Easy Learning German

Articles - Easy Learning Grammar German

What is an article?
In English, an article is one of the words the, a, and an which is used in front of a noun.

1 Different types of articles

  • There are two types of article:
  • the definite article: the in English. This is used to identify a particular thing or person.
I’m going to the supermarket.
That’s the woman I was talking to.
  • the indefinite article: a or an in English, some or any (or no word at all) in the plural. This is used to refer to something unspecific, or something that you do not really know about.
Is there a supermarket near here?
I need a day off.

2 The definite article

  • In English the definite article the always keeps the same form.
the book
the books
with the books
  • In German, however, the definite article has many forms. All German nouns are either masculine, feminine or neuter and, just as in English, they can be either singular or plural. The word you choose for the depends on whether the noun it is used with is masculine, feminine or neuter, singular or plural AND it also depends on the case of the noun. This may sound complicated, but it is not too difficult.
Die Frau ging spazieren.The woman went for a walk.
Der Mann ist geschieden.The man is divorced.
Sie fährt mit dem Auto in die Stadt.She travels into town by car.
Die Farbe der Jacke gefällt mir nicht.I don’t like the colour of the jacket.
Ich muss die Kinder abholen.I have to pick up the children.
Das will ich mit den Behörden besprechen.I want to discuss that with the authorities.
  • The definite article changes for masculine, feminine and neuter singular nouns.
Definite Article + NounMeaning
Masculineder Mannthe man
Femininedie Frauthe woman
Neuterdas Mädchenthe girl
  • The plural forms of the definite article are the same for all genders.
Definite Article + Plural NounMeaning
Masculinedie Männerthe men
Femininedie Frauenthe women
Neuterdie Mädchenthe girls
TipIt is a good idea to learn the article or the gender with the noun when you come across a word for the first time, so that you know whether it is masculine, feminine or neuter. A good dictionary will also give you this information.
  • The definite article also changes according to the case of the noun in the sentence – nominative, accusative, genitive or dative.
  • For more information on Cases, see The Cases.
  • The forms of the definite article in each case are as follows:
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter SingularAll Genders Plural
Nominativederdiedasdie
Accusativedendiedasdie
Genitivedesderdesder
Dativedemderdemden
 
Der Mann ging ins Haus.The man went into the house.
Die Frau geht jeden Abend schwimmen.The woman goes swimming every night.
Sie wollen das Mädchen adoptieren.They want to adopt the girl.
Die zwei Frauen nebenan wollen ihr Haus renovieren.The two women next door want to renovate their house.
Der Mann mit der reichen Frau machte eine Weltreise.The man with the rich wife travelled around the world.
Die Mädchen gehen morgen ins Kino.The girls are going to the cinema tomorrow.
Ich will nicht nur mit den Männern arbeiten.I don’t just want to work with the men.
Key points
  • The definite article changes for masculine, feminine and neuter singular nouns.
  • The plural forms of the definite article are the same for all genders.
  • The form of the definite article also changes depending on the case of the noun in the sentence.

