Note: I am not talking about new words which don't have an article yet. I am interested in talking about foreign terms and concepts in German. My examples are all in French, but could be in Italian or Spanish or almost any other language For new words which are often nouns who sets the gender? as well.

I am curious how you handle the gender of foreign words, particularly if a similar word exists in German already. Case in point, der Front National (the French right-wing party).

Would you say that? Yes, it's le front in French, but die Front in German. The same is true for le pont (die Brücke), la lace (der Platz), la gare (der Bahnhof) and countless others. Are les Champs Elysées plural in German? ("Wir gingen auf den Champs Elysées spazieren".)

Is there a rule somewhere, or does one have to rely on Sprachgefühl alone?

  • 1
  • I am sorry, but you are all missing the point. I have, unsuccessfully as it turns out, tried to explain why this is not the same question at all. I give up.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 15:56
  • What exactly is your question? I have a choice between "Would you say that?" (yes), Are "les champs elysees plural in German" (no, mostly no) and "is there a rule or just Sprachgefühl"? (no rule). It's decided randomly and majority prevails. If one influential newspaper had written "die Front National" (die Front, die Partei) a few years ago, other may have done it as well and it would be "die" today. Sprachgefühl won't help. Either you know the article or you don't.
    – Emanuel
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


Unless the word has a clearly defined gender, you usually use the article of the German translation.

e.g. the star -- means "der Stern" in German

so if you use it like: superstar --> der Superstar

Also, in German in a compound-noun, such as Superstar, the article is always defined by the LAST partial word, which is star in this case.


die Mütze ==> die Donaudampfschifffahrtskapitänsmütze

Champs Elysées is a particular bad example, because it's a compound noun that is not really written together, not in German either.

So you'd first have to define if you use the article assigned to Champs (das Feld), or Elysée (article = ? ), depending on whether you consider it a compound noun or not...

I'd make a little longer sentence for that it becomes clear:

"Wir gingen auf der "Champs Elysées"-Strasse spazieren".

compound-noun consisting of "Champs Elysées" and (die) Strasse as last component. so it becomes clear:

die "Champs Elysée(s)"

Since the position of the word in your sentence is the "Dativ-Objekt (Wem)", it's:

Wir gingen auf der Champs Elysées spazieren.

(Wir gingen auf der Strasse spazieren).

If it was a German word, you'd definitely omit the ending "s", but since this is a French name (Eigenname), it's better to leave the "s".

As to "le Front National". Der Verein "Front National" --> der Front National you could also use Die Partei "Front National" --> die Front National

but "die" sounds a bit odd, probably because of the pronounciation of "Front", which rather requires "der" in German (Sprachgefühl).

it's a bit arbitrary, as always with the article, there is no real rule, only statistics.

The usual article used in the newspapers are "der Front National", or you could just translate it to "Die Nationale Front", but nobody ever does this.

About the "la Gare de St. Lazare":

der Bahnhof von St. Lazare
==> der Garde de St. Lazare.

here, the rule of the article of the translated word applies.

If you have problems determining the article of a Eigenname, if possible I suggest you use a proper noun and make the Eigenname a "attribute" of that noun, like die Partei "Front National", that way the article is clearly determined by the noun, and you circumvent the problem relatively elegantly.

To everything else than a Eigenname, the rule of the article of the translated word applies.

  • You are talking about Star and Stern and what article to give to new words. This is not what I had in mind. To repeat my original example: Would you say die Fron National then? What about la Gare de St. Lazare? Yes, "der Bahnhof von St. Lazare" works, kind of, but what if you want to keep "gare": Der gare de St. Lazare? I don't think les Champs Elysées is a bad example at all; it's exactly what I am talking about. I for one consider "die Champs" wrong, since it's clearly plural (die Felder) in French. Opinions may differ, though.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 12:10
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    @Ingmar: Champs Elysées is actually a really really bad example, because it doesn't matter, it's die in singular and plural, which makes the distinction unnecessary ;).
    – Quandary
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 13:23
  • Not in the dative, it doesn't: Ich ging auf der C.E. vs. Ich ging auf den C.E.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 13:33
  • @Ingmar: Good point, but then it becomes clear that it is singular, because if you'd say (in Dativ) "auf den C.E.", it would clearly be plural, but the C.E. is only one road.
    – Quandary
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 13:38
  • You are missing the point. It is one road, yes, but the name is "Elysian Fields". French uses the plural (les C.E.) without batting an eyelid.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 14:31

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