When to use der, die or das?

Hallo liebe Leser,

This is my first post of the year and this one is kind of special to me, because I’ve been working on it for a very long time and this subject is the hardest part of learning German to me. Doesn’t matter how much grammar you study and learn, if you don’t know the right article you will do the wrong declination. Believe me, I do that all the time. What I have learned is that we just need to memorize and memorizing takes time!

I haven’t seen anywhere any logical explanation or rule why, for example, ,,der Tisch” (table) is masculine, ,,die Tasche” (bag) is feminine, and ,,das Handy” (mobile phone) is neuter, but there are some guidelines that can help you to remember the gender of some German nouns and I listed them in this post! 😉

I don’t know about yours, but most world languages have nouns that are either masculine or feminine, and it is like this in Brazil. For me, the most tough stage about learning German is to know which gender to use, because gender does not transfer well from one language to another. Here are the most classical examples: the word for “sun” is masculine in Portuguese (o sol) but feminine in German (,,die Sonne“) and the word for “moon” is masculine in German (,,der Mond“), while in Portuguese is feminine (a lua).

Besides all of this, German language also has a third gender: neuter. It’s enough to drive us crazy!! The gender of a noun is indicated by its preceding article: ,,der” (for masculine nouns), ,,die” (for feminine nouns), and ,,das” (for neuter nouns). der die das NOTES!

  1. It’s not only the noun that is supposed to have a specific gender in German, but the WORD that stands for it!! For example, we have two ways to say “car” in German and they can be either neuter ,,das Auto” or masculine ,,der Wagen“.
  2. The only way to learn German vocabulary is to treat the article of a noun as an integral part of the WORD. Not ,,Bier” (beer), but ,,das Bier“. Not ,,Vogel” (bird), but ,,der Vogel“.
  3. I’ve read that the highest percentage of German nouns are masculine. So, if you’re going to guess, guess ,,der“!  😉

Endungen

Allways the same article

maskulin (masculine)
ismus der Tourismus, der Journalismus, der Kommunismus, der Synchronismus (tourism, journalism, communism, synchronism) *1
ner der Rentner, der Schaffner, der Zöllner (pensioners, conductor, tax collector) *2
feminin (feminine)
heit  die Freiheit (freedom) *1
keit die Schnelligkeit (velocity) *1
 tät die Universität (university) *1
 ung die Zeitung (newspaper) *1
 schaft die Freundschaft (friendship) *1
ie die Drogerie, die Geographie, die Komödie, die Industrie, die Ironie (drugstore, geography, comedy, industry, irony) *3
ik die Grammatik, die Grafik, die Klinik, die Musik, die Panik, die Physik (grammar, graphics, clinic, music, panic, physics)
 ade die Parade, die Limonade (parade, lemonade) *4
 age die Blamage (humiliation) *4
 anz die Bilanz (balance) *4
enz die Frequenz (frequency) *4
ette die Serviette (napkin) *4
 –ine die Maschine (machine) *4
 ion die Nation (nation) *4
 tur die Konjunktur (economy) *4
neutral (neuter)
chen das Häuschen, das Kaninchen, das Mädchen (little house, rabbit, girl)
lein das Fräulein (Miss)

*These suffixes usually have a corresponding English suffix, such as -ism (-ismus), -ness (heit, –keit), -ty (tät), -ship (schaft).

*The feminine form adds –in (die Rentnerin).

*3 Often equal to words ending in -y in English.

*Such words often resemble their English equivalent. A rare –ade exception: der Nomade (nomad).

Usually the same article

maskulin (masculine)
ling der Liebling, der Schädling, der Frühling (favorite, pest, spring)
ist der Pazifist (pacifist)
ich der Rettich, der Sittich (radish, parakeet)
er der Lehrer  (teacher) *5
feminin (feminine)
in die Amerikanerin, die Studentin (american, student) *
 –e die Ecke, die Ente, die Grenze, die Pistole, die Seuche (corner, duck, border, gun, disease) *7
 ei die Partei, die Schweinerei (party, mess) *
  isse die Hornisse (hornet) *9
  itis  die Tendinitis (tendinitis) *9
  ive  die Initiative (initiative) *9
neutral (neuter)
o das Auto, das Büro, das Kasino, das Konto, das Radio, das Veto, das Video (car, office, casino, account, radio, veto, video) *10
ment das Ressentiment, das Supplement  (resentment, supplement) *9, 11
 –nis das Versäumnis (omission) *12
 –um das Christentum, das Königtum (Christianity, monarchy) *13

*But die Jungfer, die Mutter, die Schwester, die Tochter, das Fenster (maiden, mother, sister, daughter, window).

