https://www.duolingo.com/JoeOcher

Gender Rules (how to work out which gender)

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The way the article (a/an or the) is written depends on the gender of the word (masculine, feminine, neuter or plural) and the way in which the word is being used, the case. This table shows you how to use the gender and case to work out the article: http://christianlangenegger.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/screen-shot-2011-02-13-at-23-28-22.png and below is a summary of rules for working out the gender.

THE BASICS:

  1. In compound nouns (a noun that is made up of two or more words), the last word determines the gender; for example “die Geburt” + “der Ort” = “der Geburtsort” (birthplace).

  2. If you're going to guess, guess ”der”. The highest percentage of German nouns are masculine. 

  3. For people the grammatical gender mostly matches biological gender (i.e. words about men are masculine, words about women are feminine). "das Mädchen" is a common exception.

  4. All river names are masculine or feminine (mostly masculine outside of Europe).

MASCULINE RULES (der):

  1. Points on the compass are always masculine; such as “der Nordwesten” (north-west).

  2. Winds are mostly masculine; such as “der Scirocco” (hot desert wind).

  3. Names of cars are mostly masculine; such as “der BMW”. Note this is for cars only; the motorbike is “die BMW”.

  4. Words with the suffix “-ismus” are always masculine; such as “der Journalismus” (journalism).

  5. Words with the suffix “-ner” are mostly masculine; such as “der Schaffner” (conductor).

  6. Days are always masculine; such as “der Montag” (Monday).

  7. Months are always masculine; such as “der Juni” (June).

  8. Seasons are mostly masculine; such as “der Frühling” (spring). “das Frühjahr” (another word for “spring”) is the only exception.

  9. Precipitation is mostly masculine; such as “der Regen” (rain). “das Wetter” (weather) is a common exception.

  10. Names of alcoholic drinks are mostly masculine; such as “der Wein” (wine). “das Bier” (beer) is a common exception.

  11. Nouns about males (male nationals, male occupations etc.) are mostly masculine; such as “der Artz” (male doctor).

  12. All rivers are masculine or feminine; names of rivers outside of Europe are mostly masculine; such as “der Amaonas” (amazon). Some river names ending in “-a” and “-o” are feminine though.

  13. Nouns with the suffix “-ich” are mostly masculine; such as “der Rettich” (radish).

  14. Nouns with the suffix “-ling” are mostly masculine; such as “der Frühling” (spring).

  15. Nouns with the suffix “-ist” are mostly masculine; such as “der Pazifist” (pacifist).

  16. Nouns, about people, ending in “-er” are likely to be masculine; such as “der Fahrer” (driver).

  17. Names of mountains are are likely to be masculine; such as “der Berg” (mountain). “die Zugspitze” (Germany’s highest peak) is an exception.

  18. Names of lakes are are likely to be masculine; such as “der See” (lake). “die See” (sea) is an exception.

  19. Nouns with the suffix “-or” are mostly masculine; such as “der Diktator” (dictator).

  20. Nouns with the suffix “-eur” are mostly masculine; such as “der Gouverneur” (govenor).

FEMININE RULES (die):

  1. Nouns with the suffix “-heit” are always feminine; such as “die Freiheit” (freedom).

  2. Nouns with the suffix “-keit” are always feminine; such as “die Schnelligkeit” (quickness).

  3. Nouns with the suffix “-tät” are always feminine; such as “die Universität” (university).

  4. Nouns with the suffix “-ung” are always feminine; such as “die Zeitung” (newspaper).

  5. Nouns with the suffix “-schaft” are always feminine; such as “die Freundschaft” (friendship).

  6. Nouns with the suffix “-ie” are always feminine; such as “die Geographie” (geography).

  7. The names of aeroplanes are mostly feminine; such as “die Boeing 747” (Boeing 747). Other aircraft (helicopters etc.) aren't necessarily feminine.

  8. The names of ships are mostly feminine; such as “die Titanic” (Titanic).

  9. The names of motorbikes are mostly feminine; such as “die BMW”. Note this is for motorbikes only; the car is “der BMW”.

  10. The cardinal numbers (whole numbers) are always feminine; such as “eine Eins” (one).

  11. Nouns borrowed from foreign languages with the suffix “-age” are always feminine; such as “die Blamage” (shame).

  12. Nouns borrowed from foreign languages with the suffix “-anz” are always feminine; such as “die Distanz” (distance).

  13. Nouns borrowed from foreign languages with the suffix “-enz” are always feminine; such as “die Frequenz” (frequency).

  14. Nouns borrowed from foreign languages with the suffix “-ette” are always feminine; such as “die Serviette” (napkin).

  15. Nouns borrowed from foreign languages with the suffix “-ade” are mostly feminine; such as “die Parade” (parade). “der Nomade” (nomad) is a rare exception.

  16. Nouns with the suffix “-ik” are mostly feminine; such as “die Musik” (music). There are some exceptions.

  17. Nouns about females (female nationals, female occupations etc.) are mostly feminine; such as “die Studentin” (female student). "das Mädchen" is a common exception.

  18. Nouns about people with the suffix "-in" are mostly feminine; such as "die Amerikanerin" (female American).

  19. Nouns borrowed from foreign languages with the suffix “-isse” are mostly feminine; such as “die Hornisse” (hornet).

  20. Nouns borrowed from foreign languages with the suffix “-ive” are mostly feminine; such as “die Initiative” (initiative).

