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Articles in the nominative case

This lesson contains topics:

  1. Use of definite article
  2. Use of indefinite article
  3. Use of the word "kein"
  4. Use of the word "das" as this
  5. Article for the combination of nouns
  6. Sentence structure in German

From this lesson onwards you should also memorize all the German words used in explanations and exercises. After good command on German pronunciation, now it's time to build vocabulary, slowly and steadily.


First some words about the Nominative case:

As also in the English language nominative case is a grammatical case that is used for a noun or pronoun when it is the subject of a verb. For example, who or what is doing the action.

The other three cases are:

Cases will be discussed in the coming lessons. This lesson describes articles in the nominative case.

As discussed in the previous chapter, German nouns have three types of genders. In this chapter, we shall discuss German articles in more details.

1. Definite article (der bestimmte Artikel)

From the previous chapter we already know that:

The definite article “the” in German has three genders i.e.

  1. der for masculine nouns, for example, der Mann (the man),
  2. die for feminine nouns, for example, die Frau (the woman),
  3. das for neuter nous, for example, das Messer (the knife).
the in german

Plural of the definite article is easy, it is always die , for example,

der Mann (singular) , die Männer (plural)

die Frau (singular) , die Frauen (plural)

das Messer (singular) , die Messer (plural)

german article

Definite articles "der", "die", "das" and their plural form "die" decline with accusative and dative cases, which we will discuss in coming lessons.

2. The indefinite article (der unbestimmte Artikel)

Unlike the English language, which has two indefinite articles, i.e. a and an, the German language has one indefinite article, ein. However German indefinite article has two forms:

  1. For masculine and neuter nouns, ein . For example, ein Mann (a man) , ein Messer (a knife) , ein Mädchen (a girl) .
  2. For feminine nouns, eine , for example, eine Frau (a woman) .
german article

Following is the above discussed detail in video format.


3. The word "kein"

"Kein" is not an article, it’s negation, and means no, but it behaves similar to indefinite articles ein and eine. For example:

Hier ist ein Mann. (Here is a man.)

Hier ist kein Mann. (There is no man here.)

Hier ist ein Messer. (Here is a knife.)

Hier ist kein Messer. (There is no knife here.)

Hier ist ein Mädchen. (Here is a girl.)

Hier ist kein Mädchen. (There is no girl here.)

Hier ist eine Frau. (Here is a woman.)

Hier ist keine Frau. (There is no woman here.)

Warum ist keine Frau hier ? (Why is no woman here?)

german word kein

The word "kein" also has a plural declination, and it is always "Keine" in the nominative case.

Die Hunde sind keine Katzen.
Dogs are not cats.

der Hund (dog), die Hunde (dogs)

sind (are)

die Katze (cat), die Katzen (cats)


4. The word "das"

Apart from its usage as a definite article, the word das is also used as "this". For example:

Das ist Familie Müller. (This is Mueller family.)

Das ist Herr Sebastian Müller. (This is Mr. Sebastian Mueller.)

Er ist ein Arzt. (He is a doctor.)

Das ist Frau Lisa Müller. (This is Mrs. Lisa Mueller.)

Sie ist eine Zahnärztin. (She is a dentist.)

Doktor Sebastian Müller ist auch ein Sozialarbeiter. (Doctor Sebastian Mueller is also a social worker/welfare worker.)

Frau Doktor Lisa Müller ist auch eine Professorin an der Medizinuniversität. (Doctor Lisa Müller is also a professor at the medical university.)


5. Article of compound nouns

Joining two words to form a single word is a common practice among many European languages, including German. In the above example "der Zahn" and "der Arzt" are two separate nouns, and they combine to form a single noun "der Zahnarzt" .

A noun formed by the combination of two nouns extracts its article from the last noun in the combination. As in above example, "der Zahnarzt" (dentist) gets its article from the last word in the combination, i.e. "der Arzt".

"Die Medizinuniversität" is the combination of two nouns, "die Medizin" and "die Universität" and gets its article "die" from the last noun, "die Universität".

But just recently we have learned a sentence where the noun Universität is using the article "der". i.e. Frau Doktor Lisa Müller ist auch eine Professorin an der Medizinuniversität.

Medizinuniversität (medical university) is still a feminine noun, even with the article "der". This is declination of original article "die" into "der" due to the preposition "an", (which means at in English). Certain prepositions also cause declination of the article and we shall discuss in coming lessons how articles decline with certain cases and prepositions. In this chapter, it is just a hint that you should be ready for what's coming next.

A combination can also be formed by joining an article and a noun, as in the above example, "der Sozialarbeiter" .

In the case of "Sozialarbeiterin" it would be "die Sozialarbeiterin" , or in case of "Sozialgeld" it would be "das Sozialgeld" (social money) , because the last word in the combination is "das Geld" (money) .

Some other examples of combined words:

das Autobahnkreuz (motorway junction)
die Autobahn (motorway / highway) + das Kreuz (cross)

die Einbahnstraße (one-way street)
die Einbahn (one-way) + die straße (street / road)

der Zebrastreifen (cross-walk / zebra crossing)
das Zebra (zebra) + der Streifen (band / strip)

die Tiefgarage (underground parking lot )
tief (deep) + die Garage (garage)

To learn more about traffic system in Germany, please visit


6. Sentence structure in German

In previous chapter we learned the different elements in a sentence. Now we can discuss the structure of a sentence in German language. It is very much similar to English.

  1. Subject is the first element in a sentence.
  2. Verb is the second element in a sentence.
  3. Verb is either followed by a direct object or complement.

We can see this in exmples from previous chapter.

Subject Verb Complement
Der König ist sehr reich.
The king is very rich
Der Bäcker ist arm.
The baker is poor

Sometimes a particle is placed before the object, but it doesn't change the position numbering of elements, because the particles occupy no position. In other words, if particles a placed before the object then the particle position is zero. Object is still the first element and verb is second element. For example,

Vielleicht der König ist sehr reich. (Maybe the king is very rich.)
Und der Bäcker ist arm. (And the baker is poor.) Okay, aber die Milch ist immer weiß. (Ok, but the milk is always white.)

In the above examples, the words "vielleicht" and "und" are particles and their position in the sentence is not one but zero.

Vocabulary building

Eine Katze ist kein Hund und ein Zebra ist kein Pferd.
A cat is not a dog and a zebra is not a horse.

Ein Ei ist kein Ball aber der Thunfisch ist ein Fisch.
An egg is not a ball but the tuna is a fish.

die Katze (cat)

der Hund (dog)

das Zebra (zebra)

das Pferd (horse)

das Ei (egg)

der Ball (ball)

der Fisch (fish)

der Thunfisch (tuna)

New words

die Familie (family)

Herr (Mr.)

der Arzt (doctor)

die Ärztin (lady doctor)

die Frau (Mrs., woman)

der Zahnarzt (dentist / dental surgeon)

die Zahnärztin (female dentist / dental surgeon)

auch (also)

der Sozialarbeiter (social worker)

sozial (social)

der Arbeiter (worker)

die Arbeiterin (female worker)

die Medizinuniversität (medical university)

die Universität (university)

das Autobahnkreuz (motorway junction)

die Einbahnstraße (one-way street)

der Zebrastreifen (cross-walk / zebra crossing)

die Tiefgarage (underground parking lot )

die Katze (cat)

der Hund (dog)

das Zebra (zebra)

das Pferd (horse)

das Ei (egg)

der Ball (ball)

der Fisch (fish)

der Thunfisch (tuna)