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German nouns: gender hints Posted by 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 Grün

der 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
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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


Comments:

  1. Hichem:

    Great hints—Danke!

    – Hichem, your fellow blogger from the French Blog
    (blogs.transparent.com/french)

  2. Julianne:

    Tag:)
    I am having a hard time with gender when a noun is joined with a pronoun such as “das / der rot BMW” Would you use the gender of the color or the car?

    I am sorry if this is a stupid question. Maybe using pronouns or adjectives would be a topic for later.
    Danke,
    Julia

  3. Sreenivas:

    Thanks for the hints these are really very very useful

    @Julia we have to use the noun of the latter word that is of noun————– I guess

    -Sreenivas

  4. Kyle Ouellette:

    Thank-you so so so much i was just lost on all of the genders in German thank-you. Danke!!!

  5. Piper:

    Just say you were talking to a native german person, and you used the wrong grammatical gender, would it obvious? Like, “Me name Piper,” or, “me go home,” or would just no matter, not make a big difference? If you used the wrong grammatical gender, would it change the word? Or the meaning of the word?

    Danke Shöen,
    Piper

  6. Tweety:

    It is very very useful……danke

  7. Elizabeth:

    I like Piper’s question, and second it!

    Plus, great post. I learned some new things. Didn’t realize that about planes, trains and automobiles!

  8. Ben Oosterom:

    As I frequently speak German, I can say that it doesn’t matter that much which gender you use, only in special cases like “See”. But it can make you sound funny and like a beginner if you do not do this correctly. Thing is- English doesn’t have this, so I can’t illustrate why it sounds funny. I think you could compare it to things like “an house” and “a idea”.

  9. simuz:

    dont understand anything

  10. dasa:

    fun And interesting. i start to jot down notes 🙂

  11. Vid:

    sehr nützlich..vielen Dank