7

I came across the description of one exception on babbel.com:

One of the only exceptions in common use came into being in the late 1960s, and that is substituting the pronoun “sie,” which means she, for “es,” which means it, when discussing female children. The difficulty arose from the German rule which classifies all German nouns ending in “-lein” and “-chen,” both of which are diminutives, as neuter. Including the neuter definite article, the German noun for young girl is “das Mädchen”; therefore, German language authorities enacted the change so that people could address young girls in the third person using she.

The above paragraph seems to suggest that there are a few other rarer exceptions. What are these?

Some of the other exceptions that I know of are:

1) Some German nouns do not have a gender (e.g. Jura, meaning "Rechtswissenschaft als Studienfach"; Sanitär). I was asking a question about this earlier. This is not an official exception, but de facto, it is.

2) There is a question on German Stack Exchange that asks if “des Nachts” is the correct Genitive of the noun “die Nacht”. Ultimately, it turns out that it actually is. Notes in dict.cc indicate that the use of "des Nachts" is gehoben or veraltet. It would be very interesting to learn of other nouns that inflect in certain cases (Akk.; Dat. Gen.) as if they were of a different gender.

3) Mark Twain notes in his 1880 book A Tramp Abroad that the phrase “wegen des Regens” is correct. He adds, however, the following:

N. B. -- I was informed, later, by a higher authority, that there was an "exception" which permits one to say "wegen dem Regen" in certain peculiar and complex circumstances, but that this exception is not extended to anything but rain.

According to dict.cc, using Dative nowadays after wegen is not an exception, but rather a colloquial form of expression. Again, it would be very interesting to learn of a real non-colloquial exception, similar to the one above, valid in our days.

4) As can be seen from an answer to this question of mine, the preposition von is not always followed by a noun in the dative case. As it turns out, in some cases it can be followed by a noun in the nominative case!

5) Of all the letters in the German alphabet, only one exists exclusively in the lower-case-letter version: ß

6) The Hague (a city in the Netherlands) in English = Den Haag in German. As far as I know, city-names in German are either masculine or neuter, used in the nominative case. But Den Haag is used in the accusative case.

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    There are no nouns without gender. Jura is male when you mean the Swiss canton, and it is a plurelatantum (a word that has no singular) when you mean Jurisprudence. At a pluraletantum the grammatical gender doesn't matter, because gender is only relevant in singular (which does not exist here). Also Ferien, Eltern and Leute are such words. And »sanitär« is not a noun (but an adjective) and therefore - like all adjectives - has no gender. Sep 2, 2016 at 6:27
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    @Hubert Schölnast With regard to "Sa­ni­tär", Duden states it's "Substantiv ohne Artikel". Usage example: "die Bereiche Sanitär, Heizung und Klima". Also according to Duden, Jura, as used to mean "Rechtswissenschaft als Studienfach", is also "Substantiv ohne Artikel". Examples of other similar words are: East, Reiß­aus, Google, and other: duden.de/suchen/dudenonline/Substantiv%20ohne%20Artikel Sep 2, 2016 at 6:52
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    To point 3) you might want to see belleslettres.eu/artikel/wegen-genitiv-dativ.php
    – aventurin
    Sep 20, 2016 at 21:23
  • 4
    I know it's been a while...but I'd say example 6) is not correct Den Haag is just the/a Dutch name of that city. This has nothing to do with German Akkusativ.
    – Arsak
    Aug 4, 2018 at 17:32
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    With respect to 5): The capital version of the letter ß exists since 2008 as a Unicode character according to ISO/IEC 10646 and since 2017 it's formally part of the German language (see German Wikipedia). Feb 13, 2019 at 12:53

6 Answers 6

3
+50

I've always found it interesting that some nouns (though rarely) can have two, and even three genders. Nouns with two genders aren't that uncommon, but ones with three genders are quite rare. One example is Joghurt. That means one can say all three of these:

  • Der Joghurt
  • Die Joghurt
  • Das Joghurt

According to dict.cc, der is used normally, das is used in Austria, Switzerland and Southern Germany and die is used mainly in Austria.

