THE GENDER OF GERMAN NOUNS
German nouns, in contrast to english, are divided into three genders: Masculine, Feminine and Neuter. This may sound weird but even in English in some rare cases we do the same thing, for example you may hear in rare occasions “she is a nice car”, as if a car is feminine, or when talking about a baby we use “it” instead of ‘he/she”. When you learn german nouns, you really need to learn which gender they are at the same time, because confusing genders will leave you with a lot of problems later on.
The definite article ('the' in english) has three different forms in German: 'der' for masculine words, 'die' for feminine words and 'das' for neuter words.
So it is 'der Mann' (the man), but 'die Frau' (the woman) and 'das Kind' (the child)
In addition, when german nouns are made into plural form, it is not a matter of simply adding a simple letter as in english. No, some words get one ending, some words another, and other words are changed.
For instance the plural form of 'der Mann' is 'die Männer', whereas the plural form of 'die Frau' is 'die Frauen'. To get the plural form, '-er' was added to 'Mann' and the a got a change (an Umlaut), whereas '-en' was added to 'Frau'.
If you learn some rules and tips you will find it makes it SIGNIFICANTLY easier to distinguish which nouns are which gender, without having to learn them by heart. I suggest you look up these rules when you learn new nouns and after a while simply learn the rules and tips by heart.
You will be glad that you did.
NOUNS WHICH ARE MASCULINE
Almost all nouns that are made of the stem of a verb, without any addition, are masculine. Examples: 'der Besuch' is made from the verb 'besuchen', 'der Schlaf' is made from the verb 'schlafen'
Almost all nouns ending on -ek, -ich, -ing, -ling, -s, or -ig are masculine. The same apply for nouns that come from other languages and which end on -ant, -ast, -eur, -ismus, -ist , -or
NOUNS WHICH ARE FEMININE
Almost all nouns that are made of a stem of a verb, with the addition of -e, -st, -t are feminine. Examples: 'die Fahrt' is made from the stem of the verb 'fahren' with the addition of -t, 'die Frage' is made from the stem of the verb 'fragen' with the addition of -e.
Almost all nouns ending on -ei, -heit, -in, -keit, -schaft, -ung are feminine. So are nouns that come from a foreign language and which end on -ur, -age, -ik, -itis, -ion, -enz, -tät, -ie. Examples: die 'Mannschaft', 'die Universität'
Nouns that are made of an adjective with the addition of an -e, are feminine. The stem gets an Umlaut. Example: 'die Wärme' is made from the adjective 'warm'.
A rule of thumb is that if the noun ends on the letter 'e', in 8 out of 10 cases the noun will be feminine.
NOUNS WHICH ARE NEUTER
Nouns which are made of the infinitive form of the verb are neuter. Examples: 'das Lesen' from the verb 'lesen', 'das Schlafen' from the verb 'schlafen'.
Nouns ending on the diminutive forms -chen and -lein. Hence the somewhat strange fact that 'girl' is neuter in German: 'das Mädchen'
Almost all nouns ending on -gut, -tum, -werk, -zeug and nouns that come from a foreign language ending on -ma, -ment, -um, -ium.
Nouns starting with Ge- Examples: Das Gebirge, Das Gebäude.
SPECIAL GROUPS AND CASES
You will get a very long way with the above rules. When you want to get more advanced you can learn the following.
When a noun is a compounded noun, like the impossibly long word 'Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz' (Cattle marking and beef labeling supervision duties delegation law), the noun has the same gender as the last compounded noun, in this case neuter ('das Gesetz')
German country names are proper nouns and usually do not require an article; however, some countries come with an article, such as 'die USA'. See more here:http://www.duolingo.com/#/comment/621
Male people, male animals, many instruments/things that do things (when these words end on -er or -or), days, months, most weather elements, points on the compass, names of cars and most non-german rivers, are masculine.
Examples: der Mann, der Professor, der Lehrer, der Stier, der Computer, der Toaster, der Kugelschreiber, der Motor, der Tag, der Freitag, der September, der Winter der Schnee, der Regen, der Nebel, der Norden, der Süden, der Osten, der Westen, der Volkswagen/der VW, der Porsche, der Toyota, der Mississippi, der Mekong, der Nil, der Amazonas, etc.
Female people, female animals and most german rivers are feminine.
