"The" in German

When do you use der, das, and die and why?

April 5, 2019


You use der, die das where you would use the in English since it's a definite article too. There are some other uses of der, die, das but I won't get into this here any further. Der is the variation you'll find in dictionaries since this is the nominative, singular, masculine base form. Der, die, das are the nominative singular forms for masculine, feminine and neuter. The case, gender and number of der, die, das must match the case, gender and number of the associated noun (most likely the noun that follows). Hence you most know the gender and determine the case of this very noun .... but that's a different grammar chapter foreign speaker often struggle with. Do you understand the concept of case and grammatical gender? Here is the full pattern for all cases, genders and numbers of der, die, das:

Sg. Masculine Sg. Feminine Sg. Neuter Plural
Nominative der die das die
Genitive des der des der
Dative dem der dem den
Accusative den die das die
April 5, 2019

The why is words are masculine, neuter, and feminine.

April 5, 2019

There are a few rules for determining the gender of masculine, feminine and neuter.
But, very often, you have to memorize each word's gender.

Game: Guest the Gender

April 5, 2019

Without learning which goes with what noun (the Nominative case), you will not know what endings to add to other words eg adjectives (descriptive words change based on noun cases).

eg the German word for "red" is "rot" but cause apples are masculine "der Apfel" in their case if you go to say red apple .. it is "roter Apfel". If you wrote or said "rot Apfel" it would be incorrect. The word "ein" would also be used and not "eine" seeing the word apple is masculine eg a red apple = "ein roter Apfel". As you learn more about German you will see that the male, female or neutral classification of nouns effects A LOT of the words in a sentence.

So always look in a German dictionary to learn what case all the nouns are in and learn the case with the nouns as you learn.

The German Cases You'll be slowly introduced to the different cases as you work through duolingo. All you need to worry about is if words are male, female or neutral at first (Nominative case).

April 5, 2019

I am a native German.

Unfortunately there is no rule when you have to use what. You just have to learn it (e.g. by reading, listening and talking a lot).

It is even that strange: das Mädchen -> the girl

April 5, 2019

Which leads to mistakes: Das Mädchen singt. Es (not sie) singt gut.

April 6, 2019
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