Definite and Indefinite Articles

What are Articles?

Articles come before nouns and help you understand what exactly we're talking about. They are also declined (change their form) to give you information about the noun's...

Definite Articles

In English, the definite article is "the":

  • der   –   „der Vater“
  • die   –   „die Mutter“
  • das   –   „das Kind“

Using Definite Articles

Definite articles are used when talking about something specific.

⇒ The noun is unique. You can say exactly what you are talking about.

  •   Der Hund holt die Zeitung.“  (This specific dog got this specific newspaper)

Definite articles are used when talking about something generally known or already specifically mentioned.

  • Das Eis ist kalt.“ (Everyone knows what „Eis“ is)
  • „Das ist der Mann, den ich gestern getroffen habe.“  (It's a specific man, not just anyone)

Declining Definite Articles

Indefinite Articles

In English, "a" and "an" are indefinite articles:

  • ein   –   „ein Mann“ (masculine)
  • ein   –   „ein Kind“ (neuter)
  • eine   –   „eine Frau“ (feminine)

Using Indefinite Articles

Indefinite articles are used when we talk about something unspecified.

⇒  The noun is not unique. It is one of many.

  • „Der Hund holt einen Stock."

(There are many sticks. It could be any of them.)

Declining Indefinite Articles

Articles with Prepositions

In some instances, articles are combined with a preposition:

  • an + das = ans   „Ich fahre ans Meer.“
  • an + dem = am   Am Montag gehe ich…“
  • in + das = ins   „Ich springe ins Wasser.“
  • in + dem = im „Ich bin im Kino.“
  • zu + der = zur   „Ich gehe zur Arbeit.“
  • zu + dem = zum   „Ich gehe zum Kino.“
  • bei + dem = beim   „Ich bin beim Bahnhof.“
  • von + dem = vom „Ich komme vom Mars.“

These pairs are always combined.

If you say it separately, everyone will still understand you, but there is a difference in meaning: the noun is really emphasized (like the English "this," which is a demonstrative pronoun).

Examples

  • Eine Frau fährt zur Arbeit.“
    (It could be ANY woman // zur = zu der ⇒ not any job, HER job.)
  • Die Frau fährt mit einem Fahrrad zur Arbeit.
    (A specific woman that the speaker and listener know, but any bicycle.)

Related Topics:

When do you use der, die, and das? Everything about the topic of gender can be found here: Articles and Gender.

Guess articles right 75% of the time even when you haven't memorized it yet! Article Trick.

When do you use der / die / das, and when ein / eine? ⇒ Definite and Indefinite Articles

Sometimes we don't use any article: The Zero Article.

Using an article to negate a noun: „Kein“.

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