German nouns: gender hints Posted by Sandra Rösner on Dec 20, 2010 in Grammar, Language
In German, all nouns have a particular grammatical gender. They can either be masculine (männlich), feminine (weiblich), or neuter (sächlich). The gender of a noun is indicated by its preceding article: „der“ (for masculine nouns), “die” (for feminine nouns), and “das” (for neuter nouns). Please note that not the thing or person is supposed to have a particular gender, but the WORD. Sometimes, the article or gender of a noun can change the meaning of a word. For example, the German word “See” used with the masculine article (der See) means “the lake” in English. When the word “See” is used with the feminine article (die See) it means “the sea” in English. But such cases are rather rare.
Unfortunately, there is no logical explanation or rule why, for example, “der Stuhl” (chair) is masculine, “die Tasche” (bag) is feminine, and “das Buch” (book) is neuter. So, the only way to learn the genders of nouns is to treat their articles as a component of the word. For a better memory of the nouns’ genders you can highlight them in particular colours: all masculine nouns are highlighted in blue, all feminine nouns in red, and all neuter nouns in green.
If you do not have a dictionary at hand to check the gender of a noun, you can try to guess the gender because sometimes the noun itself can show which gender it has. Below I listed some gender hints for the grammatical genders of German nouns.
Nouns which are always masculine:
– days of the week, months, and seasons
– points of the compass (der Norden – north, der Süden – south, der Westen – west, der Osten – east)
– precipitation (der Regen – rain, der Schnee – snow, der Nebel – fog/mist)
– names of cars (der Mercedes, der BMW, der VW) and trains (der ICE)
– words ending in –ismus (der Journalismus – journalism, der Kapitalismus – capitalism)
– words ending in –ner (der Rentner – pensioner; der Schaffner – conductor)
Nouns which are always feminine:
– nouns that are ending in –heit (die Schönheit – the beauty) , -keit (die Tätigkeit – the activity), -tät (die Universität – university), -ung (die Überraschung – surprise), -schaft (die Freundschaft – friendship)
– nouns ending in –ie (Industrie – industry; Komödie – comedy)
– nouns of aircraft (die Boeing 747), ships (die Titanic), motorbikes (die Harley Davidson)
– nouns ending in –ik (die Musik – music, die Panik – panic)
– cardinal numbers (die Eins – one, die Zwei – two, die Drei – three, etc.)
Nouns which are always neuter:
– nouns ending in –chen (das Mädchen – girl) and –lein (das Fräulein = unmarried woman)
– infinitives used as nouns (gerunds): das Essen – the eating/food; das Schreiben – writing)
– names of hotels, cafés and theatres
– names of colours which are used as nouns: das Blau, Das Rot, das Gründer Stuhl – chair die Tasche – bag das Buch – book die Jahreszeit – season der Frühling – spring (but! Das Frühjahr – spring) der Sommer – summer der Herbst – autumn der Winter – winter der Niederschlag – precipitation der Regen – rain der Schnee – snow der Nebel – fog/mist die Himmelsrichtung – point of the compass der Norden – north der Süden – south der Westen – west der Osten – east der Journalismus – journalism der Kapitalismus – capitalism der Rentner – pensioner der Schaffner – conductor die Schönheit – beauty die Tätigkeit – activity die Universität – university die Überraschung – surprise die Freundschaft – friendship die Industrie – industry die Komödie – comedy die Musik – music die Panik – panic das Mädchen – girl das Fräulein – unmarried woman das Essen – the eating/food das Schreiben – writing