3 Using the definite article

  • The definite article in German (der, die or das) is used in more or less the same way as we use the in English, but it is also used in German in a few places where you might not expect it.
  • The definite article is used with words like prices, life and time that describe qualities, ideas or experiences (called abstract nouns) rather than something that you can touch with your hand. Usually, the is missed out in English with this type of word.
Die Preise sind wirklich hoch.Prices are really high.
Das Leben ist schön.Life is wonderful.
Die Zeit vergeht schnell.Time passes quickly.
  • Note that these nouns are sometimes used WITHOUT the article.
Es braucht Mut.It needs (some) courage.
Gibt es dort Leben?Is there (any) life there?
  • You also use the definite article with the genitive case to show that something belongs to someone.
die Jacke der Frauthe woman’s jacket
  • Note that you do not usually use the definite article with the genitive case if the noun is a proper name or is being used as a proper name. A proper name is the name of a person, place, organization or thing.
Jans AutoJan’s car
Muttis AutoMummy’s car
Occasionally, the definite article IS used with proper names:
  • to make the sex of the person or the case clearer
Er hat es der Frau Kekilli gegeben.He gave it to Frau Kekilli.
  • where an adjective is used before the proper name
Die alte Frau Schnorr ist gestorben.Old Frau Schnorr has died.
  • in certain informal situations or to emphasize something
Ich habe heute den Kevin gesehen.I saw Kevin today.
  • In German, you have to use the definite article in front of masculine and feminine countries and districts, but you don’t need it for neuter ones.
Die Schweiz ist auch schön.Switzerland is also beautiful.
Deutschland ist sehr schön.Germany is very beautiful.
Grammar Extra!You also use the definite article when geographical names are preceded by an adjective.
das heutige Deutschlandtoday’s Germany
  • The definite article is used with names of seasons.
Der Winter kommt bald.Soon it will be winter.
  • You often use the definite article with meals.
Im Hotel wird das Abendessen ab acht Uhr serviert.Dinner is served from eight o’clock in the hotel.
  • Note that there are certain expressions with meals when you don’t use the definite article.
Um acht Uhr ist Frühstück.Breakfast is at eight o’clock.
  • You also use the definite article with the names of roads.
Sie wohnt jetzt in der Geisener Straße.She lives in Geisener Road now.
  • The definite article is used with months of the year, except after the prepositions seit, nach and vor.
Der Dezember war ziemlich kalt.The December was quite cold.
Wir sind seit September hier.We have been here since September.
  • If you’re talking about prices and want to say each, per or a, you use the definite article.
Die kosten fünf Euro das Pfund.They cost five euros a pound.
Ich habe sechs Euro das Stück bezahlt.I paid six euros each.
  • In certain common expressions the definite article is used.
in die Stadt fahrento go into town
mit der Postby post
mit dem Zug/Bus/Autoby train/bus/car
Grammar Extra!In German, the definite article can be used instead of a demonstrative adjective.
Du willst das Buch lesen!You want to read that book!
  • For more information on Demonstrative adjectives, see Articles.
  • In German, the definite article is left out of certain set expressions:
von Berufby profession
Nachrichten hörento listen to the news

4 Shortened forms of the definite article

  • After certain prepositions, the definite article can be shortened, though it is best to avoid using some of these forms in writing:
  • für dasfürs
Es ist fürs Baby.It’s for the baby.
  • vor demvorm
Es liegt vorm Haus.It’s lying in front of the house.
  • um dasums
Es geht ums Geld.It’s a question of money.
  • The following shortened forms can be used in writing:
  • an demam
Am 1. Mai fahren wir in die Ferien.We go on holiday on the 1st of May.
  • in demim
Das Buch liegt im Haus.The book’s in the house.
  • zu demzum
Ich muss zum Bahnhof gehen.I have to go to the station.
  • zu derzur
Sie geht jeden Tag zur Schule.She goes to school every day.
  • For more information on Shortened forms of prepositions, see Prepositions.
Key points
  • The definite article is used in German with:
  • abstract nouns
  • the genitive case to show possession
  • proper names, in certain exceptional cases
  • masculine and feminine countries and districts
  • names of seasons and months of the year, except after the prepositions seit, nach and vor
  • names of roads
  • meals and prices
  • The definite article in German can be used in certain set expressions.
  • When combined with certain prepositions, the definite article can be shortened.

