A quote of Mark Twain's is relevant here:
"Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system in the distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by heart. There is no other way. To do this one has to have a memory like a memorandum-book. In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl. See how it looks in print -- I translate this from a conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:
Gretchen: Wilhelm, where is the turnip? Wilhelm: She has gone to the kitchen. Gretchen: Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden? Wilhelm: It has gone to the opera."
There are patterns with German gender, however, there are many exceptions to those patterns. So it is better to learn the gender with the noun.
But for the above case, with Mädchen, the word is a diminutive. So in English turning dog into doggie would make the word a diminutive. In German, diminutives are always neuter. Words ending in -chen or -lein are diminutives.
A few examples are
das Häus (house) becomes das Häuschen (little or cute house)
der Stern(star) becomes das Sternchen (little star)
die Frau(woman) becomes das Fräulein (young lady)
You can practice these patterns in a new app that is in beta click here to join the beta
It's because of the ending - words that end in 'chen' or 'lein' are always neuter (they are the diminutive suffixes). Words in German are only related to gender when they are obvious (like Mann or Frau); otherwise it depends on things like the noun ending or how the noun is formed (i.e. nominalised adjectives/verbs are nearly always neuter).
There are words in German that take their genders from earlier languages or earlier dialects. By example, the ancient greek word for "Book" is "biblion", which has neutral gender, as same as German word "Buch"; also, in ancient greek, most of the words for the offsprings had neutral gender. Maybe for this reason "Kind" and "Madchen" have neutral gender.
See Mannimoo's reply: "words that end in 'chen' or 'lein' are always neuter (they are the diminutive suffixes). Words in German are only related to gender when they are obvious (like Mann or Frau); otherwise it depends on things like the noun ending or how the noun is formed (i.e. nominalised adjectives/verbs are nearly always neuter)."
I'm going to ask a weird question based off of previous comments, specifically Brenda Olsen's (great explanation, thanks!). If Frau turns to Fräulein, how do you know when to turn 'a' to 'ä' in that? I've noticed this with other German words as well when going from singular to plural.
With plurals: you just have to learn it, for the most part. Some plurals involve umlaut, others don't.
With -lein and -chen: these mostly put umlaut on the preceding vowel if that's possible. But not completely always -- so effectively you just have to learn the diminutive form explicitly as well, and know whether it has umlaut or not.
Spanish is my first language so the English article "the" was a piece of cake for me. But now with German a whole new level has been added, lol. It's a bit hard because of the neuter article "Das"
So level of difficulty: (English 1 "the") (Spanish 2 "el" "la") (German 3 "der" "die" "das")
@ ayfania, I don't know how long ago it is when you asked this question, or if you have received the answer. Indefinite in English means something that's vague, obscure and in this case something that's not specified. Whereas definite means something specific, precise, not vague or doubtful. For example: I am going to read A book. A is an indefinite article because I have not specified what book I'm going to read. Whereas in: He is The man I saw yesterday, for eg, The is a definite article as it is used to specify the particular man you saw, not any man but a specific man. Hope this helps.
In this case, a neuter word is something with no specific gender. In English, 'it' is a neuter word to describe something (usually used to describe an object or other inanimate things). Mädchen ends with 'chen', which makes this word neutral (even though it means girl, a feminine word). 'Das' is used for neutral objects like we do with 'it', and since Mädchen is neutral, 'Das' comes into play. :]
Mostly memorisation, but there are some rules and hints: http://german.about.com/library/weekly/aa042098.htm
What does the website http://german.about.com/library/weekly/aa042098.htm do? If it helps a lot with German, I am willing to try it out!
"Die" is feminine so it is used for feminine people and professions (e.g. "die Mutter" (the mother), "die Schwester" (the sister)), it is also used when words are feminine, here is a guideline to help determine when words are feminine, masculine or neuter: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/26832211
"Das" is neutral so it is used for neuter words (e.g. "das Wein" (the wine)). The following endings indicate that a noun is neuter: "-chen", "-lein", "-um", "-ment", "-nis" (It is mentioned in the post I gave a link to above.).
German nouns can have one of three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. Which gender to use is mostly arbitrary -- for example, forks are feminine, knives are neuter, and spoons are masculine. It's just something to learn along with the word.
The word Frau is grammatically feminine, so you use the feminine article die with it.
The word Mädchen is grammatically neuter, so you use the neuter article das with it.
Madchen is not correct -- if you cannot write Mädchen on your keyboard, then write Maedchen, rather than simply leaving the dots off.