*This nouns pertain to female people, occupations, nationalities. But der Harlekin (harlequin) and also many non-people words: das Benzin, der Urin (gasoline, urine).

*But der Deutsche, das Ensemble, der Friede, der Junge (German, ensemble, peace, boy).

*8 But das Ei, der Papagei (egg, parrot).

*9 Borrowed (foreign) nouns.

*10 Often cognates from Latin. Exceptions: die Avocado, die Disko, der Euro, der Scirocco (avocado, disco, euro, sirocco).

*11 But der Zement, der Moment, das Moment (cement, moment, circunstance).

*12 But die Erlaubnis, die Erkenntnis, die Finsternis (permission, knowledge, darkness).

*13 But der Irrtum, der Reichtum (error, wealth).

Grupen

Allways the same article

maskulin (masculine)
Days, months, and seasons der Montag, der Juli, der Sommer (monday, july, summer) *14
Points of the compass, map locations and winds der Nordwest(en), der Süd(en), der Föhn, der Scirocco (northwest, south, hair dryer, sirocco)
Precipitation der Regen, der Schnee, der Nebel (rain, snow, fog)
Names of cars and trains der VW, der ICE, der Mercedes
The basic “atmospheric” elements that end in -stoff der Sauerstoff, der Stickstoff, der Wasserstoff, der Kohlenstoff (oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon) *15
feminin (feminine)
Names of aircraft, ships and motorbikes die Boeing 747, die Titanic, die BMW (motorbike only, the car is der BMW).
 Cardinal numbers eine Eins, eine Drei
neutral (neuter)
 Infinitives used as nouns (gerunds) das Essen, das Schreiben (food, writing)
Almost all of the 112 known chemical elements das Aluminium, das Blei, das Kupfer, das Uran, das Zink, das Zinn, das Zirkonium (aluminum, lead, copper, uranium, zinc, tin, zirconium)
Names of hotels, cafés and theaters das Ibis Hotel, das Broadway Theater
Names of colors used as nouns das Blau, das Rot (blue, red)

*14  The one exception is das Frühjahr, another word for der Frühling, spring.

*15 The only other elements (out of 112) that are masculine are der Phosphor (phosphor) and der Schwefel (sulphur).

Usually the same article

maskulin (masculine)
Agents (people who do something), most occupations and nationalities der Architekt, der Arzt, der Deutsche, der Fahrer, der Verkäufer, der Student, der Täter (architect, physician, German [person], driver, salesman, student, perpetrator) *16
Names of alcoholic drinks der Wein, der Wodka (wine, vodka) *17
Names of mountains and lakes der Berg, der See (mountain, sea) *18
 Most rivers outside of Europe der Amazonas, der Kongo, der Mississippi
feminin (feminine)
Most types of flowers and trees die Birke, die Chrysantheme, die Eiche, die Rose (birch, chrysanthemum, oak, rose) *19
neutral (neuter)
 Geographic place names (towns, countries, continents) das Berlin, Deutschland, Brasilien, Afrika *20
 Young animals and people das Baby, das Küken (baby, chick) *21
Most metals Aluminium, Blei, Kupfer, Messing, Zinn (aluminium, lead, copper, brass, tin/pewter) *22 
 Fractions das/ein Viertel (1/4), das/ein Drittel (1/3)*23 

*16 The feminine form adds -in (die Architektin, die Ärztin, die Fahrerin, die Verkäuferin, die Studentin, Täterin, but die Deutsche).

*17 But das Bier (beer).

*18 But Germany’s highest peak, die Zugspitze follows the rule for the feminine ending -e, and die See is the sea.

*19 But der Ahorndas Gänseblümchender Baum (maple, daisy, tree).

*20 But learn non-das countries, such as: der Irak, der Jemen, die Schweiz, die Türkei, die USA [plur.].

*21 But der Junge (boy).

*22 But die Bronze, der Stahl (bronze, steel).

*23 But die Hälfte (half).

Wow, this post was a really hard working!! I hope you enjoyed it!! Remember the tips and lets try!! 😀

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