Remember the NOUN GENDER rules in German with these HACKS

Remember the NOUN GENDER rules in German with these HACKS

In German nouns can have one of three genders: Maskulin, Feminin und Neutrum (masculine, feminine and neuter). The gender manifests itself in the article in front of the word. But when to use which can be a bit tricky. In this video I will show you some basic rules to determine whether a word is masculine, feminine or neuter. So grab a pencil and a paper and let’s get started!

Ich bin Spring German Lehrerin Brunhild und hier sind die deutschen Artikel! (I am Spring German teacher Brunhild and here are the German articles!)

With some things, like

  • Mann (man) and
  • Frau (the woman)

you may have an educated guess about the gender. Obviously Mann (man) – man is going to be masculine and Frau (woman) – woman is feminine.

But with other things, it’s not that obvious. What do you think the genders are for:

  • Banane (banana)
  • Gurke (cucumber)
  • Auto (car)
  • Lippenstift (lipstick)?
  • BH (bra)

Well! Turns out that Bananen (banana) and Gurken (cucumber) shaped things can be female while Auto (car) is neuter and BH (bra) and lipstick (Lippenstift), which are items that you would maybe associate with women, can be masculine! How is this possible?

Let’s have a closer look.

1. Der, wie der Mann (Der, like the man)

Der” ist der maskuline Artikel. (”Der” is the masculine article.) Here are some examples for masculine things:

  • Tageszeiten, wie der Morgen, der Abend (times of the day, like the morning, the evening)
  • Wochentage, wie der Montag, der Freitag (weekdays, for example the Monday, the Friday)
  • Monate, zum Beispiel der April, der September (months, for example the April, the September)
  • Jahreszeiten, zum Beispiel der Sommer, der Winter (Seasons, like the summer, the winter)
  • Alkoholische Getränke, zum Beispiel der Gin, der Wein (alcoholic drinks, for example the gin, the wine)

EVA
Trinkst du Wein?
(Are you drinking wine?)

KIM
Erst kommt der Gin dran. Aber der Abend ist noch jung.
(First, it’s the gins’ turn. But the evening is still young.)

EVA
Der Wein ist für deinen Geburtstag. Und der Geburtstag ist erst im Februar!
(The wine is for your birthday. And the birthday is not until February!)

KIM
Der Februar ist noch so weit weg …
(February is still so far away…)

EVA
Du weisst schon, dass der Mittwoch ein Arbeitstag ist? Und der Donnerstag übrigens auch.
(You do know that Wednesday is a workday, right? And so is Thursday, by the way.)

CHUNK ALERT!

Der Abend ist noch jung (the evening it still young) is an expression we use to induce excitement about what is yet to happen. Literally it means “the evening is still young” – anything can still happen.

For more useful chunks like this, download our free essential German chunking kit, to which the link is in the description!

Furthermore, you can tell whether a word is masculine by looking at the ending! The following words usually are masculine:

  • -er, wie der Computer, der Lehrer (-er, as the computer, the teacher)
  • -ling, wie der Schmetterling, der Frühling (-ling, as the butterfly, the spring)
  • -or, wie der Professor, der Motor (-or, as the professor, the motor)
  • -ist, wie der Journalist, der Atheist (-ist, as the journalist, the atheist)
  • -ismus,  wie der Mechanismus, der Kapitalismus (-ismus, as the mechanism, the capitalism)

MARIE
Der Computer ist abgestürzt.
(The computer crashed.)

MONIKA
Und jetzt?
(Now what?)

MARIE
Der Aufsatz schreibt sich nicht von selbst. Bis morgen will der Lehrer ihn haben.
(The essay is not going to write itself. The teacher wants it by tomorrow.)

Monika
Hier. Der Laptop ist zuverlässig.
(Here. The laptop is reliable.)

Before we get to the second gender, “die”, stay until the end where I will share a trick that will make it a million times easier to remember the correct article every time!

2.  Die, wie die Frau (Die, like the woman)

The following things usually have a feminine article:

  • Schiffsnamen, wie
    • die Queen Elisabeth
    • die Titanic (Ship names, the Queen Elisabeth, the Titanic)
  • Flugzeuge, zum Beispiel
    • die Concorde
    • die Boeing (Planes, for example the Concorde, the Boeing)
  • Motorradmarken, zum Beispiel
    • die Harley Davidson
    • die Suzuki (Motorbike-brands, for example the Harley Davidson, the Suzuki)
  • Zahlen, zum Beispiel
    • die Eins
    • die Fünf (Numbers, for example the one, the seven)
  • Blumen, zum Beispiel
    • die Rose
    • die Grünlilie (Flowers, for example the rose, the spiderplant)

Marie
Die Rose ist sehr schön.
(The rose is very beautiful.)

Monika
Mir gefällt die Grünlilie sehr gut.
(I like the spider plant a lot.)

But the best indicator for “Die” is actually the ending of a word, like:

  • -e, wie die Tasche, die Lampe (e like the bag, the lamp)
  • -t , wie die Naht, die Tat(-t, like the seam, the deed)
  • -ei, wie die Bäckerei, die Tyrannei (-ei, like the bakery, the tyranny)
  • -schaft, wie die Nachbarschaft, die Rechenschaft (-schaft, like the neighborhood, the justification)
  • -in, wie die Professorin, die Friseurin (-in, like the professor, the hairdresser (both feminine))
  • -ung, wie die Zeitung, die Meinung (-ung, like the newspaper, the opinion)

Marie
Ich hasse die Einsamkeit. Gehst du weg?
(I hate loneliness. Are you leaving?)

Monika
Ich gehe in die Bäckerei. Möchtest du etwas?
(I am going to the bakery. Do you want something?)

