German Nouns

Gender in the German Language

Nouns in German are quite different than in English; the gender is not an issue in English because all nouns have the same gender, well except humans and some animals... for example “a spoon” and “a fork” have the same gender, but in German it’s a little bit more diverse, for some reason the spoon is masculine (der Löffel), the fork is feminine (die Gabel), and the knife is neuter (das Messer). This may sound weird but well even in English in some rare cases we do the same thing, for example you may hear in rare occasions “she is a nice car”, as if a car is feminine, or when talking about a baby we use “it” instead of ‘he/she”. In German this happens all the time with all nouns, so the best thing to do is: when you memorize new words try to memorize them with their definite article, for example the word “book” in German is “das Buch”, note that I added the definite articles “das” to it, which tells me that the book is “neuter” in German. If you get used to doing that way you would know if nouns are masculine, feminine or neuter, the good news is that in may occasions you can guess the gender of nouns given some hints, either thanks to a suffix or to a rule:

German Gender: Masuline

Suffix: Most nouns ending in -en, -el, -ling, -ner, -ismus, -ig, -ich, or -er are masculine:

der Boden (ground), der Vogel (bird), der Frühling (spring), der Vater (father).

Rules: Days, months, and seasons, weather (rain, snow…) are usually masculine in German.

der Sonntag (Sunday), der Winter (winter), der Februar (February, der Regen (rain), der Schnee (snow), but das Wetter (the weather).

Note that these suffixes and rules can only assist you in increasing your chance of guessing what the gender would be, but it’s still guessing, because there are some exceptions that can be found time to time.

German Gender: Feminine

Suffix: Nouns ending in -heit, -ie, -ik, -age, -ei ,-ion, -itis, -keit, -ur, -schaft, -tät, and -ung are feminine:

die Freiheit (freedom), die Garage (garage), die Operation (operation), die Möglichkeit (possibility), die Natur (nature), die Freundschaft (friendship), die Qualität (quality), die Ehrung, (honor).

Rules: Trees, flowers, fruit, and cardinal numbers are most of the time feminine:

die Föhre (pine tree), die Rose (rose), die Orange (Orange), die Sieben (the seven).

German Gender: Neuter

Suffix: Nouns ending in -ett, -chen, -lein, -il, -ium, -ma, -ment, -nis, -tel, -tum, -um and -o are neuter:

das Bett (bed), das Kaninchen (Rabbit), das Stadium (stage), das Klima (climat), das Geheimnis (secret), das Viertel (quarter), das Album (album), das Fräulein (young lady).

Rules: Names of towns, countries, colors, infinitives used as nouns, and the diminutives that we’ve seen above ending in -chen or -lein, they’re all usually neuter: das Berlin (Berlin), das Deutschland (Germany), das Rot (Red), das Schwimmen (swimming), das Hündchen (little dog), das Kindlein (little child).

Note that you should check the other pages of German Cases and Articles to have a better idea on how nouns can change depending on the case, and what articles they take in each case.

The Plural in German

German is more diverse in its plural than in English, to express the plural in English we simply add “s” or “es” to the end of the noun, well in German it’s not the case. Some nouns add “e” to their end: der Freund (friend) becomes die Freunde (friends), der Schuh (a shoe) becomes die Schuhe (shoes).

Other nouns add “en” to their end: der Student (student) becomes die Studenten (students), die Zeit (time) becomes die Zeiten (times).

The other forms of plural in German are:

(-n) for example: die Schule becomes die Schulen (schools).

(no diffrence) for example: das Fenster (window) stays die Fenster (windows).

(-¨) for example: der Bruder becomes die Brüder (brothers).

(-¨er or -er) for example: das Haus becomes die Häuser (houses), or das Kind becomes die Kinder (childen).

(-s) for example: das Radio becomes die Radios (this form can be used usually with foreign words) das Baby becomes die Babys

Tips: Note that most nouns ending in the suffixes (-heit, -ie, -ik, -age, -ei ,-ion, -itis, -keit, -ur, -schaft, -tät, and -ung) add -en in the plural.

Feminine nouns ending in (-in) add -nen to form their plural.

Note that most German plurals add an extra -n or -en to the plural form in the dative case.

Finally note that while English takes capital letter only in countries names or days… in German all nouns take a capital letter as you may have noticed in this lesson.


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