According to the Duden, 98.7% of nouns have one article, 1.3% can be used with two (though the second one is usually regionally restricted or incorrectly used), and 0.02% can be used with all three articles. That's about one in every 5,000. Joghurt is one of them! Less than 0.1% have no articles.

1
  • @c.p. It says it here in the article: "Einige wenige Substantive werden auch artikellos gebraucht, z. B. »Aids«, »Allerheiligen« oder »Donnerlittchen «. Sie machen im Rechtschreibduden weniger als 0,1 % aus." Sep 28, 2016 at 12:03
1

Countries, which take das article, can be used without their article if they do not have any adjective.

For example, without any adjective, it can be said

Ich komme aus Deutschland

but if there is an adjective, it should be used with its article

Ich komme aus dem schönen Deutschland

In contrast to the countries with das article, the countries with an article except for das are not affected from this and always be used with their articles.

DIE : die Schweiz, die Türkei

DIE (Plural): die Vereinigten Staaten (the United States), die USA, die Niederlande

DER: der Irak, der Libanon, der Sudan

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    Most countries actually can have an article, you just don't see it very often - simply consider "Frankreich ist ein Land in Europa" vs. "das Frankreich der 20er Jahre ist heute noch berühmt für seinen Glamour" - And note this works with any country.
    – tofro
    Sep 14, 2016 at 9:55
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    Ausnahmslos ALLE Staaten haben Artikel. Weiblich: Die Slovakei, die Mongolei, die Schweiz, die Türkei und einige mehr. Männlich: Der Kosovo, der Vatikan, der Kongo, der Jemen, der Sudan (auch diese Liste ist unvollständig). Plural: Die USA, die Niederlande, die Philippinen, die Seychellen und andere. Die meisten anderen Länder sind sächlich, was vor allen auffällt, wenn man zwischen Artikel und Land ein Attribut stellt: das schöne Österreich, das wiedervereinigte Deutschland, das alte China, das grüne Kanada, das riesige Russland, ... Sep 25, 2016 at 19:48
  • @AdInfinitum in dem Artikel wird genau das Verhalten beschrieben, welches Hubert anmerkt. Das Phänomen, dass auch bei einigen nicht-sächlichen Ländernamen der Artikel manchmal weggelassen wird, ist ja noch neu und etwas irritierend (und würde beim Einsatz von Adjektiven auch übergangen)
    – Chieron
    Sep 26, 2016 at 12:48
  • @HubertSchölnast und Chieron, ich habe meine Antwort mit eueren Vorschlägen verbessert. Ist sie jetzt besser? Sep 26, 2016 at 13:06
  • @AdInfinitum: Du bist jetzt zwar näher an der Wahrheit dran, aber leider auch weiter von dem weg, was gefragt war: Interessante Ausnahmen. Deine Antwort beschreibt aber keine Ausnahmen, sondern eine Regel. Sep 26, 2016 at 13:40
0

The answer regarding articles and countries reminded me of another, systematic exception concerning the use of articles: whenever there is talk of 'stations' or 'stops' (e.g., bus stops), articles are obligatorily absent. For example

Du steigst Hauptstraße ein und steigst dann Zoo wieder aus.

If you would use a preposition like am in above sentence, it would not mean that you're not talking about a stop; instead, 'Ich steige am Zoo aus' would mean that you leave the transportation in the vicinity of a zoo.

BTW This is not to confuse with instances of Kiezdeutsch as in Ich geh Aldi. It's a German-wide feature as far as I know.

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  • In Wien, in einer U-Bahn mitgehörtes Handy-Telefonat: »Wo bist du? Ich bin Stephansplatz. Gehst du heute auch Kino?« Sep 25, 2016 at 19:52
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    Accordingly, there is no declination: "Ich steige Grüner Weg aus". Sep 26, 2016 at 7:33
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    This is nothing special, it's just shortening an der Haltestelle "Hauptstraße" to the name of that station. Ich steige am Zoo aus would work just as well, if the station is still unambigous, the station can identified by its description.
    – Chieron
    Sep 26, 2016 at 12:44
  • Didn't look at it that way yet. Please downvote, then.
    – aslakr
    Sep 26, 2016 at 12:47
  • @aslakr, you said it would not mean that you're not talking about a stop – but did you mean it would mean... (without the first not)?
    – Tom
    Mar 1, 2022 at 20:35
-1

I think one special (or "funny") occurance, though not a rule, is that "mit" (with) is built with Dativ, while ohne (without) is used with Akkusativ.