5 Words declined like the definite article

  • These words follow the same patterns as the definite article:
NominativeAccusativeGenitiveDative
Plural onlyallealleallerallen
Singularbeidesbeidesbeidesbeiden
Pluralbeidebeidebeiderbeiden
Singulardieser,
diese,
dieses
diesen,
diese,
dieses
dieses/diesen,
dieser,
dieses/diesen
diesem,
dieser,
diesem
Pluraldiesediesedieserdiesen
Singulareiniger,
einige,
einiges
einigen,
einige,
einiges
einiges/einigen,
einiger,
einiges/einigen
einigem,
einiger,
einigem
Pluraleinigeeinigeeinigereinigen
Singularjeder,
jede,
jedes
jeden,
jede,
jedes
jedes/jeden,
jeder,
jedes/jeden
jedem,
jeder,
jedem
Pluraljedejedejederjeden
Singularjener,
jene,
jenes
jenen,
jene,
jenes
jenes/jenen,
jener,
jenes/jenen
jenem,
jener,
jenem
Pluraljenejenejenerjenen
Singularmancher,
manche,
manches
manchen,
manche,
manches
manches/manchen,
mancher,
manches/manchen
manchem,
mancher,
manchem
Pluralmanchemanchemanchermanchen
Singularsolcher,
solche,
solches
solchen,
solche,
solches
solches/solchen,
solcher,
solches/solchen
solchem,
solcher,
solchem
Pluralsolchesolchesolchersolchen
Singularwelcher,
welche,
welches
welchen,
welche,
welches
welches/welchen,
welcher,
welches/welchen
welchem,
welcher,
welchem
Pluralwelchewelchewelcherwelchen
  • Note that dieser or jener are used to translate the English demonstrative adjectives this, that, these and those.
    alle, aller, allen (plural only)all, all of them
    Wir haben alle gesehen.We saw all of them.
    Die Eltern fuhren mit allen Kindern weg.The parents went off with all their children.
      beide (plural only)both
      Ich habe beide Bücher gelesen.I’ve read both books.
        dieser, diese, diesesthis, this one, these
        Dieser junge Mann ist begabt.This young man is talented.
        Dieses alte Haus ist wirklich schön.This old house is really beautiful.
          einiger, einige, einigessome, a few, a little
          Einige von uns gingen spazieren.Some of us went for a walk.
          Wir haben einiges gesehen.We saw quite a lot of things.
            jeder, jede, jedeseach, each one, every
            Jeder Schüler bekommt ein Zeugnis.Every pupil receives a report.
            Sie kommt jedes Mal zu spät.She comes late every time.
              jener, jene, jenesthat, that one, those
              Jener Junge hatte seine Brieftasche verloren.That boy had lost his wallet.
                mancher, manche, manchesmany a, some
                Mancher Mann bleibt gern mit den Kindern zu Hause.Some men like staying at home with the children.
                Manches Auto fährt schneller als 220 km/h.Some cars can go faster than 220 km/h.
                  solcher, solche, solchessuch, such a
                  Ein solches Mountainbike hätte ich auch gern.I’d really like to have a mountain bike like that too.
                    welcher, welche, welcheswhich, which one
                    Welche Frau hat die Stelle bekommen?Which woman got the job?
                    Grammar Extra!sämtliche and irgendwelcher also follow the same pattern as the definite article:
                      sämtlicheall, entire (usually plural)
                      Sie besitzt Tolkiens sämtliche Werke.She owns the complete works of Tolkien.
                        irgendwelcher, -e, -essome or other
                        Sind noch irgendwelche Reste da?Is there anything left? or
                        Is there still something left?
                        • The words listed above can be used as:
                        • articles
                        Dieser Mann kommt aus Südamerika.This man comes from South America.
                        Sie geht jeden Tag ins Büro.She goes to the office every day.
                        • pronouns – a pronoun is a word you use instead of a noun, when you do not need or want to name someone or something directly, for example, it, you, none.
                        Willst du diesen?Do you want this one?
                        Man kann ja nicht alles wissen.You can’t know everything.
                        Es gibt manche, die keinen Alkohol mögen.There are some people who don’t like alcohol.
                        • For more information on Pronouns, see Pronouns.
                        Grammar Extra!einiger and irgendwelcher end in -en in the genitive before masculine or neuter nouns ending in -s.
                        Er musste wegziehen wegen irgendwelchen Geredes.He had to move away because of some gossip.
                        jeder, welcher, mancher and solcher can also do this or can have the usual -es ending.
                        Das Kind solcher Eltern wird Probleme haben.The child of such parents will have problems.
