Remembering gender in German
With this question I am probably clutching at straws but does anyone have any tips on how to remember the gender of nouns in German. I simply cannot get them into my memory. I cannot remember, either, by learning the definite article with them. It does not help that in German they do not match biological gender, e.g. girl (Mädchen) is neuter! Any tips would be appreciated. My dictionary is getting really dog eared because I am having to look up the gender of every noun.
First of all, look at the tips in the german lessons.
All nouns ending in -chen are neuter, hence 'das Mädchen'. Most nouns ending in -e are feminine, etc.
Also note that words that rhyme with each other tend to have the same gender.
Those are just a few of the general rules.
When you start to get these rules memorised, you can make good guesses about most of the nouns you encounter.
I see you are also learning French. It can be useful to compare some words, and you'll see that with some regularity - though certainly not always - words that are feminine in French, are so too in German, and masculine either masculine or neuter.
le cheval - das Pferd
la philosophie - die Philosophie
le chien - der Hund
Like I said, please do not see this anything resembling a definite rule. But it may be something to keep in mind.
It's difficult, particularly when the definite article changes with the case. I keep a spreadsheet of nouns that I've downloaded from Duo, and I add their nominative definite article and plural form, and highlight the nouns by color (pink, blue, yellow - sexist I know, but culturally ingrained). Just the act of writing it down is useful, but when I go to look the word up again I can see the gender at a glance, and the color begins to be associated with the noun. The feminine -e ending tip is useful (not foolproof- der Junge), and that means that the plural is going to be -en (ung, heit as well). Sometimes memorizing a phrase with a preposition helps - "auf dem Tisch" guides me to "der Tisch" for instance. Viel Glück and weiter so!
I have given that ago. I find it works for me in French (le/la and un/une) but not only am I struggling to memorise the genders of the nouns in German I am also forgetting whether they are (in the nominative) der, die or das. I think if I could remember the definite articles my problem would be closer to being resolved.
Just keep on practicing and you'll get it down. Gender is not the most important aspect of German grammar and if you mess up gender you will still get your point across 99% of the time, if you say "der Milch" instead of "die Milch" people will still understand you. I'm not saying don't learn gender, I'm just saying don't worry about it too much and let it come slowly in time.
Trying to learning the gender as part of the word and not just the word can also help you learn faster. For example, memorize "das Wasser", not just "Wasser".
Also, the endings of nouns can sometimes hint you the gender. For example, about 60% of nouns ending in "er" are masculine and 90% of nouns ending in "e" are feminine. There are also situations where the ending of a word can tell the gender 100% of the time, for example 100% of nouns that end in "ung" are feminine if I recall correctly. However, I recommend learning noun endings as a back up since their not nearly as reliable as Spanish or even French for example, there's also a lot more of them than in Spanish and French. If you always judged a noun's gender by its ending you'll probably get it right majority of the time, but there would still be a decent amount of words you can't rely on endings for which is worth learning.
Here's a resource for German gender endings:
Another "backup" like the noun endings is knowing the plural of a noun. If you know the plural of a noun but not the gender the ending of the noun in the plural form can often, but not always, tell you it's gender. Knowing an umlaut/vowel change in the plural form can also help. If the plural form ends in "-e" or "-er" it's most likely masculine or neuter with a handful of exceptions, or a decent amount of plurals ending in "en/n" are feminine, also with a decent amount of suggestions though. Once again though, I would recommend only using this as a backup if you know the plural but don't know the gender or vice versa.
Here's a resource for German plural endings and connecting them with gender:
As for "Mädchen", that's honestly the only major exception to the biological gender rule, and there's a reason for it. The reason why "Mädchen" is neuter and not feminine is because it's a diminutive noun. Diminutive nouns are when you add a "-chen" or "-lein" to the end of the noun which makes the noun physically smaller. For example, "die Katze" is "cat", but "das Kätzchen" is "kitten". The thing about diminutive nouns, and this is another tip which can help you remember gender, is that they are all neuter. "Mädchen" is the diminutive or "physically smaller" word for "Magd", an old German word that meant "maid", so back then I guess people viewed/saw girls as "small maids" hence the word "Mädchen". That's why "Mädchen" and "Kätzchen" are neuter, because they're diminutive. So really besides "Mädchen", you can use biological gender to know the gender of any noun where it applies, like "der Mann", "die Frau", "der Junge", "der Vater", "die Mutter", etc.
Another notable tip, like all diminutive nouns being neuter, is that all nouns that are also infinitive verbs and come from a verb are all neuter if I recall correctly. For example, "das Essen", (the food), which comes from the verb "essen" (to eat), or "das Schwimmen" (the swim) which comes from the verb "schwimmen" (to swim). It has to be exactly the same as the infinitive of the verb though, for example "der Lauf" (the run) is masculine, but, while it does come from the verb "laufen" (to run), it's not the same exact word as the infinitive as it lacks the "-en" ending found in all infinitive verbs.
I hope these tips help you.
Unlike a lot of people, I memorize the gender rather than the nominative article, because in many cases you will want the accusative, dative and genative article, or an indirect article or adjective. So I with each new noun I learn, I learn it with m, f, or n (plus the plural form and other cases if it is a strong noun). When I want to build a sentence, I don‘t automatically think of using the nominative article but rather I think “what gender and what case and what type of word precedes it?”.
I learn new words with the software Anki. I make different decks of cards for it with the gender and other grammatical information and go through the decks seeing if I type the correct gender (and spell the word correctly). You then can choose how difficult it was and the card will shown to you again sooner or later based on how difficult it was. There is a lot of fine tuning you can do with Anki. You could of course use physical flashcards or word lists on paper, I use that method too, but the key is to consider your answer wrong if you got the wrong gender. Don’t give yourself half credit for spelling the word right.