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German Nouns and their Genders

List of all topics in the level A1

This lesson contains the following topics:

  1. Noun gender in German
  2. How to use a German dictionary for nouns?
  3. Elements of the sentence structure in German

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A note for the visitors who have directly landed on this page from the search engine: this page is part of the step-by-step German learning course at level A1. To see the complete details about nouns in the German language, please visit the page German Nouns under the section Summary of German Grammar.

This lesson's focus lies in providing an introduction to the genders of German nouns. It's important to understand that in this lesson, we've included numerous noun examples to clarify the concept of the three genders in German. These examples are not meant for rote memorization; they serve solely for explanatory purposes. Memorizing individual words in isolation is not an efficient method for expanding your vocabulary. However, it is advisable to commit to memory various words encountered during vocabulary-building exercises, as they are not standalone words but are frequently used within complete sentences or phrases.

Based on the previous lesson, now that we have a good command of German pronunciation, we can start building vocabulary.

The second part of this lesson explains four basic building blocks of a sentence structure in German (i.e., subject, verb, object, and complement).

Noun gender in German

There are two crucial points to know about the noun in the German language:

  1. Every German noun starts with a capital letter.
  2. Every German noun is required to have one of three genders.

A noun in German can be masculine, feminine, or neuter, and correspondingly, German articles come in three distinct forms. In our upcoming lesson, we will dig deeper into the topic of articles. However, for now, our focus is on discussing them to gain a better grasp of the gender attributes associated with nouns.

The definite article (the in English) in German has three genders i.e.:

  1. der for masculine nouns, for example, der Mann (the man),

  2. die for feminine nouns, for example, die Frau (the woman),

  3. das for neuter nouns, for example, das Messer (the knife).

Human beings and animals have natural genders. So, their genders are not hard to determine, but there are always exceptions, like in any other language. A window for exceptions should always be open while learning any language. For example, in German das Mädchen (the girl) is a neuter noun.

Inanimate objects lack inherent natural genders. That's why when memorizing the German vocabulary, it is consistently advised to commit to memory nouns alongside their corresponding gender assignments. For instance, one should remember die Tür (the door), die Wand (the wall), der Stuhl (the chair), das Fenster (the window), and das Licht (the light).

There are some specific hints available for determining the gender of a German noun; however, it's important to emphasize that these are merely hints and not rigid rules. It's not necessary to commit these hints to memory, as they are meant for quick reference only. Moreover, it is not recommended to memorize individual words in isolation. You can simply glance through the following three hints and proceed to the next topic, "How to use a German dictionary for searching nouns?".

der Jäger (hunter), der Körper (body), der Bäcker (baker),

der Honig (honey), der König (king),

der Frühling (spring), der Flüchtling (refugee), der Zwilling (twin),

der Algorithmus (algorithm), der Tourismus (tourism), der Materialismus (materialism),

der Doktor (doctor), der Motor (motor), der Professor (professor).

  • Nouns with endings -in, -ion, -ung, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -ei, -ik, -tät, -enz, -ie, are normally faminine. For instance,
  • die Professorin (female professor), die Doktorin (lady doctor),

    die Station (station), die Information (information),

    die Änderung (change), die Forschung (research),

    die Gesundheit (health), die Schönheit (beauty),

    die Geschwindigkeit (speed), die Süßigkeit (sweetness),

    die Wirtschaft (economy), die Botschaft (embassy, message) , die Deutsche Botschaft in London (The German Embassy in London),

    die Bäckerei (bakery), die Datei (data),

    die Klinik (clinic), die Physik (physics),

    die Universität (university), die Spezialität (speciality),

    die Differenz (difference), die Intelligenz (intelligence),

    die Allergie (allergy), die Biologie (biology), die Chemie (chemistry).

  • German nouns that end in -ment and -nis are normally neuter. For example,
  • das Medikament (medicine), das Dokument (document), das Instrument (instrument),

    das Zeugnis (certificate, report), das Geheimnis (secret).

    For more clarity, please watch the following video summary.

    How to utilize a German dictionary to look up nouns?

    In dictionaries, nouns are written in singular forms and are capitalized. Articles are not written along with nouns. To recognize the gender of a noun, a hint is given in brackets. For instance, Wand (e) in a German-to-German dictionary or it can be Wand (f) wall in a German-to-English dictionary. If it’s written as Wand (e), the letter e in brackets represents the feminine article “die”. In Wand (f), the (f) represents the feminine. Similarly, masculine nouns are written with letters (r) or (m) in brackets. For example, Honig (r) Honey. The letter "r" in brackets represents the masculine article “der”. It can also be Honig (m). In the case of a neuter noun, the letter (s) or (n) is written after the noun.

    Vocabulary building

    Please go through the following vocabulary-building dialog. The sentence structure used in this dialog is explained under the next heading (i.e., Elements of the sentence structure in German).

    Der König ist sehr reich. (The king is very rich.)

    Genau. (Exactly.)

    Und der Bäcker ist arm. (And the baker is poor.)

    Vielleicht. (May be.)

    Der Honig ist immer braun. (The honey is always brown.)

    Nein, nicht immer. (No, not always.)

    Okay, aber die Milch ist immer weiß. (Ok, but the milk is always white.)

    Richtig. (Correct.)

    Der Tag ist weiß und die Nacht ist schwarz. (The day is white and the night is black.)

    Ja, stimmt. (Yes, correct.)

    Words used in vocabulary building exercise

    der König (King)
    sehr (very)
    reich (rich)
    genau (exactly)
    vielleicht (may be)
    der Honig (honey)
    und (and)
    der Bäcker (baker)
    ja (yes)
    nein (no)
    nicht (not)
    nichts (nothing)
    immer (always)
    die Milch (milk)
    richtig (correct)
    der Tag (day)
    weiß (white)
    die Nacht (night)
    schwarz (black)
    stimmt (correct). It is a verb. we will discuss verbs in coming lessons.

    Elements of the sentence structure in German

    Like English, the main parts of a basic sentence in German are:

    1. Subject,
    2. Verb, and
    3. Object.

    A subject is the part of the sentence that performs some action (verb) or about which some information is given. The Subject in a sentence can be

    1. a noun (a proper noun e.g., Mr. Thomas or a noun with an article e.g., a table)
    2. a pronoun (I, you, we, he, she, etc.).

    The verb is a central element in a sentence. Some verbs take a direct object. The object is an element in the sentence on which the action is performed or about which the information is given.

    Subject Verb Object
    I need a book.

    Sometimes, for emphasis or other reasons, we bring the object before the verb.

    Thomas, what do you need? "A book I need," replies Thomas.

    The same structure is applicable in German. However, German offers more possibilities for sentence structure than English. We will discuss this in the lesson, Accusative Case.

    Certain verbs don't require an object, yet they need some additional information to convey the complete meaning of the sentence. This additional information, known as a complement, serves to fulfill the sentence's meaning. A complement can consist of a single word or a combination of various words, such as adjectives, particles, adverbs, and more.

    In the following examples, we employed the verb "ist" (is), which does not necessitate a direct object. Consequently, we require a complement to bring the sentence to full fruition.

    Subject Verb Complement
    Der König ist sehr reich.
    The king is very rich
    Der Bäcker ist arm.
    The baker is poor
    Der Honig ist immer braun.
    The honey is always brown.
    Die Milch ist immer weiß.
    The milk is always white.
    Der Tag ist weiß.
    The day is white.
    Die Nacht ist schwarz.
    The night is black.

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