I have read a general rule that nouns formed from verbs are neuter. Why can the noun derived from arbeiten be both das Arbeiten and die Arbeit? Is there a difference between these two?

Can one replace the other everywhere?

  • 4
    There is a difference between die Arbeit and das Arbeiten.
    – Devon
    Jun 17, 2017 at 15:19

4 Answers 4


The last letter of all German verbs in their infinitive form (also known as basic form or dictionary form) is always an n. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule.

The nominalized forms, that are built from the infinitive, thus also always must end with the letter n, and these nouns are always neuter:

  • Das Sein ist unerträglich leicht.
  • Das Gehen ist eine Art der Fortbewegung.
  • Walter sollte das Trinken sein lassen.
  • Ich mag es nicht, beim Essen gefilmt zu werden.

and also

  • Das Arbeiten fällt dem Greis schwer.

All this nouns are names for actions or states, like the verbs, from which they are derived, describe the very same actions and states.

But there are also other nouns, that are derived directly from verbs. Some of them even are identical (homonyms) and some of them are also neuter:

Das Essen steht auf dem Tisch.
The food (for eating) is on the table.

Compare it with the homonym from the first group:

Ich mag es nicht, beim Essen gefilmt zu werden.
I don't like to be filmed when eating.

The German noun from the first group will be translated into English as the verb from which it was derived, while the noun, that is not the name of an action or state, but the name of an object, also is a noun in English.

But there is no rule for the gender of those objects (physical or immaterial) whose names are derived from verbs. Also the last letter can be anything but n:

gehen: Der Gang des Pferdes ist sehr regelmäßig.
sehen: Die Sicht ist heute wunderbar.
schreiben: Die Schrift des Arztes ist unleserlich.
schlafen: Der Schlaf des Kindes ist heute sehr unruhig.

and also:

arbeiten: Die Arbeit ist erledigt.
to work: The work is done.

And again: Compare with the noun from the first group:

Das Arbeiten fällt dem Greis schwer.
To work is hard for the old man.


"Die Arbeit" really isn't an "exception" to your rule. Because it is a "different" sort of noun formed from the verb.

You are thinking of the noun form where you put "das" in front of of the infinitive, "arbeiten." That is a valid noun, das Arbeiten, and it refers to "work" in the sense of the process of "working." Put another way, this is the "ing" form of the verb, which is a neuter noun.

Die Arbeit (fem) has a different meaning. It refers to a "result," or "what was produced," as in the composition, story or other "work." Unlike the previous, it does not refer to the operation of the verb, that is, the process of producing the work. Instead, it is the result or end-goal of the verb. Such "result" nouns will not be in the neuter, nor will they end in -en.

  • 'Die Arbeit' doesn't necessarily refer to a "result". It can also refer to the work needed to be done, or to one's job.
    – PiedPiper
    Jun 21, 2017 at 21:24
  • @PiedPiper: Ok, added "end goal" that is work needed to be done or job to the sentence behind result.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 21, 2017 at 22:16

Arbeit is only a feminine noun.

As to the rule you have read, it would be quite helpful if you provided more context about it.


I do not think if it is different in English.

Because if you want to use a verb as a noun, you should mostly put -ing at the end of the verb,

To work - verb but with -ing, you can use it as a noun.

Working is very good for your health.

but additionaly, there is a direct noun form of to Work, which is work.

When it comes to your specific question.

I have read a general rule that nouns formed from verbs are neuter

Yes, there is a general rule like that but it can be only applied to the nounized verbs (das Arbeiten, das Schlafen, das Lesen like -ing rule in English).

For the direct nouns like die Arbeit, der Schlaf, die Lesung, you should learn the nouns with their articles, so that there is no rule for them.

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