Nouns and Articles in German Grammar

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Nouns are words that describe beings, places and things e. g. die Frau – the woman, der Bahnhof – the train station, das Wetter – the weather. German nouns can be used with masculine (der), feminine (die) or neuter (das) articles and they are always written with a capital letter. German noun endings change to match the case they are in.

In the following pages, you will learn to use German nouns and articles in their singular and plural forms as well as in the nominative, accusative, dative and genitive cases. At the end of each page, there are exercises so you can practice using nouns and articles in German.

What are nouns?

Nouns (Nomen or Substantive) are naming words that refer to inanimate objects (der Löffelthe spoon, das Buchthe book), living things (die Frauthe woman, der Baumthe tree) and concepts (das Wetterweather, die Liebelove).

Unlike nouns in English, German nouns are always written with a capital letter and they have a grammatical gender (masculine, feminine or neuter). A noun’s gender determines which article we use (der, die or das).

German nouns are also declined (i.e. the article and sometimes the noun’s ending are changed to reflect the case).

Learn all about German nouns and their gender with Lingolia, then practise in the interactive exercises.


Artikel Beispiel

der, die or das?

German nouns have a grammatical gender, which determines which article we use. German nouns can be masculine (= der), feminine (= die) or neuter (= das).

German-language dictionaries indicate noun gender via the abbreviations m (masculine), f (feminine) and n (neuter).

We often can’t discern grammatical gender from the noun itself. Objects, for example, are not inherently ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ but many still take the articles der or die.

der Mondthe moon
die Deckethe blanket

In some cases, a noun may take more than just one article.

      • In some cases, a noun may take two different articles because it has two different meanings.
        das Pony = small horse
        der Pony = fringe/bangs
      • Occasionally it’s just a question of preference and the noun has the same meaning with each article.
        der Laptop = das Laptopthe laptop
        der Keks = das Keksthe biscuit

In the case of nouns that refer to people, grammatical gender can differ from the person’s gender*.

das Mädchen = the girl
*ending -chen → always neuter

*The Gendersternchen and gender-neutral language in German

German nouns that refer to people often have two forms: masculine and feminine. The masculine form is the base form, and the feminine form is created by adding the ending -in for the singular and -innen for the plural.

der Lehrer – die Lehrerinthe (male) teacher – the (female) teacher

However, the masculine form is often used as the default in the plural, regardless of the gender make-up of the group.

die Lehrerthe teachers

This is known as the generic masculine (das generische Maskulinum) and has long been a subject of contention in German-speaking circles.

Some argue that the masculine form is purely grammatical and therefore inherently gender-neutral. Others find that using the masculine as the default excludes non-masculine people.

In an effort to be more inclusive, the gender star (das Gendersternchen) is used. This is where an asterisk, colon, underscore or uppercase I is inserted between the masculine and feminine forms to ensure inclusivity of all genders.

die Lehrer*innen, die Lehrer:innen, die Lehrer_innen, die LehrerInnenthe teachers
in spoken language, the asterisk/colon/underscore is represented by a short pause

Alternatively, other gender-neutral forms can also be derived from many nouns.

die Lehrerschaft, die Lehrkräfte, das Lehrpersonal
der/die Lehrende (sg.), die Lehrenden (pl.)

How to recognise a noun’s gender

There are no rules regarding noun gender in German grammar, which is why you should always learn the article whenever you learn a new word.

However, there may be no hard and fast rules, but there are some patterns that can be helpful if you’re ever unsure of a noun‘s gender. Check out the tables below for some handy tips.

der – Masculine Nouns

The table below lists nouns that are typically masculine in German grammar.

Feature Example
male people der Mannthe man, der Präsidentthe president
seasons der Frühlingthe spring, der Sommerthe summer, der Herbstthe autumn, der Winterthe winter
(but: das Frühjahrthe springtime)
days/months der Montag, der Dienstag, der Mittwoch, …the Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday...
der Januar, der Februar, der März, der April, …the January/February/March/April...
types of precipitation der Regenthe rain, der Schneethe snow, der Hagelthe hail, der Schauerthe showers
nouns that end in ling der Schmetterlingthe butterfly, der Lehrlingthe apprentice
nouns that end in ich/ig der Teppichthe carpet, der Honigthe honey
nouns made from verbs without en der Laufthe run/course (laufento run), der Sitzthe seat (sitzento sit)

die – Feminine Nouns

The table below lists nouns that are typically feminine in German grammar.

Feature Example
female people die Frauthe woman, die Präsidentinthe president
(but: das Fräuleinthe young lady, das Mädchenthe girl)
numbers used as nouns die Einsthe one
nouns ending in ung die Endungthe ending
nouns ending in schaft die Mannschaftthe team
nouns ending in ion die Diskussionthe discussion
nouns ending in heit/keit die Freiheit, die Heiterkeitthe freedom, the cheerfulness
nouns ending in tät die Identitätthe identity
nouns ending in ik die Musikthe music

das – Neuter Nouns

The table below lists nouns that are typically neuter in German grammar.

Feature Example
letters of the alphabet das Athe A
nouns ending in lein/chen das Fräuleinthe young lady, das Mädchenthe girl
nouns ending in um das Museumthe museum, das Aquariumthe aquarium
nouns ending in ment das Experimentthe experiment
foreign words ending in ma das Themathe topic, das Dramathe drama
nouns made from verbs in the infinitive das Laufenthe running, das Essenthe eating
nouns made from English verbs ending in ing das Timingthe timing, das Trainingthe training
nouns made from adjectives that are not referring to something particular das Neuethe new (thing), das Ganzethe entire (thing), das Gleichethe same (thing)
(but: Das ist der Neue.This is the new one.e.g. pupil)

Articles and compound nouns

German has many compound nouns (zusammengesetzte Nomen). These are nouns that are made by putting two or more nouns together.

The gender of newly-created compound noun is always the same as the final noun.

der Tisch + das Bein = das Tischbeinthe table + the leg = the table leg
not: der Tischbein

To learn more about German nouns, articles and declension, check out the following pages:

You can find more free exercises about plural nouns and noun gender in the different topics in our themed vocabulary section.