Marie
Kannst du die Zeitung holen? Die Nachbarin hat sie sicher auf die Treppe gelegt.
(Can you get the newspaper? The neighbor surely put it on the stairs.)

Monika
Die Professorin?
(The professor?)

Marie
Nein, die Friseurin.
(No, the hairdresser.)

Now ,the following endings of foreign loanwords indicate a female article as well:

  • -ion, wie die Aktion, die Diskussion (-ion, like the action, the discussion)
  • -age, wie die Gage, die Blamage (-age, like the salary, the embarrassment)
  • -ur, wie die Agentur, die Tastatur (-ur, like the agency, the keyboard)
  • -ik, wie die Musik, die Physik (-ik, like the music, the physics)
  • -anz, wie die Akzeptanz, die Toleranz (-anz, like the acceptance, the tolerance)
  • -tät, wie die Realität, die Qualität (-tät, like the reality, the quality)
  • -ade, wie die Limonade, die Marmelade (-ade, like the lemonade, the marmalade)
  • -enz, wie die Präsenz, die Tendenz (-enz, like the presence, the tendency)

This is obviously very much to keep track of! So don’t beat yourself up, if you don’t get it right away! Nobody will chop your head off if you say the wrong article, but practice makes perfect!

EVA
Wo sind die Limonade und die Marmelade? Die Tradition, dass du alles aufisst, nervt langsam.
(Where are the lemonade and the marmalade? The tradition of you eating everything is slowly getting on my nerves.)

KIM
Die Qualität war sowieso schlecht. Das ist die Diskussion nicht wert.
(The quality was bad anyway. It’s not worth the discussion.)

EVA
Mir fehlt langsam die Akzeptanz. Das ist die Realität.
(I’m slowly losing acceptance. That is the reality.)

KIM
Du hast die Tendenz, zu übertreiben.
(You have a tendency to exaggerate.)

Now, what do we say when something is neither masculine nor feminine? We can always use neuter!

3. Das, wie das Kind (Das, like the child)

The following things are usually neuter:

  • Farben (colors), wie das Blau, das Gelb (the blue, the yellow)
  • Metalle (metals), wie das Gold, das Eisen (the gold, the iron)
  • Chemische Elemente (chemical elements), wie das Uran, das Helium (the uranium, the helium)

Also, any verb that has been turned into a noun is neuter, such as

  • das Schlafen (the sleeping)
  • das Lesen (the reading)
  • das Schwimmen (the swimming)

as well as adjectives turned into a noun, like

  • das Schöne (the beautiful)
  • das Gute (the good)

Here are endings that usually are neuter:

  • -o, wie das Auto, das Motto (-o, the car, the motto)
  • -um, wie das Museum, das Publikum (-um, the museum, the audience)
  • -is, wie das Hindernis, das Ereignis (-is, like the obstacle, the happening)

MONIKA on the phone
Das Häuschen steht ein paar km außerhalb, sodass wir das Grüne rundherum haben. Das Schöne ist, dass wir das Auto haben. Viel sehen heisst das Motto! Zuerst wollen wir in das deutsche Museum und in das Planetarium.  Aber jetzt ruft das Bett. Das Autofahren wird anstrengend und das Schlafen kommt die nächsten Tage sicherlich zu kurz. Gute Nacht! Ich erzähle dir morgen das Ergebnis! Ciao!
(The cottage lies a few km out of town, so that we have the green all around. The nice thing is that we have the car. Seeing a lot is the motto! First we want to go to the Deutsches Museum and the Planetarium. But now the bed calls. The drive will be exhausting and the sleep will certainly come short during the next few days. Good night! I’ll tell you the result tomorrow! Bye!)

Also these endings are often neuter:

  • -tum, wie das Ultimatum, das Christentum (-tum, like the ultimatum, the christianity)
  • -chen, wie das Häuschen, das Mädchen (-chen, like the cottage, the girl)
  • -lein, wie das Kindlein (-lein, like the little child)
  • -ment, wie das Regiment, das Instrument (-ment, like the regime, the instrument)

Now in case you are being a good student and writing all this down, I’m sure you’re using a different color for each article, which is very smart and brings me to my little tip for you.

4. The color trick to never forget an article again!

This is how it goes:

Think about all masculine nouns in one color, like blue, all feminine endings in another color like red and all neuter words in yellow or whatever color. So das Auto (the car) becomes a yellow car and der BH (the bra) becomes a blue bra and der Lippenstift (the lipstick) becomes a blue lipstick and die Banane (the banana) becomes a red banana and die Gurke becomes a red cucumber and so on, you get the point. Imagine the thing in your mind having that particular color and make sure it really sticks.

So when needing the gender of the noun, just picture the noun in its right color and you will know the correct article right away. This is what I did when I learned latin, and I’m totally fluent at that now…

5. Quiz

Now for a little quiz to test yourself.

  • Was ist der Artikel für (What is the article for) Banane (banana?) Die Banane (The banana).
  • Was ist der Artikel für (What is the article for) BH (bra)? Der BH. (The bra).
  • Was ist der Artikel für (What is the article for) Schwimmen (swimming)? Das Schwimmen (The swimming).
  • Was ist der Artikel für (What is the article for)Winter (winter)? Der Winter (the winter).
  • Was ist der Artikel für (What is the article for) Gold (gold)? Das Gold (The gold).
  • Was ist der Artikel für (What is the article for) Mädchen (girl)? Das Mädchen (the girl).
  • Was ist der Artikel für (What is the article for) Concorde (Concorde)? Die Concorde (The Concorde).
  • Was ist der Artikel für (What is the article for) Gin (gin)? Der Gin (the Gin).
  • Was ist der Artikel für (What is the article for) Grünlilie (spider plant)? Die Grünlilie (the spider plant).

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