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    How is this an exception?
    – fdb
    Sep 3, 2016 at 18:42
  • In Austria you use ›ohne‹ with Dativ if you speak naturally. If you think you're an educated genius but in fact you aren't you use Akkusativ. Sep 27, 2016 at 15:29
-1

Most modern dictionaries classify "nachts" as an adverb. Historically it is "ein adverbiell erstarrter Genitiv, gebildet in Analogie zu ... tags" (DWDS).

Another example of a feminine noun having a masculine-type genitive is in compounds like “Universitätsprofessor”, with -s- by analogy to words like “Ratskeller”.

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  • Thanks for the answer. Please notice, however, that I actually was asking about exceptions in addition to the ones I've listed. Sep 3, 2016 at 18:25
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    Fair enough. I have added a second example.
    – fdb
    Sep 3, 2016 at 18:41
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    Universitätsprofessor is an example of a Fugenlaut (interfix). It does not have anything to do with the genitive, except maybe deriving from a genitive form centuries ago.
    – Jan
    Sep 4, 2016 at 20:12
  • @Jan. Yes, centuries ago. Exactly my point. That is what we call etymology.
    – fdb
    Sep 4, 2016 at 20:27
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    If you don’t say etymology, I have no way to magically know you are talking about it. In any way, etymology is not a subject of these questions, and interfixes are no longer perceived as genitives, so stating an etymology misses the question.
    – Jan
    Sep 4, 2016 at 20:31
-2

You shouldn't spent your lifetime searching for rare exceptions in German grammar. Cause if you find one some guy who knows historical linguistics can explain to you that it's no exception at all but a strict grammatical rule people don't see.

I wouldn't search for them on the basis of this text. ›One of the only exceptions‹ is an expression you just use without really thinking about it.

I also don't know what German language authorities should be. If you've read GG Art. 5 you know that such things don't exist and if they exist they're illegal.


To show you what I mean with no exceptions:

– Every German noun has a grammatical gender. A word without gender is as impossible as a human without sex. The standard human is the woman and the standard noun is the masculine. Humans can have two or more genders but not zero. ›Jura‹ has a gender, it's neuter:

Dieses blöde Jura schon wieder!

– wegen: That's a whole story on its own. The short version: The genitive cannot be taken by a preposition because the preposition is a grammatical connection and the genitive is one, too. ›Wegen‹ is right with dative.

You can do that with every single one of your exceptions (with the pronouns, too) if you've got the time for it.

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    no. there are lot of words without gender.
    – c.p.
    Sep 28, 2016 at 11:43
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    This should be the answer to the question! The examples may not appeal to everybody but otherwise it’s the truest of statements.
    – Jan
    Sep 28, 2016 at 14:21
  • @c.p. Tell me one and I'll believe you. Sep 28, 2016 at 16:00
  • @deponensvogel Duden says: "Die meisten deutschen Substantive werden von einem Artikel begleitet, zum Beispiel »der Bumerang « (maskulin), »die Untersuchung« (feminin) oder »das Gewinnspiel« (neutral). Einige wenige Substantive werden auch artikellos gebraucht, z. B. »Aids«, »Allerheiligen« oder »Donnerlittchen «. Sie machen im Rechtschreibduden weniger als 0,1 % aus." The article in Duden is called: "Die Verteilung der Artikel (Genusangabe) im Rechtschreibduden". Link: duden.de/sprachwissen/sprachratgeber/… Sep 28, 2016 at 16:53
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    @EugeneStr. The lack of an article does not signify the lack of a word’s gender.
    – Jan
    Sep 29, 2016 at 12:21

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