Learning German? Eventually, you’ll need some knowledge of German grammar if you want to have a better understanding of how the language works, and how to form correct sentences. Articles are a great place to start, because you’ve definitely already run across them if you’ve learned a few German words. This article is all about the different articles in German, and how to choose between der, die and das.
Der, Die, Das – A Closer Look at Articles in German
Let’s start with the basics. What are articles? Essentially, articles are the little words that come before nouns. In English, we only have one definite article – “the.” In German, there are three. They all start with a “d,” which could make things easier or more confusing, depending on who you ask. You need to use a different article depending on the gender of the noun that goes with it. Here are the definite articles in German:
- masculine = der
- feminine = die
- neuter = das
For lots of German learners, trying to figure out which article to use can be a real nightmare. But have no fear! With our tips, learning them is easy.
5 Tips for Always Choosing the Correct Articles in German
1. Memorize the article every time you learn a new noun in German
If you learn each noun with its article from the start, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration later on. Write down the article-noun combination in a notebook, or repeat the pair over and over again until it sticks. This really helps reinforce your memory. Just remember: a noun is not complete without its article! Think of them as best friends, or even lovers… you wouldn’t want to break up a happy couple, would you?
2. Match nouns with colors
If you’re the kind of person who keeps an old-fashioned list of new words you learn, or if you’re into bullet journaling, break out some colored pens or markers. Every time you write down a new word, match it to one of three colors: one for masculine nouns, one for feminine, and another for neuter. (And of course don’t forget to write down the article itself.) It may sound strange at first, but it really helps you remember them! Instead of just associating a word with the letters that form it, you’ll create an entire mental image.
3. …or categories
Categories can often help you choose the correct articles in German, too.
For example: “der Monat” (month) is a masculine noun. So what is the right article for Januar, Februar, März (January, February, March) and so on? It’s also “der”! The same trick works for “der Tag” – der Montag (Monday), der Dienstag (Tuesday), der Mittwoch (Wednesday) and so on.
When we first start learning a language, we often learn nouns for the things around us. Think about the objects in your room, for example. Can you find a pattern? All the furniture that you can sit on is masculine. Decorations are feminine, and furniture for sleeping and relaxing is neutral!
Of course there are exceptions. But if you make up categories in your head and maybe even come up with a short story about groups of words, you’re sure to learn their articles faster!
4. How to hack compound words in German
German is known for its looooonnngggg words. They often combine two, three or more nouns and make one word out of them. For the purpose of articles, this is good news! Here’s why:
Let’s say I live in a house – das Haus – and the house has a door, die Tür. In many languages you’d say something like “the door of the house.” Not in German! Instead, just combine the nouns: “Haustür.” But what’s its article? Die Haustür, because the main subject is still a door.
Since it is my house, I have a key to this door. What is that called? It’s der Haustürschlüssel (front door key), of course! Key takeaway (pun intended)? In a compound word, the last word always determines the article!
5. Endings are your friend-ings
Now I want to direct your attention to noun endings. Certain endings are almost always for masculine nouns, others always go with feminine nouns, and yet others are neutral. If you know what they are, you’ll easily be able to identify the gender of the noun and choose the right article for it. There are quite a lot, but the list below contains the most common endings to look out for:
- Use der for most words that end in -er and -el. Like in: der Computer (computer), der Schlüssel (key), der Lehrer (teacher), der Rüssel (trunk).
- Die is the article you should use for most words that end in -heit, -keit, -ung and -schaft. As in: die Freiheit (freedom), die Gemeinsamkeit (community), die Erfahrung (experience) et die Freundschaft (friendship).
- And go with das if the noun ends in -chen, -ment and -ma. For example: das Brötchen (roll), das Dokument (document) et das Thema (subject).
Like I said, there are many other endings, and not all of them will help you navigate the German article jungle. But this short list is a good start.
We hope these tips will help and inspire you. Before I go, just a reminder that it’s totally okay if you happen to use the wrong article. People will still understand you! So don’t panic! The most important thing is to start speaking as soon as possible.
Magda’s Tips on German Articles
If you’re more of an auditory learner, check out these tips in Magda’s video. It’s totally in German, so you can work on your listening comprehension at the same time! But you can also turn on subtitles in one of six languages (including English and German) – click the gear icon to do that. Scroll down to watch, or head over to our YouTube channel. If Madga speaks a little too quickly for you, feel free to slow the video down. Click the gear button to change the playback speed. Enjoy!
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