How to use genders and articles in German

A noun is a person, place or thing. All German nouns must start with a capital letter and they all have a gender: masculine, feminine or neuter.

Genders

The gender is important as it decides lots of things around the noun, like articles and adjectives. Nouns are also either singular or plural. Here are some clues to help you work out the gender.

Masculine

  • Male family members
    • der Vater - father
    • der Bruder - brother
    • der Junge - boy
  • Days, months and seasons
    • der Montag - Monday
    • der Juni - June
    • der Winter - winter
  • Nouns ending in -ling and -ig
    • der Honig - honey
    • der König - king
    • der Schmetterling - butterfly

Feminine

  • Female family members
    • die Mutter - mother
    • die Schwester - sister
    • die Oma - grandma
  • Nouns ending in -e
    • die Katze - cat
    • die Lampe - lamp
  • Nouns ending in -schaft
    • die Freundschaft - friendship
    • die Landschaft - countryside
    • die Nachbarschaft - neighbourhood

Neuter

  • Human and animal babies
    • das Baby - baby
    • das Kätzchen - kitten
    • das Küken - chick
  • Nouns ending in -chen
    • das Kaninchen - rabbit
    • das Mädchen - girl
  • Verbs used as nouns
    • das Leben - life
    • das Essen - food
    • das Einkaufen - shopping

Articles

The definite article: der, die and das

The definite article is the word for the. There are four different definite articles in German, depending on the gender and number of the noun. Take a look at them in the table below.

Gender/NumberDefinite article (the)Example
masculinederder Hund - the dog
femininediedie Katze - the cat
neuterdasdas Kaninchen - the rabbit
pluraldie (even if the noun is masculine or neuter)die Hunde - the dogs, die Katzen - the cats

The indefinite article: ein, eine and ein

The indefinite article is the word for a and an. There are three different indefinite articles in German. Take a look at them in the table below.

GenderIndefinite article (a/an)Example
masculineeinein Hund - a dog
feminineeineeine Katze - a cat
neutereinein Kaninchen - a rabbit

There is no plural indefinite article. Ein, eine and ein are only used for singular nouns.

Nominative and accusative

The article changes depending on where the noun is used in the sentence. This is called the German Case System.

Nominative

The nominative case is used when the noun is the subject of the sentence. The subject is the person or thing who ‘does’ the verb in the sentence.

  • Der Mann hat einen Hund - The man has a dog.
  • Ein Mann hat einen Hund - A man has a dog.

Take a look at the nominative definite and indefinite articles below.

definite articleindefinite article
masculinederein
femininedieeine
neuterdasein
plural die

Accusative

The accusative case is used when the noun is the direct object in the sentence. This means it has the verb ‘done to it’. It often comes after the verb.

  • Der Mann hat einen Hund - The man has a dog.
  • Ein Mann hat einen Hund - A man has a dog.

Take a look at the accusative definite and indefinite articles below.

definite articleindefinite article
masculinedeneinen
femininedieeine
neuterdasein
plural die

Forming plurals

If a noun is plural, you need to use the article die. To make a German noun plural, you can’t simply add s like in English. Plurals in German have different endings depending on the noun. Masculine and neuter nouns often add an -e and feminine nouns often add an -n.

Masculine and neuter nouns:

  • Ich esse viele Kekse - I eat lots of biscuits.
  • Sie hat fünf Pferde - She has five horses.
  • Es gibt zwei Tische - There are two tables.

Feminine nouns:

  • Ich habe drei Katzen - I have three cats.
  • Er hat sechs Spinnen - He has six spiders.
  • Es gibt zwei Kirchen - There are two churches.

Exceptions

There are some exceptions to watch out for:

Nouns ending in -chen and -er stay the same.

  • zehn Mädchen - ten girls
  • drei Hamster - three hamsters

Some nouns add an umlaut over the vowel and then -e or -er at the end:

  • drei Bücher - three books
  • vier Mäuse - four mice
  • zwei Häuser - two houses
drei Bücher, vier Mäuse, zwei Häuser

Some nouns add an -s like in English:

  • die Babys - babies
  • die Parks - parks
  • die Kinos - cinemas

Quiz

Find out how much you know about genders and articles in German in this short quiz!

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