Examples:die Frau, die Professorin, die Kuh, die Gans, die Donau, die Mosel, die Elbe, die Weser, die Oder,etc.
Human babies and animal babies and most metals are neuter.
Examples:das Baby, das Kind, das Kalb, das Lamm, das Gold, das Kupfer, das Silber, das Nickel, das Kadmium, etc.
I originally intended to include how nouns are made into plural form, but this post is long enough. If you have any other gender-rules, do tell and I will include them.
Wikipedia claims about 1/4 of the languages of the world have genders. Modern English is not considered to have grammatical gender, but Old English had it. It would be nice if someone could explain in layman-terms what the real purpose of gender is.
I have noticed that you can switch parts of a sentence around to emphasize something. You can't really do that in the same way with english.
For instance: "Der Hund beißt den Mann." can be switched around to "Den Mann beißt der Hund." It means the same thing, but the latter would emphasize that it is the man who is bitten, and not something/someone else.
I can't answer why some languages have gender, but at least in German it seems to be useless. Yes, there are a few nouns with different meaning and different gender (eg.
das Tor), but I doubt genders were created for those words.
You don't need gender for your example with the dog who bites a man. Just a case system.
The gender system evolved from the case system. First there were "person" (subject) words and "thing" (object) words. The object words had different endings than the subject words, but if you used a person word as a grammatical object it got a "thing-word-ending". Plurals got another ending. From the "thing words" evolved the neuter class, from the plural words evolved the feminine class (many nouns depicting groups and abstract ideas still are female, and the female article "die" is still the same as the article of all plurals), and all other nouns were grouped as masculine.
It's still not very helpful in determining a gender of a noun you don't know, though, since there are so many, many rules and influences that determined the gender, yet these roots are so deeply ingrained in the language, that new nouns coming from foreign languages like English with no pre-given gender will be given a gender almost automatically. Nouns depicting groups are feminine (die Band), nouns with a grammatical ending are neuter (das Marketing), everything else is masculinum (der Thread).
"First there were "person" (subject) words and "thing" (object) words. The object words had different endings than the subject words, but if you used a person word as a grammatical object it got a "thing-word-ending"."
You might be confusing two very different concepts of subject and object. Obviously every "person" can be the "object" of a sentence and it would always have been necessary that "things" could be the subject of the sentence.
What you wrote seems very made-up.
I can't tell you the reasons for the gender of individual words. I just wanted to explain where the gender classes come from and that they somewhat have rules.
We have a word for male horses (der Hengst), female horses (die Stute) and baby horses (das Fohlen), too. We even have a word for old horses (die Mähre) and bad horses (der Gaul). Many animals have seperate names for the male and female ones and the young, but not all.
I just was reading about it on Wiki also, looks like maybe we'll never know how it got started. Maybe cause English is my native language seems strange to me that why in the world would words be M/F/N/, would never occur to me if I was starting a new language to even think of that. Like I saw in Spanish word for grandparents but the El of La, makes it grandma/pa, who thought of that? just have a word for both. Your example made me laugh as I thought you can add emphasis by what happened as stating "rotten dog" Kinda giving me a headache thinking of how words could be assigned a gender, word itself is gender, male/female tells the gender right there, and say tree, well ya we all know a tree is an it, not male female, just see no point to it. But anyway with all the mystery of it I like the sound of German the best. I was just thinking about it some more when doing the dishes, or is that der dishes, ha ha. I can see in Spanish the word for grandparents are the same but the EL or LA makes it m/f, but in German, Das Madchen, will it tells me girl what do I need das for? Der Hund, ya a dog, why do I need der? should be Die Madchen Die Hund Die Krankenhaus, oh well I can't change it so will go over your helpful tips more.
I was in french immersion for a decent chunk of my schooling, so I'm used to the gender thing..having neuter nouns thrown at me is a different ball game though. I started studying spanish a while back too ( onyl been doing german for about a week) and I just wanted to point out it's not only the article él and la which change but the a or o at the end. él abuelo/ la abuelo/los abuelos. one thing I find neat about it is : mi tía= my aunt. mi tío = my uncle. mis tíos= my aunt and uncle.. I thought it was neat they have one word for that. best of luck learning german
You should not think of it as male or female or neuter nouns. There are just three kinds of nouns in German, and the ones that behave like the word for man were namend "masculine", the ones that behave like the word for woman were named "feminine" and the third ones were named "neuter". It has nothing to do with the sun being female and a tree being male. There are African languages that have over ten such classes.