                        Trotz jeden Versuchs scheiterten die Verhandlungen.Despite all attempts, the negotiations failed.
                        • solcher, beide and sämtliche can be used after another article or possessive adjective (in English, one of the words my, your, his, her, its, our or their).
                        Ein solches Rad habe ich früher auch gehabt.I used to have a bike like that too.
                        Diese beiden Männer haben es gesehen.Both of these men have seen it.
                        • Although beide generally has plural forms only, there is one singular form, beides. While beide is more common and can refer to both people and things, beides refers only to things. Beide is used for two examples of the same thing or person, while beides is used for two different examples.
                        Es gab zwei Bleistifte und er hat beide genommen.There were two pencils and he took both.
                        BUT
                        Es gab einen Bleistift und ein Bild und er hat beides genommen.There was one pencil and one picture and he took both.
                        • Note that beides is singular in German, whereas both is plural in English.
                        Beides ist richtig.Both are correct.
                        • dies often replaces the nominative and accusative dieses and diese when it is used as a pronoun.
                        Hast du dies schon gelesen?Have you already read this?
                        Dies sind meine neuen Sachen.These are my new things.
                        • For more information on Pronouns, see Pronouns.
                        • alle also has a fixed form – all – which is used together with other articles or possessive pronouns.
                        All sein Mut war verschwunden.All his courage had disappeared.
                        Was machst du mit all diesem Geld?What are you doing with all this money?
                        • ganz can be used to replace both alle and all and is declined like an adjective.
                        Sie ist mit dem ganzen Geld verschwunden.She disappeared with all the money.
                        • For more information on Adjectives, see Adjectives.
                        • ganz must be used:
                        • in time phrases
                        Es hat den ganzen Tag geschneit.It snowed the whole day long.
                        • when talking about geography
                        Im ganzen Land gab es keinen besseren Wein.There wasn’t a better wine in the whole country.
                        • with nouns referring to a collection of people or animals (collective nouns)
                        Die ganze Gesellschaft war auf der Versammlung vertreten.The entire company was represented at the meeting.
                        Grammar Extra!derjenige/diejenige/dasjenige (the one, those) is declined in the same way as the definite article (der) + a weak adjective.
                        CaseMasculineFeminineNeuterAll Genders Plural
                        Nominativederjenige Manndiejenige Fraudasjenige Kinddiejenigen Kinder
                        Accusativedenjenigen Manndiejenige Fraudasjenige Kinddiejenigen Kinder
                        Genitivedesjenigen Mann(e)sderjenigen Fraudesjenigen Kind(e)sderjenigen Kinder
                        Dativedemjenigen Mannderjenigen Fraudemjenigen Kinddenjenigen Kindern
                         derselbe/dieselbe/dasselbe (the same, the same one) is declined in the same way as derjenige. However, after prepositions, the shortened forms of the definite article are used for the appropriate parts of derselbe.
                        zur selben (=zu derselben) Zeitat the same time
                        im selben (=in demselben) Zimmerin the same room
                        • For more information on Shortened forms of prepositions, see Prepositions.
                        Key points
                        • There is a group of words which are declined like the definite article der.
                        • These words can be used as articles or pronouns.
                        • solcher, beide and sämtliche can be used after another article or possessive adjective.
                        • beide generally has plural forms only, but there is one singular form, beides.
                        • When it is used as a pronoun dies often replaces the nominative and accusative dieses and diese.
                        • alle also has a fixed form, all.
                        • ganz must be used instead of alle in certain situations.

