When is the definite article supposed to be used in front of a language name? For example, Deutsch vs. das Deutsche, Englisch vs. das Englisch.

As an English speaker, the definite article is not used before language names under any circumstances, so my intuition offers no help in this matter.

Here is a random example:

...in den beiden Luxemburger Schulsprachen Deutsch und Französisch, aber auch in Englisch an der Studie teilnehmen konnten.

With the definite article:

Bei aller Liebe für das Englisch kann es einem deutschen Aktionär nicht zugemutet werden, die meist komplizierten Sachverhalte in Englisch nachzuvollziehen.

  • 5
    Was the second text written by a German native speaker? I don’t agree with the grammar.
    – chirlu
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 6:27
  • I pulled it randomly off of a text corpus. I can barely read it, so I have no idea. I replaced it with another example. Feel free to edit it with a proper example.
    – HAL
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 7:37
  • @無色受想行識: I don't think the new second sentence is much better. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 21:13

1 Answer 1


As an English speaker, the definite article is not used before language names under any circumstances, so my intuition offers no help in this matter.

Are you quite sure? What about something like "The English spoken in England is quite different from ..." or "The American English of the 17th and 18th centuries ...? I don't think it's all that different from German, actually: in most cases you'll use the language name without an article, but if you are referring to a particular variant (say, "the Queen's English") you will use it.

In your second example the writer talks about a particular variety, the English spoken in Singapur. That said, I share chirlus concern, the sentence is perhaps not the best example.

  • Great point. Those examples didn't occur to me at all as I was thinking of this question. You're absolutely correct in saying that phrases such as "the Queen's English" or "the English we speak" have a mandatory the. Nevertheless there are some differences from German which I don't quite understand. What do you think about my newly updated second example, "Bei aller Liebe für das Englisch..." In this sentence, there would be no definitive article in the English translation, and it doesn't seem to be referring to any particular variant.of English.
    – HAL
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 7:43
  • You are correct, and I would probably say "bei aller Liebe für Englisch", i.e. without the article. Perhaps "bei aller Liebe für das Englische" could work, but that would refer to all things English and not the language as such.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 9:06
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    @無色受想行識 das Englische in this case is short for die englische Sprache, while in/auf Englisch reference the name of the language. In the first example die Schulsprachen Deutsch.., the article is attached to Schulsprachen, while the languages themselves are referenced by their name.
    – Chieron
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 9:18
  • When das ~ is used to mean das ~e Sprache, and does not refer to any particular variety of the language, is it acceptable to remove the article and not change the meaning? Are the two expressions freely interchangeable as long as there is no particular variety being implied?
    – HAL
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 1:38
  • Can you please clarify? Which two expressions are you referring to?
    – Ingmar
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 7:26

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