How you learn the definite articles (der, die, das) in German

How you learn the definite articles (der,die,das) in German

There is no German learner who hasn’t despaired yet about the German articles. Is it „der, die oder das…….“? Terrible three possibilities!   No chance ? Well, I see you begin to guess ! It is nearly impossible that you always  know the article. Then I say to you that it is no problem in daily speech.

But the more often German learners get into this  embarrassment of saying the wrong article the more something seems to have gone wrong by learning the articles of the nouns.

First I have to say to you: It is primarily not your fault that you can’t keep the articles in mind because the stuff with the German articles is really a difficult thing. The question is what you do as consequence. You should make the best of it !

There are groups of nouns that have the same article and you can recognize it from the ending of a word. So nouns that have the ending ….heit are always female.  But I am afraid there are exceptions because there are cases where you can’t conclude the article from the ending of a word because it doesn’t have a typical end.

So first the bad news: German learning people often think that the male article „der“ describes the male sex of the being the noun refers to. The same with the female article „die“.Of course this is the fact with the persons : ‘Der Richter’ (the judge), ‘der Schornsteinfeger’ (the chimney sweep), der ‚Pöstler‘ (the postman) refer to male persons so as ‚die Richterin‘, ‚die Schornsteinfegerin‘ oder ‚die Pöstlerin‘ (here you can conclude also the female article from the endings ‚….in‘) refer to female persons. But generally nouns in German with a male, female or neutral article don’t have the correspondent sex !

Why is it: ‚Der Computer‘ (the computer), ‚der Tisch (the table), ‚der Schrank‘ (the closet), ‚der Sessel‘ (the armchair) but ‚die Schüssel‘ (the bowl), ‚die Lampe‘ (the lamp), die Eisenbahn (the train) ? All these nouns still refer to things that are nor male nor female and so should have the neutral article  ‚das“ ? You can explain the male article of ‚der Computer‘ with the ending ‚er‘ of the noun. Nouns with this ending are often ‚male‘, but not all ones.

My tip for you:

Especially (anyway you should do this with every word) by nouns where there is no relation of the article with the ending of the noun you have to learn the article with the noun. In these cases you can try to learn the article of a word by connecting a real female, male or neutral attribute in the thing the noun refers to. Build associations between ‘der,die,das’ and the essence of a noun. I did so as I had to learn French in the school as a child. It functioned very well ! I learned ‚le parapluie“ (der Regenschirm/the umbrella) because of ‚der Regen‘, but english speaking persons of course can’t do such relations. They should try to find a female attribute either in the noun ‚die Eisenbahn‘ or in the real thing the noun refers to. Memorize a male attribute of ‚der Regenschirm‘ because it has for example a strong handle and protects you from the rain like a man protects a lady !

The good news: Fortunately there are some rules that refer to male, female or neutral articles and you can put these nouns into categories/groups that are related to the special rule.

Why is it ‚das Mädchen‘(the girl), ‚das Bübchen‘(the little boy) ? The girl is still a female person and the boy is still a male person ?! Here you have the rule: All the words with the ending „chen“ are reductions of bigger persons and things (In German: Diminuitive). Other examples:  Das Vögelchen (< der Vogel), das Männchen (< der Mann), das Brötchen (< das Brot). So nouns with the ending ‚chen‘ are alsways neutral.

To look at the nouns with the same endings and articles  check out

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