Easy Learning German

Gender - Easy Learning Grammar German

  • In German a noun can be masculine, feminine or neuter. Gender is quite unpredictable – the best thing is simply to learn each noun with its definite article, that is the word for the (der, die or das) which goes with it:
der Teppichcarpet
die Zeittime
das Bildpicture
However, there are some clues which can help you work out or remember the gender of a noun, as explained below.

1 Masculine nouns

  • Nouns referring to male people and animals are masculine.
der Mannman
der Löwe(male) lion
  • Seasons, months, days of the week, weather and points of the compass are masculine.
der Sommersummer
der AugustAugust
der FreitagFriday
der Windwind
der Nordennorth
  • Most nouns referring to things that perform an action are also masculine.
der Weckeralarm clock
der Computercomputer
Grammar Extra!German nouns taken from other languages and ending in -ant, -ast, -ismus, and -or are masculine:
der Passantpasser-by
der Ballastballast
der Kapitalismuscapitalism
der Tresorsafe
  • Nouns with the following endings are masculine.
Masculine EndingExampleMeaning
-ichder Teppichcarpet
-igder Essigvinegar
-lingder Frühlingspring
Key points
  • Nouns referring to male people and animals are masculine.
  • Seasons, months, days of the week, weather and points of the compass are masculine.

2 Feminine nouns

  • Most nouns ending in -e are feminine.
die Faltecrease, wrinkle
die Brückebridge
  • Note that male people or animals ending in -e are masculine, and, nouns beginning with Ge- and ending in -e are normally neuter.
der Löwelion
das Getreidecrop
  • Nouns with the following endings are feminine.
Feminine EndingExampleMeaning
-heitdie Schönheitbeauty
-keitdie Sehenswürdigkeitsight
-schaftdie Gewerkschafttrade union
-ungdie Zeitungnewspaper
-eidie Bäckereibakery
Grammar Extra!German nouns taken from other languages and ending in -anz, -enz, -ie, -ik, -ion, -tät, -ur are feminine, with some exceptions.
die DistanzdistanceBUT: der Kranzwreath
die Konkurrenzrivalry
die TheorietheoryBUT: das Knieknee
die PanikpanicBUT: der PazifikPacific
die UnionunionBUT: der Spionspy
die Elektrizitätelectricity
die TemperaturtemperatureBUT: das AbiturA levels
  • Numbers used in counting, for example one, three, fifty are feminine.
Er hat eine Drei gekriegt.He got a three.
  • In German, there are sometimes very different words for male and female, just as in English.
der Mannman
die Frauwoman
der Vaterfather
die Muttermother
der Bullebull
die Kuhcow
  • Many masculine German nouns can be made feminine by adding -in in the singular and -innen in the plural.
der Lehrer(male) teacher
die Lehrerin(female) teacher
Lehrer und Lehrerinnen(male and female) teachers
der Leser(male) reader
die Leserin(female) reader
unsere Leser und Leserinnenour readers
Grammar Extra!Some German adjectives are used as feminine nouns. They have feminine adjective endings which change according to the article which comes before them.
eine Deutschea German woman
die Abgeordnetethe female MP
Key points
  • Most nouns ending in -e are feminine.
  • Many feminine nouns end in: -heit, -keit, -schaft, -ung, -ei.
  • Masculine German words referring to people can be made feminine by adding -in in the singular and -innen in the plural.
  • Numbers used in counting are feminine.

3 Neuter nouns

  • Most nouns beginning with Ge- are neuter.
das Geschirrcrockery, dishes
das Geschöpfcreature
das Getreidecrop
  • Nouns ending in -lein or -chen are also neuter. These are called the diminutive form and refer to small persons or objects.
Endings to form the diminutiveExampleMeaning
-leindas Tischleinlittle table
-chendas Häuschenlittle house
  • Note that if these words have one of the vowels a, o or u, an umlaut should be added above the vowel. The final -e should also be dropped before these endings
der BachBächdas Bächlein(small) stream
die KatzeKätzdas Kätzchenkitten
  • Fractions are also neuter.
ein Drittel davona third of it
  • Nouns which refer to young humans and animals are neuter.
das Babybaby
das Kindchild
das Kalbcalf
das Lammlamb
  • Note that the animals themselves can be any gender.
der Hunddog
die Schlangesnake
das Viehcattle
  • Infinitives (the “to” form of verbs) used as nouns are neuter.
das Schwimmenswimming
das Spielenplaying
das Radfahrencycling
  • Nouns with the following endings are neuter.
Neuter EndingExampleMeaning
-nisdas Ereignisevent
-tumdas Eigentumproperty
Grammar Extra!German nouns taken from other languages and ending in -at, -ett, -fon, -ma, -ment, -um are neuter.
das Reservatreservation
das Tabletttray
das Telefonphone
das Themasubject, topic
das Medikamentdrug
das UltimatumultimatumBUT: der Reichtumwealth
das Studium studies
Key points
  • Most nouns beginning with Ge- are neuter.
  • The diminutive form of nouns is neuter.
  • Nouns referring to young humans and animals are neuter.
  • The “to” forms of verbs (called infinitives) used as nouns are neuter.
  • Nouns ending in -nis or -tum are neuter.

4 Compound nouns

What is a compound noun?
A compound noun is a noun made up of two or more words, for example, tin-opener and railway station.
 
  • In German, these words nearly always take their gender from the LAST noun of the compound word.
die Armbanduhr (Armband + die Uhr)wristwatch
der Tomatensalat (Tomaten + der Salat)tomato salad
der Fußballspieler (Fußball + der Spieler)footballer
Grammar Extra!Some German nouns have more than one gender. A few nouns have two genders and sometimes one of them can only be used in certain regions.
der/das Marzipanmarzipan(der Marzipan is used mostly in Austria)
der/das Keksbiscuit(das Keks is used mostly in Austria)
der/das Kaugummichewing gum 
Other nouns have two genders and the meaning of the word changes depending on which gender it has.
der Bandvolume, book
das Bandribbon, band, tape; bond
der Seelake
die Seesea
der Leiterleader, manager
die Leiterladder
  • In German, abbreviations have the same gender as the word they come from.
die BRDthe Federal Republic of Germany
(from die Bundesrepublik Deutschland)
die DBthe German Railways
(from die Deutsche Bahn)
das ZDFGerman TV channel
(from das Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen)
Key points
  • Compound nouns are nouns made up of two or more words and usually take their gender from the last part of the compound word.
  • Some German nouns have more than one gender and this can affect their meaning.
  • German abbreviations have the same gender as the words they come from.

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