German Nouns

Learn all about German nouns in this free German grammar lesson. This easy-to-follow guide is packed with lots of helpful tips and techniques.



Right, enough talk, let's jump straight in and begin with the basics.


First of all, in case you are wondering 'What is a noun?' Quite simply, a noun is the name of a place, person, animal, idea or thing. For example, the 'house', a 'cow', the 'garden', a 'table'. As you see, nouns normally appear after such words as 'the' and 'a'.


Unlike in English, all nouns in German have a gender - yep, just like you and I! That is, German nouns are either masculine, feminine or - and this may be a new word for you - neuter. Neuter nouns are generally - but not exclusively - related to inanimate objects (i.e. neither female nor male).


This concept of nouns having genders is not actually too difficult to understand. It does, however, sound odd to our English ears as there is hardly any notion of this anymore in modern English.


You will not be able to avoid this 'gender' issue if you are serious about learning German, so, my tip, get used to learning nouns together with their 'definite articles' - the equivalent of 'the' in English - straight away.


Why? Because the 'definite article' will indicate the noun's gender. And, yes, you might have already guessed it, this means there is more than one word for 'the' in German.


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In order to best help you in your efforts to speak German naturally and confidently I've partnered with the Rocket German Learning System.

I encourage you to click here and see how this resource can be of benefit to you.

If your goal is to speak German fluently, have the ability to join real German conversations and communicate effortlessly, then this process is really one of the best available - and is even quite enjoyable :)



Here are the German 'definite articles' - the different ways to say 'the' in German - in the 'nominative case' with some noun examples: 
(You will find a link to German cases at the end of this lesson, but don't worry too much about 'cases' at the moment particularly if you are a complete beginner.)


1.) Masculine German nouns take the definite article: 'der'. 
For example, der Tisch (the table)

2.) Feminine German nouns take the definite article: 'die'. 
For example, die Musik (the music)

3.) Neuter German nouns take the definite article: 'das'. 
For example, das Kind (the child)


Therefore, do not just learn the word for 'table' (Tisch) in German, learn its 'definite article' as well, for example 'the table' (der Tisch).


Need some more examples? Listed below you will find a sample of German nouns listed according to gender. Make sure you learn these useful German nouns together with their respective 'definite article'.


Masculine Nouns Feminine Nouns Neuter Nouns
der Tag (day) die Zeit (time) das Wasser (water)
der Mensch (person) die Liebe (love) das Kind (child)
der Stadtplan (map) die Welt (world) das Buch (book)
der Computer (computer) die Bank (bank) das Jahr (year)
der Geruch (smell) die Regierung (government) das Leben (life)
der Anzug (suit) die Musik (music) das Geld (money)
der Berg (mountain) die Sonne (sun) das Tier (animal)
der Wind (wind) die Stadt (city) das Land (country)
der Stoff (material) die Zahl (number) das Handy (mobile phone)
der Mann (man) die Frau (woman) das Unternehmen (company)

Gender Guidelines

You will be glad to hear there are some guidelines as to which gender a noun will take. But never forget there are always exceptions to the rules, particularly when it comes to the gender of a German noun!

German nouns are likely to be...


1.) ...masculine and take 'der' if:-

- referring to male human beings and the male of an animal species.*

- referring to the days of the week, months, seasons as well as directions.

- the noun ends with 'ling'.


2.) ...feminine and take 'die' if:-

- the noun ends with any of the following: 'ei', 'heit', 'keit', 'ung', 'schaft'. For example: die Freundschaft - friendship.

- the noun denotes a female being - and sometimes female animal. 
For example: die Frau - the woman.*


3.) ...neuter and take 'das' if:-

- the noun ends in 'chen', 'lein', 'icht', 'tum', 'ett', 'ium', 'ment'.

- referring to the names of towns, cities, countries as well as continents.


*Be aware: Many German nouns are classified, however, as being masculine, feminine or neuter even though they are not referring to males, females or inanimate objects. For example: das Mädchen. This means girl in German and takes 'neuter', but a girl is clearly a female being. Slightly confusing, I know!


Plural

This lesson so far has focused on nouns and their respective definite articles in the singular form (i.e. one unit: the house), rather than the plural form (i.e. several units: the houses).


The 'definite article' for all plural nouns in German is 'die'. In English, it is of course still 'the'. Easy to remember, huh?


In English, the noun itself becomes plural in the majority of cases by adding an 's' at the end (houses for example). In German, however, here is where it gets a little more complicated. While a few plural nouns will end in 's' (e.g. die Hotels), the majority form plurals in a variety of different ways.


The only way to be sure of the noun in the plural is to check in a dictionary. (By the way, a really great free online English-German dictionary is Leo.org.) Over time you will remember the plural forms and just start to get a feeling for them.


But if you are curious as to some of these patterns and you feel ready to digest more information, I have listed a few just below (if you're not ready, jump straight to 'Wrap-up' below):


Masculine nouns: Nouns ending in 'en', 'el or 'er' may not have an ending at all. Therefore, the word will remain exactly the same. You will only be ableto tell the noun is referring to several teachers for example, rather than one, purely by the plural definite article: der Lehrer (singular), die Lehrer (plural).

Other masculine nouns may add an 'umlaut' to the vowel in the word. For example: der Mantel, die Mäntel (the coat, the coats) and others will have an additional 'e' or umlaut plus an 'e'. For example: der Weg, die Wege (the path, the paths) and der Busbahnhof, die Busbahnhöfe (the bus station, the bus stations).


Feminine nouns: The majority of feminine plural nouns will end in '(e)n'. For example, die Rose, die Rosen (the rose, the roses) and die Zahl, die Zahlen (the number, the numbers). Nouns ending in 'in' will have an added 'nen' in the plural. For example: die Lehrerin, die Lehrerinnen (the teacher, the teachers - female).


Neuter nouns: Nouns ending in 'lein' or 'chen' do not change. Once again, only the definite article will indicate if the noun is referring to several girls for example, or just one girl: das Mädchen (singular), die Mädchen (plural).


Lesson wrap up...


So, that's really all the basics of German nouns in the 'nominative case'. But, yes, back to these pesky 'cases'. And believe me,they REALLY are pesky for any German beginner. Because of these 'cases' the 'definite articles' go through a whole variety of changes (yep, even more German words for 'the') and these need to be learned off by heart.


So, let's jump straight to your next lesson which is all about the German cases.


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