What is the idea behind having three types of articles for nouns in german language? What benefits german speaking people could get from it? What we gonna loose if we simplify all to "the" as the English language did? Can anybody provide an example of using different articles helps understanding better or making communication easier or preventing misunderstanding?

EDIT: If we consider the creation of the articles in german language is the result of the normal procedure of language evolution, what is the reason behind evolving in this direction that we have now three types of articles?

  • 2
    The practical answer is ‘because langauge evolved that way’.
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 20:32
  • As we are talking about evolution so it is the matter of usefulness and what is the use of it? I mean is evolution keeps the better choice on the condition. What was the reason behind creating three types of articles?
    – Eftekhari
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 20:38
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    The three genders come from Proto-Indo-European, a language spoken thousands of years ago. It is not possible any more to identify the reasons why the speakers of PIE chose to introduce three genders.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 20:46
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    I think, this is better asked as ‘What was the reason English evolved so that it lost the three types?’
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 20:46
  • 1
    I can give you a specific example of how genders help me. I'm a native speaker of English studying both German and Italian simultaneously and I find the gender markers, just like singular/plural markers, useful in sorting out the syntax of sentences in these languages. The genders give an clue about which words go together. It's not a perfect system of doing it but I find them helpful. In a way they make the sentence structure clearer.
    – Al Maki
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


The genders support the understanding, among others by making personal/reflexive pronouns less ambiguous. That puts more effort to the writer (and obviously to the learner, having to remember all the genders), but less effort to the reader. Since language is more often read than written, this is a benefit.


Ein Igel traf ein Stinktier. Es biss ihn.


A hedgehoog met a skunk. It bit it.

As you will note, the second sentence leaves open in English, what was at the receiving end of the bite, while the German clearly states, that it was the hedgehoog.

  • So what is the problem if we use only one sex gender? Your answer doesn't cover the reason behind multiple genders.
    – Eftekhari
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 22:50
  • A hedgehog met a skunk. She bit him.
    – Joseph
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 22:51
  • 3
    I do not think this answers the question. If this was the reason for the grammatical genders, we would have even more of them. Your sentence is just a coincidence, what help would your theory be when a fox meats a badger?
    – Beta
    Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 8:53

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