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How to learn German “Artikel”

If you’ve started learning German recently, or are about to start, you might ask yourself how you can learn the “Artikel”.

Don’t worry, almost everyone has the same problem when first learning this language.

Different from most other languages, German actually has 3 articles, and sometimes they have nothing to do with the word itself.

There are some tricks to learning the articles, however, which is why this post will show you how to learn German “Artikel”!

What are the articles?

The articles in German represent the English word “the”. there are 4 articles, but they change forms in the different cases.

We won’t go into the cases, though, that would make it too confusing at first.

When starting out with learning German, it is important to understand the articles in the first case (Nominativ) first and foremost.

Each noun in German has an article and is assigned a gender (masculine, feminine, or neutral). The gender represents which version of the word “the” is used in German.

Der” is used for masculine nouns, “die” for feminine nouns and “das” is used for neutral nouns.

Any noun in the plural form has the article “die“, regardless of gender (eg. der Mann, die Männer – the man, the men)

Another important thing to note is that the gender of a noun refers to the word, not the person/object/thing that the word describes, which can be confusing, as it makes it hard to use logic when looking for articles. As an example, man has a masculine article, which seems to make sense.

The word woman has a feminine article – also seems quite logical. However, the word girl has a neutral article – so there really isn’t any logic behind it!

Also, words that technically have the same meaning can have different articles. The word “sofa” for example, has the article “das“, while the word “couch” has a feminine article (“die“).

Indicators

Before you completely despair, there are some general indicators that will help you find the right gender.

There might be some exceptions to these rules, but generally, you can guess the gender of a noun based on how the word ends. 

Masculine

Nouns that end in -or, -ling, -ner, -ig, or -smus are generally masculine and have the article “der“.

Some examples would be der Frühling, der Generator, der Linguismus, der Honig.

Furthermore, the following words are almost always masculine:

  • Directions like north, south, … (der Norden,…)
  • Days, months, and seasons
  • brands of cars or trains like der Mercedes

Feminine

Nouns that end with -ung, -ei, -keit, -ie, -heit, -schaft, -keit, -tät, -ik, or -tion, there is a good chance that the article is feminine (“die“).

For example, die Gesellschaft, die Aktion, die Zeitung, die Tätigkeit, die Bäckerei, die Musik. 

The following words are usually feminine:

  • numbers (die Eins, die Zwei,…)
  • brands or names of ships, motorbikes of aircraft (die Titanic, die Honda, die Boeing)

Neutral

Indicators that a noun may be neutral, and needs “das” are if it ends with -chen, -lein, -ment, -tum, -ma, or -um. Examples of neutral words would be das Mädchen, das Momentum, das Museum, das Tischlein. 

These words are also usually neutral:

  • colors used as nouns (das Rot, das Gelb,…)
  • most terms related to technology, mechanics, and science

If you take a little bit of time to memorize these endings and the according articles, you will have a much easier time learning the German articles!

Principles with people, animals, and occupations

I mentioned above that generally, the articles may not be the most logical (like das Mädchen, for example). However, there are some general principles when talking about people, animals, and occupations. 

Male living things like a man (der Mann), a rooster (der Hahn), a father (der Vater), etc are generally masculine in German, as well.

The same thing applies to female living things. The exception with das Mädchen for example, is mostly due to the rule that I mentioned above, that the word ends with -chen.

When talking about professions, the same general principles apply. Female versions of occupations usually have -in added at the end.

For example, der Polizist is a male police officer, while die Polizistin would be a female police officer.

More tips for learning der, die and das

Another tip that I can wholeheartedly recommend, is that you start learning the articles right away. Don’t postpone it, because that will just make it that much harder.

Take some time to internalize the indicators and principles mentioned in this article before starting your journey of learning German.

Then, make sure that whenever you learn a new noun as a vocabulary, you will immediately learn the according article with it. 

What seems like a hassle will actually save you so much time further down the line!

You are already studying, and by immediately learning the article with it, you will have way fewer problems once the language gets more complicated with all the different cases.

Another great tip for learning the articles is categorizing the words into colors. This is actually how kids in Germany and Austria learn the concept of genders – masculine nouns are written in blue, feminine words in red, and neutral words are displayed in green.

Depending on which learning type you have, color-coding your vocabulary can really facilitate the learning process for your brain!

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Don’t give up!

Even though it can be tough at first, the articles are no reason to despair when learning German! With the right approach and technique, it can actually be quite simple!

The biggest takeaway of this article is probably START EARLY. The earlier you start with memorizing the right articles, the easier the rest of the language will be.

These tips should help you out when trying to master the articles, especially as most words follow the general principles.

And if you are really at a loss of which article to use, guessing will at least give you a 33% chance of being right 😉

Good luck!

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