  21. Nouns borrowed from foreign languages with the suffix “-itis” are mostly feminine; such as “die Arthritis” (arthritis).

  22. Nouns with the suffix “-e” are likely to be feminine; such as “die Ente” (duck).

  23. Nouns with the suffix “-ei” are likely to be feminine; such as “die Partei” (party).

  24. Types of flowers and trees are likely to be feminine; such as “die Birke” (birch tree).

NEUTER RULES (das):

  1. Nouns with the suffix “-chen” are always neuter ; such as “das Mädchen” (girl).

  2. Nouns with the suffix “-lein” are always neuter; such as “das Fräulein” (unmarried woman).

  3. Nouns formed from an infinitive verb ("to" + the simple verb found in the dictionary; e.g. "essen" (to eat)) are always neuter; such as “das Essen” (food).

  4. Colours used as nouns are always neuter; such as “das Blau” (blue).

  5. The names of hotels, cafés and theatres are mostly neuter.

  6. Nouns with the suffix “-nis” are mostly neuter; such as “das Versäumnis” (neglect).

  7. Nouns with the suffix “-um” are mostly neuter; such as “das Christentum” (Christianity).

  8. The elements are mostly neuter; such as “das Aluminium” (aluminium). The exceptions: carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, phosphor and sulphur are masculine. (four of these exceptions end in "-stoff" , using the rule of compund nouns, and knowing that "stoff" is masculine can help you spot them)

  9. Young animals and people are mostly neuter; such as “das Baby” (baby). “der Junge” (boy) is a common exception.

  10. Fractions are mostly neuter; such as “das Viertel” (one quarter). “die Hälfte” (half) is the only exception.

  11. Nouns borrowed from foreign languages with the suffix “-ment” are mostly neuter; such as “das Ressentiment” (supplement).

  12. Nouns with the suffix “-o” are likely to be neuter; such as “das Auto” (car).

  13. Nouns starting with “Ge-” are likely to be neuter; such as “das Gerät (device).

PLURAL RULES (die):

  1. For all plurals the definite article (word for “the”) depends on case alone and the gender doesn’t matter.

  2. Being plural the indefinite article (word for "a/an") isn't used at all (e.g. "apples" not "an apples")

6 years ago

12 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/wataya
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These rules are useful but I'd suggest to replace 'always' with 'mostly' in most of the rules as there are lot of exceptions: e.g. names of winds: 'die Bora', names of cars: 'die Corvette', and so on...

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JoeOcher
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Goshdarnit, okay tell me the numbers that it should be mostly for

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wataya
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'Der rules': compass directions: It's 'der Nordwesten', numbers: 2,3,6. Rule number 4 doesn't seem to make such sense since trains are normally either called '~zug' or '~bahn'. In the first case, they are masculine, in the second case feminine. You can put all your person rules into one: for people, normally grammatical gender does match biological gender ('das Mädchen' being the prominent exception).

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wataya
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'Die' rules: for the suffixes you should explicitly make clear that the endings have to be suffixes. (e.g. 'der Dung', 'der Schwung'). The aircraft rule doesn't really hold: 'der Hubschrauber, der Bomber, das Luftschiff', etc. You could say that names of airplanes (excluding other kinds of aircraft) are mostly feminine. The ship rule also needs a 'mostly'. The same holds true for rule 9.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wataya
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'Das rules': 5. In rule 10, 'die Hälfte' is the only exception. rule 14 doesn't hold at all. The reason why many country names are neuter is that most of them end in 'land' which is neuter. I'd suggest to update all 'ends with rules' to 'suffix rules' as they don't apply if the ending is part of (or overlaps with) the word stem.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JoeOcher
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Thanks, all fixed :-)

Also what is the difference between a suffix and an ending (are suffixes standardised endings like -ing, -ed, -ly, -ment, -tion?) and should I switch Das:13 to "with the prefix"?

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wataya
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'Ending' can be used synonymously with 'suffix'. But if you say "the word ends in 'ung'", this is also true for 'Schwung' or 'Dung'. In these cases the 'ung' is part of the word stem. But the rule only applies for suffixes.

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JoeOcher
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duolingo should add these into the hints-when-people-go-wrong.

  1. easy to program (show rule when word ends in "..." and is the right gender) der: 5,6,16,17,18 die: 1,2,3,4,5,6,16,23,24,25 das: 1,2,6,7,12,13

  2. medium to program (finite number of examples to program) der: 1,2,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14 die: 10,17,18,19 das: 4,8,9,10

  3. rest would be fairly hard be duolingo could try :-)

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Hohenems
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Thanks for going through this trouble!

6 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ArmasUkkoM
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Well, first of all thank you for this try of an overview. I guess the most important rule is rule no.1: gender of compound nouns: applied to the elements, there are just two exceptions left: der Kohlenstoff (C), der Sauerstoff (O), der Stickstoff (N), der Wasserstof (H). Exceptions: der Phosphor (P), der Schwefel (S). "Phosphor" could also be seen as a member of nouns ending on -or, which are always masculine: der Generator, der Terminator, der Diktator, der Alligator. Also nouns on -eur are masculine: der Gouverneur, der Charmeur, der Voyeur, der Deserteur.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JoeOcher
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Suggestions added, if you spot any other error or additions please say :D

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kcjulius
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Brilliant! Thank you so much!

1 year ago
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