                        6 The indefinite article

                        • In English we have the indefinite article a, which changes to an in front of a word that starts with a vowel. In the plural we say either some, any or nothing at all.
                        • In German the word you choose for a depends on whether the noun it is used with is masculine, feminine or neuter, singular or plural AND it also depends on the case of the noun.
                        Da ist ein Auto.There’s a car.
                        Sie hat eine Wohnung.She has a flat.
                        Er gab es einem Kind.He gave it to a child.
                        • It has no plural forms.
                        iPads sind in letzter Zeit billiger geworden.Recently iPads have become cheaper.
                        • The indefinite article is formed as follows:
                        CaseMasculineFeminineNeuter
                        Nominativeeineineein
                        Accusativeeineneineein
                        Genitiveeineseinereines
                        Dativeeinemeinereinem

                        7 Using the indefinite article

                        • The indefinite article is used very much as in English.
                        Da ist ein Bus.There’s a bus.
                        Sie hat eine neue Jacke.She has a new jacket.
                        Sie gab es einer alten Dame.She gave it to an old lady.
                        • In certain situations, you do not use the indefinite article:
                        • when talking about the job someone does
                        Sie ist Ärztin.She’s a doctor.
                        • when talking about someone’s nationality or religion
                        Sie ist Deutsche.She’s (a) German.
                        Er ist Moslem.He’s (a) Muslim.
                        • Note that the indefinite article IS used when an adjective comes before the noun.
                        Sie ist eine sehr begabte Journalistin.She’s a very talented journalist.
                        • in certain fixed expressions
                        Es ist Geschmacksache.It’s a question of taste.
                        Tatsache ist …It’s a fact …
                        • after als (meaning as a)
                        Als Lehrerin verdiene ich nicht gut.I don’t earn very much as a teacher.
                        Als Großmutter darf ich meine Enkel verwöhnen.As a grandmother, I’m allowed to spoil my grandchildren.

                        8 The indefinite article in negative sentences

                        • In English we use words like not and never to indicate that something is not happening or is not true. The sentences that these words are used in are called negative sentences.
                        I don’t know him.
                        I never do my homework on time.
                        • In German, you use a separate negative form of the indefinite article, which is formed exactly like ein in the singular, and also has plural forms. It means no/not a/not one/not any.
                        CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter SingularAll Genders Plural
                        Nominativekeinkeinekeinkeine
                        Accusativekeinenkeinekeinkeine
                        Genitivekeineskeinerkeineskeiner
                        Dativekeinemkeinerkeinemkeinen
                         
                        Er hatte keine Geschwister.He had no brothers or sisters.
                        Ich sehe keinen Unterschied.I don’t see any difference.
                        Das ist keine richtige Antwort.That’s no answer.
                        Kein Mensch hat es gesehen.Not one person has seen it.
                        TipThis negative form of the indefinite article is even used when the positive form of the phrase has no article.
                        Er hatte Angst davor.He was frightened.
                        Er hatte keine Angst davor.He wasn’t frightened.
                         
                        Grammar Extra!The negative form of the indefinite article is also used in many informal expressions.
                        Sie hatte kein Geld mehr.All her money was gone.
                        Es waren keine drei Monate vergangen, als …It was less than three months later that …
                        Es hat mich keine zehn Euro gekostet.It cost me less than ten euros.
                        If you want to emphasize the ein in the sentence, nicht ein can be used instead of kein.
                        Nicht ein Kind hat es singen können.Not one child could sing it.
                        • For more information on Negatives, see Negatives.
                        Key points
                        • The indefinite article is used in German:
                        • to translate the English a and any in the singular
                        • to translate the English some or any in the plural
                        • in negative sentences in its separate negative form, kein, to translate not or no
                        • The indefinite article in German is NOT used when:
                        • talking about someone’s job, nationality or religion, unless an adjective is used before the noun
                        • in certain set expressions or after als meaning as a