Well, different genders follow different declensions, like masculine nouns get a "-(e)s" in genitive while feminine nouns stay the same and just change the article. So if you observe such different behaviour, you can sort the nouns in different clusters and formulate rules for every cluster. In German, three such clusters have emerged that each follow (roughly) the same rules. In French and Spanish there are two different clusters, or "genders", in Latin there are six as far as I know.
Now if you want to distinguish them, you need a name for each one to call them. In Latin languages, the word for woman and the word for man always follow different rules, so the easiest idea was to call all the nouns in the cluster where the noun "man" belongs to "masculine" and all the nouns in the cluster where the noun "woman" belongs to "feminine", just to quickly remember which way they are declinated. So a noun is not female, but "it behaves the feminine way". In French and Spanish you are set with that, German has a third "gender", so they simply called it neuter (it originally derived from a declension for objects, but that was mixed up by the case system we have today). In Latin, you simply call the clusters a-, o-, e-, i-, u-, and mixed declension, so they are described by the ending the noun gets in a certain case, as the idea of a "gender" in it's binary form from nature (man - woman) does not fit anymore.
A slight correction on Spanish.
The "el" is for nouns with male gender. But nouns with male gender typically end in "o". El abuelo = the grandfather.
The "la" is for nouns with female gender. But nouns with female gender typically end in "a". "La abuela" = the grandmother.
The ending of nouns and adjectives all need to match with the article, in Spanish. However, Spanish does not have different noun "cases" (nominative, genitive, dative, etc.) as does German. (It does have pronoun cases)
Actually, trees can be male or female, depending on the species. Only female avocado trees, for example, make fruit. Your example is not the best. How about a lamp. Die lampe... definitely feminine, good job Germans and those 1/4 of languages that assign basically random extra information which has no value other than to make your language harder to learn and therefore eventually kills your culture worldwide.
Very helpful but still.. we HAVE to learn it!!! Most useful tip that I found out so far is that you should treat noun and article as a whole so the kid is not a "Kind" but "das Kind"... But ironically every time I get frustrated with this I go and look at this pic, I think it says everything=) http://tinypic.com/r/2j1plya/5
There is a great new tool that has a section for learning the patterns of German gender. When you get into the app, select load a sort, and then browse for German, The course is called "German gender by noun endings."
Not only will it let you practice the patterns but you will also learn the exceptions to the patterns too. To join the beta
The book "Der, Die, Das: The Secrets of German Gender" pretty much covers everything there is to know about this topic. All the patterns, rules and exceptions are explained in the book. It's been extremely helpful to me so far. Obviously, it still takes time to learn the rules but it's definitely more efficient than memorising all the nouns and their gender. And especially the explanations that the book gives regarding why certain words are masculine, feminine or neuter really helped me remember the gender of those words.
Rules are good and all, until there are exceptions, but Duolingo COULD solve the ongoing (& continual frustration) confusion of all those learning German with their program (& now TinyCards - which is even more of a mess) by quite simply adding a gender notation to every noun in their lists.... especially the first time one encounters it or on their flashcards.
Forget adding the "der", "die" or "das", just add "m" - masculine, "f" - feminine or "n" - neuter. Or the emoji symbols.
Enough is enough, stop this insanity! I've wasted so many hours & days over the past month+ getting through to "Places 2" and now deciding to go all the way back to the beginning. The Beginning being - memorizing all nouns with their masc, feminine or neuter designation.
TinyCards for German is an absolute mess, as it largely just takes the Duolingo word list (underlined words in the lessons) and carries them forward without context; case, singular/plural, etc.
I made a list of 460 German Nouns through to Dates 2 last night, including the der, die & das for each in the singular case as per TinyCards - Flashcard lists, and now I'm questioning whether their gender is actually correct or the context/case/singular/plural was carried over properly. To check the list accuracy (before memorizing them all) I Googled to find a list of German Nouns with their gender - and first on the results was this Duolingo thread. In other words, this is a problem with Duolingo and something many using Duolingo have continually issues with.
Gender of German Nouns follows few rules absolutely. Every German learning program, discussion or textbook accepts and makes this clear - German Nouns MUST Be Memorized With There Gender.
Why can't Duolingo address this on the back-end of the software which should not be that difficult modifying word lists?