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Defining genders

It's a mystery to me why definite articles i.e. "der, das and die" must be so confusing. If a definite gender cannot be determined why not use das. Why das Madchen when clearly it is a girl and female. She is young, yes, (but she is not an it) and so is boy (young but not an it) , that is not das Junge, it is der Junge. He is definable as male and thus der is appropriate. Why also alternate in definite articles in e.g. Nature, Clothes, Animals. Why der Hund, die Katze. The linguistic form in which it is presented prevents determining a definite gender. Why der Rock and das Kleid when it's clearly definable as clothes females wear. Similarly with male clothes. You have to jump between der, die and das. It results in a guessing came according to alphabet endings which definite articles to use. German is about Genders: female, male, neuter. In the definite article, perhaps a change in classifications should be considered to assist one in determining definite articles. The plural form is ideal - "Die" and that's it. No guessing game going on here.

April 26, 2018



Unfortunately, that is not the way languages work ;-)

The genders of nouns have to be learned and sometimes they can't be guessed. However, there are some endings in nouns which belong clearly to a specific gender.

Nouns ending in -ung; -keit; -heit are feminine:

die Aufmerksamkeit, die Gesundheit, die Aufmunterung

Nouns ending in -nis; -chen; -lein are all neuter

das Erlebnis, das Blümchen, das Büchlein

Nouns ending in -er, -ler,

der Sportler, der Verkäufer


To add on to birgit72635's comment, here is a Post I that also explains when which article is used, "der", "die" or "das".


The grammatical gender has almost nothing to do with real gender. Yes, it is "der Mann" and "die Frau", but "der Tisch" or "die Lampe" do not mean that a table is male or a lamp is female in any way.

And since German is a natural language, not some constructed language like Esperanto, "a change in classification" is totally out of the question. Sorry, and good luck with the learning.


Exactly! Do not mix up gender and sex. der Mensch (the human), die Person (the person), das Mitglied (the member) can all be persons - male and femals. I do not use "male", "female" and "neuter", but "maskulinum", "femininum" and "neutrum", the latin words. That prevents that I mix up sex and gender.

"Mädchen" is neutrum, because it is a Diminutiv in origen. You could also say "Jungchen". Herrchen and Frauchen (Why not Fräuchen? - Do not ask!) is how you call the owners of a dog. Another Diminutiv of Frau is Fräulein, which means Mis, but is not used any more.

Learning Spanish, French or any other language with genders you will have similar problems. But then it turns interesting: Why is for an example the German moon maskulinum and the Spanish moon is femininum (der Mond, la luna, also die Sonne, el sol (=sun))?

If you learn vocabularies yourself outside of Duolingo, you always have to learn the gender of the nouns together with its meaning. Always together with the word!


It's common in English to use "masculine" and "feminine" rather than "male" and "female" to refer to linguistic gender. The third one is called "neuter".


Thank you! I wrote what I learned in German class, because I am German native.


It exists somewhere a language where the equivalent of grammatical genders are "round/curvy" and "long": go figure what it means for "illness", "transportation", "happiness", "breathing", "dirt"…

What I love most about foreign languages (apart from the fact that they allow me to meet people on a deeper level, and to read more books), is they challenge my view of the world and what's "normal": turns out most of the time it's just my norm and that of those around me ;)

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