Der, Die, Das... What?

by Rosa Teresa Fries

How to remember the gender of German nouns.

Do you sometimes get the feeling that your language course becomes a quiz show with you constantly guessing: der, die or das?

Remembering these articles can be tedious. However, don't make the mistake to simply dismiss them as not essential. It will backfire on you as soon as you start to form more complex sentences and get the cases fully involved. Not to worry though, there are some clues to guide you. Take a good look at the ending of the word before deciding on your answer.

Nouns That Are Usually Feminine — Die

The following endings indicate that the word is feminine:

– e, – heit, – keit, – ung, – tion – ie, – schaft,

– tät, – ette, – ade, – age, – ei, – in

die Katze – the cat

die Einsamkeit – the loneliness

die Zeitung – the newspaper

die Situation – the situation

die Industrie – the industry

die Eigenschaft – the characteristic

die Identität – the identity

die Zigarette – the cigarette

die Limonade – the lemonade

die Blamage – the embarrassment

die Polizei – the police

die Pilotin – the female pilot

Nouns That Are Usually Masculine — Der

The following endings indicate that the word is masculine:

– er, – ist, – ich, – ismus, – ling

der Bäcker – the baker

der Polizist – the policeman

der Stich – the sting

der Journalismus – the journalism

der Frühling – the spring

Nouns That Are Usually Neuter — Das

The following endings indicate that the word is neuter:

– chen, – lein, – o, – um, – nis, – ment

das Mädchen – the girl

das Fräulein – the young woman

das Radio – the radio

das Universum – the universe

das Ergebnis – the result

das Fragment - the fragment

Practice Makes Perfect!

Let's face it — there are lots of exceptions here. The best way forward is to develop a mental association between the endings and the corresponding article, so that “Katze” and “Situation” would simply sound wrong with anything other than “die”. It's what Germans call Sprachgefühl, literally language feeling. If you keep at it, you will have it too soon enough.

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