Gender in German – der / die / das

What do we mean by a noun's gender?

In the English language, only people have genders (and sometimes pets). The gender determines if we use the pronouns "he" / "his" or "she" / "her." All other nouns use "it" / "its." 

In German, EVERY noun has a gender.

There are THREE possible genders in German: feminine, masculine, and neuter). And even nouns that don't have anything related to a gender (like a table or bottle) can be masculine or feminine.

In German, the gender tells you more than just what pronoun to use ("er" = he, "sie" = she, "es" = it). It also tell you what article to use and what endings are required. But don't worry too much about the details right now; we'll go into more detail about that later.

Examples:

  • "Mann" (man) is masculine - "der Mann"
  • "Frau" (woman) is feminine - "die Frau"
  • "Kind" (kid) is neuter - "das Kind"
  • "Baby" (baby) is neuter - "das Baby"
  • "Flasche" (bottle) is feminine - "die Flasche"
  • "Eimer" (bucket) is masculine - "der Eimer"

    Yes, words like bottle and bucket have a gender, and it isn't always neuter!

Which words have a gender?

ALL nouns have a gender! Yes, this can be confusing if English (or another language without a gender) is your first language - tables are masculine, bottles are feminine, and cars are neuter. You just have to accept it and do your best!

Tip: In German, you can tell if a word is a noun right away when it's written - all nouns are written with capital letters, even if they aren't at the beginning of the sentence!

How do we determine the gender?

The most important rule:

There is no universal rule that works in every situation. In German, you can’t tell the gender just by looking at the noun. Always learn the article along with the noun! (Use my vocabulary list sample in order to prevent difficulties in the future.)

So there are no rules, BUT:

There are certain characteristics of the noun that can help you determine the article. These are related to the meaning or ending of the noun.

Masculine Nouns:

More endings that tell you it’s a masculine noun (most of the time): -ig, -ent, -ier, -ist, -or, -ör, -iker, -ast, -eur.

These are the most important ones, but it’s still best to always learn the article together with the meaning of the word.

Feminine Nouns:

More endings that tell you it’s a feminine noun (usually!): - anz, -ik, -tät, -ur, -ei, -sis, -ive, -ade.

Neuter Nouns:

More endings that tell you it’s a neuter noun (most of the time): -tel, -in, -tum, -um, -ment, -o, -ma, -ett.

Compound Nouns

If a noun contains multiple other words joined together, the last noun determines the gender of the compound word.

Examples

  • der Schrank + die Tür   = die Schranktür
  • das Bett + die Decke   = die Bettdecke
  • die Hand + das Tuch  = das Handtuch

And finally some good news!

In plural there is only one form: gender doesn't matter for plural nouns!

  • „der Ball“ ⇒ „die Bälle"
  • „die Frau“ ⇒ „die Frauen"
  • „das Haus“ ⇒ „die Häuser"

Related Topics:

To many rules for you? Guess 75% of all article correctly with my article trick.

What articles are there in German? Articles.

How to form plural nouns in German.

How do the articles change based on the case the noun is in? More about German cases.

Some masculine nouns get an extra "-n"-ending in accusative, dative, and genitive. It's called n-declension.

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