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Männliche Substantive im Deutschen erkennen: Teil 1 – Detecting German masculine nouns: part 1 Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in Grammar, Language

Learners of German often complain about the language’s three grammatical genders and their appropriate articles because it seems to be a torture to learn nouns and their associated grammatical genders. Therefore, I decided to address myself to this topic and give you some guidelines how you can match the correct gender and/or article to a particular noun.

First of all, you should be aware of the fact that not the object, which is denoted by a particular word, has a gender, but ONLY THE WORD! For example, nouns that refer to items of furniture like ‘chair’ (der Stuhl) and ‘armchair’ (der Sessel) are masculine in German. Other items of furniture like ‘lamp’ (die Lampe) and ‘couch’ (die Couch) are feminine. And still other pieces are neuter, for example, ‘sofa’ (das Sofa) and ‘shelf’ (das Regal).

You have probably recognized that ‘sofa’ and ‘couch’ are two different words that denote the same object. The only difference is that the word ‘sofa’ is neuter in German and the word ‘couch’ is feminine. Consequently, you cannot simply attach any male, female or neuter features to objects! Anyway, let’s have a look what nouns are masculine in German.

 

a) Living Beings

First of all, all nouns that denote male living beings (humans and animals) are masculine.

 

Masculine/male forms Feminine/female forms
der Junge – boyder Sohn – son

der Vater – father

der Mann – man

der Onkel – uncle

der König – king

der Präsident – president

der Hengst – stallion

der Hahn – rooster

der Kater – tom/male cat

das Mädchen– girl*die Tochter – daughter

die Mutter – mother

die Frau – woman

die Tante – aunt

die Königin – queen

die Präsidentin – female president

die Stute – mare

die Henne – hen

die Katze – female cat

 

* A ‘girl’ is, of course, female but as said above, the word itself determines whether a noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter. Thus, all German nouns that contain the minimization ending –chen are ALWAYS NEUTER.

 

b) Male occupations

Nouns that denote male occupations are masculine.

 

Masculine/male forms Feminine/female forms
der Arzt –doctor/physiciander Kaufmann –trader

der Polizist –policeman

der Bäcker –baker

der Schneider –taylor

der Bademeister –pool attendent

der Ingenieur – engineer

der Koch – cook/chef

die Ärztindie Kauffrau

die Polizistin – policewoman

die Bäkerin

die Schneiderin

die Bademeisterin

die Ingenieurin

die Köchin

 

As you can see when you want to form the female form of an occupation you simply have to add the ending –in to the masculine form of the noun and replace ‘der’ with ‘die’. Sometimes the main vowel of a word will be converted into an umlaut, for example, Arzt -> Ärztin, Koch -> Köchin. This grammatical feature has not been “invented” in order to confuse foreign learners of German. Actually, this has something to do with the simplification of pronunciation. You should note well that speech sounds influence each other and that they determine how their adjacent sounds are realized or can be realized. For example, the word “Koch” is realized with a hard ch-sound because it is virtually impossible to pronounce it with a soft ch-Sound. When the ending –in is added to the word ‘Koch’ the hard ch-sounds automatically changes to a soft ch-sound because it is much easier to utter the syllable ‘chin’ with a soft ch-sound. In order to ensure to maintain this simpler pronunciation of ‘chin’ the ‘o’ has to be transformed into an ‘ö’. In other words, our speech organs can realize many single speech sounds but when we combine these sounds to form words the sounds themselves restrict our speech organs what other sounds we can realize in a particular phonemic environment.

Result: The grammatical gender of a word has nothing to do with the ‘gender’ of the objects or subjects it denotes. The object itself is usually genderless. Nevertheless, all German nouns that refer to male humans or male occupations and male animals are always masculine in German.

Last but not least: You are probably aware of the fact that there are much more rules. I will discuss them in my upcoming post. I am also planning to write such thorough posts on feminine and neuter nouns.

 

To be continued…

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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. Ray:

    Thanks for all your help in learning German. One small error is; der Schneider is
    a tailor not a taylor.

  2. Ersen Turker:

    Very helpful