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German Nouns and their Genders

This lesson contains topics:

  1. Noun gender in German
  2. How to use a German dictionary for nouns?
  3. Elements of the sentence structure in German

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Note for the visitors who have directly landed on this page from the search engine, this page is part of the step-by-step German learning course of level A1. To see the complete details about nouns in the German language, please visit the page German Nouns under the section Summary of German Grammar.

This lesson introduces the genders of German nouns. Nouns that are used to explain the three genders are not to memorize, they are just for explanations. Memorization of solo words is not an effective way to increase vocabulary. However, words that are used in the vocabulary-building exercises should be memorized because they are not solo words but are used in complete sentences or phrases

Based on the previous lesson, now that we have a good command of German pronunciation, we can start building vocabulary.

The second part of this lesson explains four basic building blocks of a sentence structure in German i.e. subject, verb, object, and complement.

Noun gender in German

There are two important points to know about the noun in the German language:

  1. Every noun starts with a capital letter.
  2. Every noun has a gender.

A noun in German can be masculine, feminine, or neuter. Similarly, German articles also have three forms. We will discuss articles in detail in the next lesson. Here, we are discussing them to understand the gender characteristic of nouns.

The definite article (the in English) 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 nouns, for example, das Messer (the knife).

Human beings and animals have natural genders. So, their genders are not hard to determine, but there are always exceptions like in any other language. A window for exceptions should always be open while learning any language. For example in German, das Mädchen (the girl) is a neuter noun.

Nonliving things don’t have natural genders. That's why during the learning process of the German language, it is always recommended to memorize nouns along with their respective genders. For example, die Tür (the door), die Wand (the wall), der Stuhl (the chair), das Fenster (the window), das Licht (the light).

There are some hints to find out the gender of a German noun, but these are just hints, not rules. Please note that there is no need to memorize the following hints. They are just for quick reference. Again, it also not advisable to memorize solo words, so you can just skim through the following 3 hints and continue reading the next topic, "How to use a German dictionary for searching nouns?".

  1. If a noun ends in -er, -ig, -ling, -mus, -or, mostly it is masculine. For example,
  2. der Jäger (the hunter), der Körper (the body), der Bäcker (the baker),

    der Honig (the honey), der König (the king),

    der Frühling (the spring), der Flüchtling (the refugee), der Zwilling (the twin),

    der Algorithmus (the algorithm), der Tourismus (the tourism), der Materialismus (the materialism),

    der Doktor (the doctor), der Motor (the motor), der Professor (the professor).

  3. Words with endings -in, -ion, -ung, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -ei, -ik, -tät, -enz, -ie are normally faminine. For example,
  4. die Professorin (female professor), die Doktorin (the ladydoctor),

    die Station (the station), die Information (the information),

    die Änderung (the change), die Forschung (the research),

    die Gesundheit (the health), die Schönheit (the beauty),

    die Geschwindigkeit (the speed), die Süßigkeit (the sweetness),

    die Wirtschaft (the economy), die Botschaft (the embassy, the message) , die deutsche Botschaft in London (The German Embassy in London),

    die Bäckerei (the bakery), die Datei (the data),

    die Klinik (the clinic), die Physik (the physics),

    die Universität (the university), die Spezialität (the speciality),

    die Differenz (the difference), die Intelligenz (the intelligence),

    die Allergie (the allergy), die Biologie (the biology), die Chemie (the chemistry).

  5. Nouns that end in -ment and -nis are normally neuter. For example,
  6. das Medikament (the medicine), das Dokument (the document), das Instrument (the instrument),

    das Zeugnis (the certificate, report), das Geheimnis (the secret).

For more clarity please watch the following video summary.

How to use a German dictionary for searching nouns?

In dictionaries, nouns are written in singular forms and are capitalized. Articles are not written with nouns. To recognize the gender of a noun a hint is given in brackets. For example, Wand (e) in a German to German dictionary or it can be Wand (f) wall in a German to English dictionary. If it’s written as Wand (e) the letter e in brackets represents the feminine article “die”. In Wand (f), the (f) represents the feminine. Similarly, masculine nouns are written with letters (r) or (m) in brackets. For example, Honig (r) Honey. The letter "r" in brackets represents the masculine article “der”. It can also be Honig (m). In the case of a neuter noun, the letter (s) or (n) is written after the noun.

Vocabulary building

Please go through the following vocabulary-building dialog. The sentence structure used in this dialog is explained right under the next heading i.e. Elements of the sentence structure in German.

Listen dialog:

Der König ist sehr reich. (The king is very rich.)

Genau. (Exactly.)

Und der Bäcker ist arm. (And the baker is poor.)

Vielleicht. (May be.)

Der Honig ist immer braun. (The honey is always brown.)

Nein, nicht immer. (No, not always.)

Okay, aber die Milch ist immer weiß. (Ok, but the milk is always white.)

Richtig. (Correct.)

Der Tag ist weiß und die Nacht ist schwarz. (The day is white and the night is black.)

Ja, stimmt. (Yes, correct.)

Words used in vocabulary building exercise

der König (King)
sehr (very)
reich (rich)
genau (exactly)
vielleicht (may be)
der Honig (honey)
und (and)
der Bäcker (baker)
ja (yes)
nein (no)
nicht (not)
nichts (nothing)
immer (always)
die Milch (milk)
richtig (correct)
der Tag (day)
weiß (white)
die Nacht (night)
schwarz (black)
stimmt (correct). It is a verb. we will discuss verbs in coming lessons.

Elements of the sentence structure in German

Like English, the main parts of a sentence in German are:
Complement and

A subject is the part of the sentence which performs some action (verb), or about which some information is given. The Subject in a sentence can be

  1. a noun (a proper noun e.g. Mr. Thomas or a noun with an article e.g. a table)
  2. a pronoun (I, you, we, he, she, etc).

The verb is a central element in a sentence. Some verbs take a direct object. The object is an element in the sentence on which the action is performed or about which the information is given, e.g.

Subject Verb Object
I need a book.

Some verbs don't need an object, but then they need something else to complete the sense of the sentence. A complement is the part of the sentence that completes its sense where a verb doesn't require an object. Complement can be a single word or a set of different words. (adjectives, particles, adverbs, etc.)

In the above examples, we have used the verb "ist" (is), which doesn't require a direct object. Hence, we need a complement to complete the sentence.

Subject Verb Complement
Der König ist sehr reich.
The king is very rich
Der Bäcker ist arm.
The baker is poor
Der Honig ist immer braun.
The honey is always brown.
Die Milch ist immer weiß.
The milk is always white.
Der Tag ist weiß.
The day is white.
Die Nacht ist schwarz.
The night is black.

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