The short answer: because grammatical gender is not generally connected to natural gender.
Mädchen is grammatically neuter even though girls are female. (And Person is grammatically feminine even though persons can be female or male, and Löffel is grammatically masculine even though spoons are neither male nor female.)
I don't quite understand your question -- what pronoun are you referring to?
The word Mädchen is grammatically neuter, so in the singular, it takes the neuter definite article das -- das Mädchen = the girl.
In the plural, it takes the plural definite article die, so die Mädchen = the girls.
(There is no gender distinction in the plural, so all nouns have the same articles in the plural.)
It's der Junge because the word Junge is grammatically masculine.
It's das Mädchen because the word Mädchen is grammatically neuter.
die Mädchen would be the plural ("the girls").
The gender of nouns in German is mostly arbitrary. die Gabel is not feminine because forks are particularly female; it's just how it is. Similarly with das Mädchen (girl) or die Person (person - grammatically always feminine, whether the person is female or male), etc.
It is obvious that you have to learn a gender of every noun by heart. I've got a tip for you.
die Frau = okey das Madchen = not really so you can imagine that you connect "die" with "Frau" because it is a WOMAN, but you connect "das" with "Madchen" because it is still a CHILD. Hopefully you know what I mean and it helped you a little bit.
Yes. This is a beginner's course. Stick to basic, normal language, and avoid poetry or unusual language.
Treat it as an ability to learn German, not as a platform to show off how extensive your English vocabulary is.
Say "I do not have any horses", not "Chargers have I none".
Say "I sat between my friends before I ate" and not "I sat betwixt my comrades ere I supped."
And say "Mary is a pretty girl" and not "Mary is a maiden fair".
I'd go along with that. Hamlet is more unusual than village. Village isn't particularly unusual a word. They make great strip malls! ("Hampton Village") But small towns in America aren't called villages. They're called small towns. Just ask John Cougar Mellencamp. Just don't call 'im John Cougar Mellencamp.
No difference in meaning.
German words are simply arbitrarily divided into three groups called genders, and you simply have to learn which gender a noun is.
der Löffel “the spoon” is masculine, for example, while die Gabel “the fork” is feminine and das Messer “the knife” is neuter. There’s no reason behind it; it’s just something to memorise.
All nouns are capitalised in German.
Since this is mentioned in the lesson notes for the very first unit, perhaps you haven't been reading those, or maybe didn't even know they exist?
Please read the lesson notes before starting a new unit -- go to the website https://www.duolingo.com/ , click on the unit and then on the lightbulb:
Im confused with the the's. Das is making me confuesd. I feel like i should have the right the's for the right subject . Also i have another question, is it das eis? For ice in the the's. Okay not the problem here but i did copy down what the the's are like der is a masculine its like muscular or strength. Sometimes i have a hard time for putting what the in what im saying, and then i wrote down die on what its nown as feminine like a gender or a girl and then i wrote down das and its neutral sounds like natural but it means to be indifferent well thing is i dont know about the das in the the's. Anyone wants to teach me witch the is suppose to go?
What is the difference between das and der?
der is for masculine nouns, die for feminine, das for neuter nouns.
Which gender a noun belongs to is something that has to be memorised.
Do you speak Hindi? Then it's like knowing that it's kali kitaab for "black book" and not kala kitaab -- you just have to know that kitaab is feminine and that you need to use feminine words with it.
Can "Mädchen" be translated as "little girl", "young girl" or even "maiden" (depending on the context)? I know adjectives can be used for little and young but it is in the word sense already. How do you differentiate girls within different age ranges (what other words are used?)
What is the diffrence between Das, Der, Die in German.
There is no difference in meaning -- you just have to memorise which words take der, which take die, and which take das.
It's a little like asking what the difference is between -ed as in "baked" and -en as in "taken": they mean the same thing (they're used to form the past participle of the verb) but you can't just choose which one to use: you have to learn which verbs take which ending.
So is girl a plural noun?
Please take care to separate concepts from the words that you use to talk about those concepts.
"girl" is an English word. English nouns do not have grammatical gender.
Mädchen is a German word. It is grammatically neuter. The gender is attached to the German word Mädchen, not to the English word "girl" or to the general concept of being a girl.
Since Mädchen is neuter, it takes the neuter article das.
You can also form the plural of this word, in which case it is die Mädchen (= the girls), with the plural article die.
rather than "die" like Junge?
The word Junge is masculine, so it takes the masculine article der.
die is for feminine or plural nouns.