                        9 Words declined like the indefinite article

                        • The following words are possessive adjectives, one of the words my, your, his, her, its, our or their used with a noun to show that one person or thing belongs to another. They follow the same pattern as the indefinite articles ein and kein.
                        meinmy
                        deinyour (singular familiar)
                        seinhis/its
                        ihrher/its
                        unserour
                        eueryour (plural familiar)
                        ihrtheir
                        lhryour (polite singular and plural)
                        • Possessive adjectives are formed in the following way.
                        NominativeAccusativeGenitiveDative
                        Singularmein,
                        meine,
                        mein
                        meinen,
                        meine,
                        mein
                        meines,
                        meiner,
                        meines
                        meinem,
                        meiner,
                        meinem
                        Pluralmeinemeinemeinermeinen
                        Singulardein,
                        deine,
                        dein
                        deinen,
                        deine,
                        dein
                        deines,
                        deiner,
                        deines
                        deinem,
                        deiner,
                        deinem
                        Pluraldeinedeinedeinerdeinen
                        Singularsein,
                        seine,
                        sein
                        seinen,
                        seine,
                        sein
                        seines,
                        seiner,
                        seines
                        seinem,
                        seiner,
                        seinem
                        Pluralseineseineseinerseinen
                        Singularihr,
                        ihre,
                        ihr
                        ihren,
                        ihre,
                        ihr
                        ihres,
                        ihrer,
                        ihres
                        ihrem,
                        ihrer,
                        ihrem
                        Pluralihreihreihrerihren
                        Singularunser,
                        unsere,
                        unser
                        unseren,
                        unsere,
                        unser
                        unseres,
                        unserer,
                        unseres
                        unserem,
                        unserer,
                        unserem
                        Pluralunsereunsereunsererunseren
                        Singulareuer,
                        eure,
                        euer
                        euren,
                        eure,
                        euer
                        eures,
                        eurer,
                        eures
                        eurem,
                        eurer,
                        eurem
                        Pluraleureeureeurereuren
                        Singularihr,
                        ihre,
                        ihr
                        ihren,
                        ihre,
                        ihr
                        ihres,
                        ihrer,
                        ihres
                        ihrem,
                        ihrer,
                        ihrem
                        Pluralihreihreihrerihren
                        SingularIhr,
                        Ihre,
                        Ihr
                        Ihren,
                        Ihre,
                        Ihr
                        Ihres,
                        Ihrer,
                        Ihres
                        Ihrem,
                        Ihrer,
                        Ihrem
                        PluralIhreIhreIhrerIhren
                         
                        Mein kleiner Bruder will auchMy little brother wants to come too.
                        Wo steht dein altes Auto?Where is your old car?
                        Er spielt Fußball mit seiner Tante.He is playing football with his aunt.
                        Was ist mit ihrem Computer los?What is wrong with her computer?
                        Ihre Kinder sind wirklich verwöhnt.Their children are really spoiled.
                        Wie geht es Ihrer Schwester?How is your sister?
                        Ich will meine Kinder regelmäßig sehen.I want to see my children regularly.
                        Grammar Extra!Possessive adjectives are often followed by other adjectives in German sentences. These adjectives then have the same endings as the indefinite article.
                        Er liebt sein altes Auto.He loves his old car.
                        Sie hat ihren neuen Computer verkauft.She sold her new computer.
                        Wo ist deine rote Jacke?Where is your red jacket?
                        irgendein (meaning some … or other) and its plural form irgendwelche also take these endings.
                        Er ist irgendein bekannter Schauspieler.He’s some famous actor or other.
                        Sie ist nur irgendeine alte Frau.She’s just some old woman or other.
                        Sie hat irgendein neues Buch gekauft.She bought some new book or other.
                        Ich muss irgendwelche blöden Touristen herumführen.I have to show some stupid tourists or other round.
                        Key points
                        • Possessive adjectives, one of the words my, your, his, her, its, our or their, are declined like the indefinite articles ein and kein.

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