German Articles

German nouns (Substantive / Nomen) are mostly used along with articles. An article of a noun gives us information about the gender (masculine, feminine or neutral), the numerus (singular, plural) and the case (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive).

  1. German definite article
  2. German indefinite article
  3. Use of definite and indefinite articles in German
  4. Declension of German definite article
  5. Declension of German indefinite article
  6. Zero article
  7. Use of articles with personal names
  8. Negative article (kein)
  9. Combinations of articles and prepositions

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German definite article

Definite article (der bestimmte Artikel) in German is:

German indefinite article

German indefinite articles (der unbestimmte Artikel) is:

Use of definite and indefinite articles in German

The definite article (der, die, das)

  1. German definite article is used when talking about something specific or definite.
    Der Bello ist Hund von Sebastian.
    (Bello is Sebastian's dog.)
  2. If we have already mentioned something or assume it is known.
    Die Peperoni ist scharf.
    (The chilli is hot.) (Chillis are assumed to be spicy.)
    Er ist der Student, den ich gestern gesehen habe.
    (He is the student I saw yesterday.) (The statement is about a specific student who was already discussed and not about any other student.)

The indefinite article (ein, eine)

  1. When we mention something for the first time (introduction of something).
    Herr Müller hat ein Auto gekauft.
    (Mr. Miller has bought a car.)
  2. When something is not specific.
    Ein Freund von mir kommt heute.
    (A friend of mine is coming today.) (There are many friends. One is coming today but specifically which one, is not being mentioned.)

Declension of German definite article

Declension of definite article (der, die, das) follows the pattern:

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Mas. Fem. Neu. Pl.
Nominative - - - -
Accusative -n - - -
Dative -m -er -m -en
Genitive -s -er -s -er

Mas. Fem. Neu. Pl.
Nominative der die das die
Accusative den die das die
Dative dem der dem den
Genitive des der des der

Table with examples:

Mas. Fem. Neu. Pl.
Nominative der Mann die Frau das Kind die Männer
Accusative den Mann die Frau das Kind die Männer
Dative dem Mann der Frau dem Kind den Männern
Genitive des Mannes der Frau des Kindes der Männer

Please read topics about dative and genitive cases to further understand the declension of nouns in respective case.

Declension of German indefinite article (ein)

Declension of indefinite article (ein) follows the pattern:

Mas. Fem. Neu.
Nominative - -ne -
Accusative -en -e -
Dative -em -er -em
Genitive -es -er -es

Mas. Fem. Neu.
Nominative ein eine ein
Accusative einen eine ein
Dative einem einer einem
Genitive eines einer eines

Table with examples:

Mas. Fem. Neu.
Nominative ein Mann eine Frau ein Buch
Accusative einen Mann eine Frau ein Buch
Dative einem Mann einer Frau einem Buch
Genitive eines Mannes einer Frau eines Buches

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Zero article

Zero article rules in German are almost the same as in English. In German zero article is called Nullartikel.

Names of places

Names of cities, continents and most of countries are used without articles. However, in German some country names are used with articles like, die USA, die Niederlande, die Schweiz, der Irak, der Iran.

Name of nationalities

Name of nationalities and languages are used without articles.
Ich spreche Deutsch. (I speak German.)
Er ist Holländer. (He is Dutch.)

Names of professions and specific skills

Names of professions are used with zero articles.
Herr Müller ist Arzt. (Mr. Müller is a doctor.)
Sein Sohn will auch Arzt werden. (His son also wants to be a doctor.)
Herr Schäfer ist Professor und seine Frau ist auch Professorin. (Mr. Schäfer is a professor and his wife is also a professor.)
Mein Sohn spielt fußball. (My son is playing soccer.)

Name of materials

When used in general context, names of different materials and subtances have zero articles.
Wir haben Gold in der Nähe vom Bergwerk gefunden. (We found gold near the mine.)
Glas wird aus Sand hergestellt. (Glass is made from sand.)
Mein Stuhl ist aus Holz. (My chair is made of wood.)

If we are talking about a specific material or subtance, then article will be used.
Wo ist das Papier für mein Drucker? (Where's the paper for my printer?)

Plural of indefinite articles

Since there is no plural indefinite article, so any repestive plural noun would be with zero article.
In meiner Garage steht ein Motorrad. (There's a motorcycle in my garage.) In meiner Garage stehen Motorräder. (There are motorcycles in my garage.)

Use of articles with personal names

One difference that might feel strange to English speakers is the use of an article with a person's name in German. Normally, personal names are used without articles, but in some conditions, you may hear a person's name with article. This is rare and can only be found in spoken language. It should be avoided in standard German (Hochdeutsch) exams, especially in written exams.

In some areas of Germany, an article is used with the person's first name or rarely with first and family name combined but never used with specifically just family name.
Der Sebastian arbeitet in BMW. (Sebastian works in BMW.)
Der Sebastian Müller arbeitet in BMW. (Sebastian Müller works in BMW.)

Negative article (kein)

The negative article or negation "kein" comes before nouns. It is used to negate nouns with indefinite articles and nouns without articles.
Declension of "kein" follows the pattern of indefinite article "ein".

Declension of kein

Mas. Fem. Neu. Pl.
Nominative kein Professor keine Professorin kein Mädchen keine Professoren
Accusative keinen Professor keine Professorin kein Mädchen keine Professoren
Dative keinem Professor keiner Professorin keinem Mädchen keinen Professoren
Genitive keines Professors keiner Professorin keines Mädchens keiner Professoren

Combinations of articles and prepositions

German articles are often combined with prepositions to form a single word. This practice is common in written as well as in spoken language.
Articles, that can be combined with prepositions are:

Article Preposition Combination
an das ans
an dem am
bei dem beim
in dem im
in das ins
von dem vom
zu dem zum
zu der zur

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