keit, -ion, -heit, -enz, -tät and -ung indicate a feminine noun and need the female article “die”.
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|
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!