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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Katzenschlafs

My Favorite German Gender Tip

I took German 101 in college, and something my professor - a native speaker - said about gender has stuck with me. Compound words take the gender of the last word within them. For example:

das Essen das Mittagessen das Abendessen

For compound words, if you know the gender of the last "subword" you know the gender of the whole compound. Useful in a language that is very fond of its compound words!

October 22, 2014

33 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/basti37

The reason for that is that the last word describes what kind of object the compound is (you can always say: "the -compound- is a special kind of -last word-"). The word or words before that describe the qualities. So:

"Wasserflasche" is a "Flasche" (bottle) with the added information that it is used for water. "Flaschenwasser" is "Wasser" (water) with the added information that it is bottled (in "Flaschen" (pl.)), e.g. as opposed to water from the tap.

So it's "die Wasserflasche" but "das Flaschenwasser" since it's "die Flasche" and "das Wasser"

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Katzenschlafs

This is a very helpful addition/explanation! Thanks!

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joo_see_

really helpful..! thank you!

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JenniferNarzt

That is a useful thing to know! : ) Now if only I could remember the genders of single words…. Ha!

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SpongeOver

I use silly little comparisons to remember most of the genders at first. eg. Der Name. Men usually keep their last names. Die Kuh - women are often described as cows. Der Spiegel - I Imagine a man flexing in the mirror. Das Baby - a baby could be male or female, so neutral it is. etc. Other ones I use general rules; occupation is usually male unless the female name for the occupation is used. Easier to remember the few exceptions. After a while the word doesn't look right with any other gender associated to it; then I don't need the comparisons anymore.

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joo_see_

haha! that's my problem too!

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vaskez

probably been posted a thousand times, but the best tips I got way back were -heit, -keit, -ung words are always "die" (feminine), and for many words that end in -er you have a high probability that it's "der", but this second rule is nowhere near as useful as the heit/keit/ung one

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mhaaz

der Sprung, der Schwung nonwithstanding...

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vaskez

yeah I should say the -ung rule is for nouns where -ung is a suffix used like -ness or-tion in englisch e.g. Sammlung. It's not for single-syllable words where -ung is part of the main word and not just a -ness/tion type ending

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mhaaz

I don't quite agree that there is a systematic difference. Sammlung is the noun corresponding to "sammeln" just like Sprung corresponds to springen. I was just teasing you, since those are the only two exceptions that I know of, and you were almost right: ending -ung almost always implies feminine gender :-)

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KernelDragon

"Der Spring" and "der Schwung" are really formed by umlaut I think. If you used the -ung suffix, you would get "die Springung" and "die Schwingung." (the springing and the swinging.) The latter is a real noun, but I'm not quite sure "die Springung" is: I can see it in a few books in Google Books, but only a very few.

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mhaaz

"Schwung" is derived from "schwingen" just in the same way as "sprung" is from "springen". They are special cases because the root suffers a transformation (the 'i' turns to 'u') in addition to leaving out the '-en'.

"Schwingung" is an interesting case, since it's also derived from "schwingen" - thanks for pointing that out. In this case, the two derived nouns have slightly different meanings.

As for "Springung", none of the multiple dictionaries I consulted report this as a word.

Umlaut plays absolutely no role in this.

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KernelDragon

After some research, der Schwung and der Sprung are derived from ablaut, not umlaut. Still, the point is that the -ung is not a suffix here. It is just a coincidence.


Edit: Try looking for Bringung in a dictionary such as http://www.duden.de or http://en.wiktionary.org. Not found?

Now try searching for the phrase "Die Bringung" in Google. Quite a lot of hits for a word that doesn't exist! I think this is because -ung is a productive suffix, meaning that you can form words that are not in the dictionary.

October 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vaskez

well my german friends are always surprised when I quote rules like this to them because they of course don't learn them, they just know the genders instinctively, but they're all like "oh yeah, the -ung/heit/keit rule works!"

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Samy1979

Jupp, there are many exceptions of these rules. Just learn the genders with the words. There is no shortcut...

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Katzenschlafs

Someone once told me German language rules have fewer exceptions than English rules. This may be the exception to this rule about exceptions!

October 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Samy1979

I don't think so. In my opinion the meaning of rules (and grammar altogether) in learning a language is way to much emphasized.

October 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BillButler

It is also helpful to remember that an import word tends to be neuter: das Auto, das Chef, das Menue, das Cola, usw.

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ImEatingCookies

Well, it's der Chef, and we normally say die cola

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BillButler

Thanks, I surely misstated das Chef. Is cola an idiomatic thing? I just checked the dictionary and they do say that one can also use 'die'.

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El_Lutzo

From Wikipedia (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cola):

"Cola, auch Kola, ist ein koffein- und kohlensäurehaltiges Erfrischungsgetränk. In Österreich, der Schweiz und teilweise auch in Süddeutschland trinkt man ein Cola (von das Cola; Neutrum), im übrigen deutschen Sprachraum eine Cola (von die Cola; Femininum)."

So, das Cola is true for Austria, Switzerland and parts of South Germany. For the rest of Germany it is die Cola.

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BillButler

Danke. Deshalb es ist der Unterschied zwischen Hochdeutsch und Plattdeutsch?

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El_Lutzo

Actually no. Platt is considered a language of its own (much more than a German dialect), spoken far to the north of Germany.

The difference between die Cola and das Cola is more like the formal (or even a bit stiff) north of Germany and the rural, gemütliche south of Germany (and the other southern, German-speaking countries).

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

I think the reason this is often not explained is that it is part of the common heritage of German and English. English also has compound nouns - they are just not spelled separately until they have become very common. These behave in exactly the same way, though in English it's for obvious semantic reasons and so there is no need to think of it as a rule:

Man (he) - fireman (he).

Woman (she) [note it's not an exception, as it's not a compound of wo and man] - policewoman (she).

Hour (it) - man-hour (it).

Animal (it unless the sex is known/matters) - chair animal (it unless the sex is known/matters) [I don't know if this occurs in Animal Farm, but in analogy to chairperson it definitely could].

But note that there are exceptions. The only one I am aware of right now (because I just learned in Dutch it's not an exception): das Wort (word), but die Antwort (answer). I guess that in one way or another die Beantwortung (also answer, response) is to blame for this complication. In this case it's not a compound noun (there is no German word Ant) but a noun with a prefix, but the principle is the same anyway.

By the way, French behaves a bit differently in this respect because as a Romance language it sometimes puts the important constituent first: la station, le service, la station-service. This is because in English, station-service is actually service station.

October 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Supling

Danke!

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KourtnieGreenxx

COOL

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joo_see_

thank you very much!! :)

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/koushik72

Useful tip :)

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/koushik72

Danke :)

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LeeGowan

This is great.

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Alaashaw

Also for masculine , endings in , -Gang , -Trag , neuter -chen , -nis , feminin - Schaft as well but i could be wrong , this is just from noticing words that i have studied so far

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tytan_77

Thats really cool! Thanks for the tip!

October 29, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/German546756

Is there a pattern that determines which gender belongs to which word? How do you know whether a word is female, male or neuter?

July 29, 2017
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