I have gotten answers like memorize it, word endings, and placing in sentence, but all of those are kind of vague and untrustworthy solutions.

So how do native speakers figure it out?

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    By daily usage. Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 16:24
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    I do not understand what the problem is when reading a text.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 20:00
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    @CarstenS A German native speaker would easily understand "Die Mutter hilft der Tochter." or "Der Mutter hilft die Tochter." A non native speaker has to identify subject and object to correctly get the meaning (who helps whom?). To do so, it helps to identify which grammatical case the nouns have. In the example, the articles are the only indicator. One has to know that both nouns are grammatically female, then you can identify that the one using "die" is the subject and the one using "der" is the object. All this happens automatically to a native speaker, but not (yet) to a beginner.
    – Arsak
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 20:41
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    What's your native language?
    – Eller
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 8:34
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    @Marzipanherz, mir ist schon klar, dass man das Geschlecht nicht in jedem Fall erkennen kann, aber es wäre schon hilfreich, wenn der OP schreiben würde, was genau er beim Lesen erreichen möchte und was das Problem ist. Übrigens kann (Singular vorausgesetzt) "die Tochter" nur weiblich und Nominativ oder Akkusativ sein.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 9:14

2 Answers 2


So how do native speakers figure it out?

Maybe answers like "memorise it" were/are unsatisfying to you, because it is hard to imagine German toddlers to sit at a desk memorise noun's genders by using flash cards or similar.

And of course, it is not happening that way. The toddler hears adults using certain articles or pronouns in the context of a certain noun.

Der Ball ist rund.

Der Ball ist rot.

Wo ist der Ball?

The repetition (over several months or even years) leads to memorising this particular pattern. This is the same for the altered articles in the different cases. A toddler learns that it is den Ball if the ball is object to geben:

Gib mir den Ball!

... although the toddler does not know anything about nouns, genders, cases or objects as linguistic concepts, (these concepts are taught later at school). The toddler just memorises the patterns, without using flashcards or the like. The human brain is awesome, right?

How can I determine a words gender in German when speaking or reading?

Well, as the others wrote: memorise is the answer here. The challenge is, to find the best way for you to memorise. Maybe flash cards are cool, maybe you prefer the "German kids way" and interact with a native German speaking partner - most likely a combination of several methods will do the trick. Make sure, it does not get boring - brains do not like boring ;)


The only proper answer is:


There's no other way to learn them.

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