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Well, its kinda complicated. But in simple words, Das is for neuter gender, and Der is for masculine. How to know if its neuter or masculine is the problem. It makes no sense and i has no rules. People just memorize it this way. I have a friend who is almost fluent, and he says he cant distinguish between them perfectly. The truth is, its not that important BUT it is sometimes to distinguish plural from masculine singular. But yet dont care much about it, u can keep the memorization AFTER u actually become better or fluent
Ok woh, learning genders of a word is going to be a huge pain in the butt later on. Learn them now, and you won't have to deal with it later.
(Here's a good memrise course to use along this duolingo course: http://www.memrise.com/course/335725/comprehensive-german-duolingo-vocabulary/
... this is a typical error by young children learning the German spelling in school
the "R" is vocalized in some words ... especially the words
with the suffix "-er" ... vocalized like an "a"
... like ( der Maler == artist, painter ) ( die Mutter == mother ) ( der Vater == father )
the wrong version is ( Mutter = Muta ) https://goo.gl/zOxnCj
( Vater == Fata ) ( ... ... and so on
two InterNet-articles ... unfortunately only in German
see: ("Der R-Laut") ... http://goo.gl/aTqz5T ...
see: ("discussion about
"Wasser" oder "WassER" ") http://goo.gl/4sWOsw ...
... ... annotation ... the big letters in ( "WassER" ) signals
to explicit pronouce/stress the word (Wasser) in the end as "ER" and not as an "A"
more words with the suffix "-er"
unfortunately the "R"-vocalization is not a rule
for all words with "-er"