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Articles in German (der-die-das/ein-eine)

Using the German language is one of the most difficult languages for English speakers. This lesson will show you how to use articles in German and how to distinguish between definite articles and indefinite articles.

Based on the previous lesson, now that we have a good command of the genders of the German nouns, we can start learning the articles in German.

Articles in German

The German language has definite and indefinite articles, which play a big role in the way we speak and write. They also define the meaning of a sentence. This topic will explore how to use these articles in German as well as what you should know about them.

If you are learning German, it is important to learn about articles since they are used extensively in sentence structure. The article always matches the gender of the noun that it describes, so if you want to find out what article a word should have, you need to look at how it is spelt and its gender.

The Definite Articles in German: der-die-das

The definite article is known as “the” in English and is used especially when we refer to a person or thing, for example:

  • Can you tell me where the WC is?

ln English the definite article “the” always keeps the same form. On the other hand, the definite article in German has many forms. The definite article “der” is for masculine nouns, “die” is used for feminine nouns and “das” is used for neuter nouns:

masculine der Mannthe man
feminine die Frauthe woman
neuter das Buchthe book

It is difficult to guess the gender of nouns in German. That’s why we recommend that you learn each noun with its definite article, that is the word for “the” (der, die or das) which goes with it:

Mutter
die Mutter

However, there are also some clues that can help you work out or remember the gender of nouns, as explained below.

der (masculine)

Nouns with the following meanings are usually (There are also some exceptions.) masculine.

  • Male humans and animals
  • Words ending with “-ich, -ist, -or, -ig, -ling, -ismus, -ant, -är, -eur, -iker, -ps”
  • Seasons, months, days of the week,
  • Winds, weather, points of the compass
  • Rocks, minerals
  • Alcoholic and plant-based drinks
  • Car brands
  • Monetary units
  • Mountains, mountain ranges
  • Rivers outside Germany

die (feminine)

Nouns with the following meanings are usually (There are also some exceptions.) feminine.

  • Female humans and animals
  • Words ending with “-ei, -ung, -in, -heit, -keit, -ion, -ie, -schaft, -elle, -ik, -ur, -ade”
  • Aeroplanes, motor- bikes, ships
  • Rivers inside Germany
  • Names of numerals

das (neuter)

Nouns with the following meanings are usually (There are also some exceptions.) neuter.

  • Young humans and animals
  • Words ending with “-chen, -lein, -ett , -ium ,-ment , -tum , -eau”
  • Metals, chemicals, scientific units
  • Hotels, cafés, restaurants, cinemas
  • Continents, countries, towns

Indefinite Articles in German: ein-eine

The indefinite article is known as “a/an” in English and is used when we are not referring to any specific thing or person, for example:

  • I want to drink a coke.
  • You should use an umbrella in rainy weather.

In German, there is one indefinite article, “ein“. However, it has two forms (ein, eine) and these can be translated to “a” or “an” in English. “ein” is used for masculine and neuter nouns while “eine” is used for feminine nouns.

masculine ein Manna man
feminine eine Fraua woman
neuter ein Bucha book
masculine ein Regenschirman umbrella

The following table summarizes the topic of German definite and indefinite articles.

masculinefeminineneuter
der (the)die (the)das (the)
ein (a/an)eine (a/an)ein (a/an)
Articles in German

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