I have just started to learn German by myself. I want to know which one of the following sentences is grammatically correct and why?

  1. Wir brauchen Brot und Käse.
  2. Wir brauchen das Brot und den Käse.
  3. Wir brauchen ein Brot und einen Käse.

what about this one:

  1. Wo sind Tomaten?
  2. Wo sind die Tomaten?
  • 2
    "We need bread and cheese" -- "We need the bread and the cheese" -- "We need a (loaf of) bread and a (piece of) cheese". So more or less the same as in English, except that if there is an article, they don't mean the general "substance", they mean a particular item of it. Commented May 24, 2018 at 17:25

3 Answers 3


Leaving out the article would mean something like some bread and some cheese, so variant 1 is always correct.

The definite article would inply something to be mentioned before or added mentally like die du vorhin gekauft hast.

The indefinite article is unusual here, and is ambiguous, since it could be interpreted as number. For something as Käse which is typically sold by weight and not by piece I would not use it at all.

  • I generally buy cheese by (pre-packed) piece (or slices) and bread by the loaf. Commented May 24, 2018 at 17:27
  • A quick internet search shows "einen Käse" being used in much the same contexts as you would use "a cheese" in English: (a) he rolled a cheese down the hill, (b) a cheese to rival Camembert. Neither usage sits well with "ein Brot und einen Käse". Commented May 24, 2018 at 21:59

... Brot und Käse - relates that you need bread and cheese

.... das Brot und den Käse - references a specific (your?) loaf (to do something?) The sentence may continue ... nicht wegzuwerfen, sie sind noch nicht schimmelig. (We don't need to throw the bread out, it hasn't become moldy yet)

.... ein Brot und einen Käse - relates you need one of each, some local dialects will use this instead of #1

Wo sind Tomaten? - weird, may be used as a surprised exclamation after somebody told you there are tomatoes right in front of you, or something. Tomatoes? Where?

Wo sind die Tomaten? - inquiry, e.g. in a shop. Where are the tomatoes?


If you use a defined article (die, der , das) you mean something specific. If you put an undefined article before a noun you are (mostly) referring to one out of multiple where you don't care which one. If you use no article, it can be both, but most of the time it's the same as with undefined article

Wir brauchen Brot und Käse

refers in this context to some bread and some cheese in general. In English this would be We need some bread and cheese

Wir brauchen das Brot und den Käse

is referring to a specific item: There is bread and cheese over there on the counter, can you get it?

Wir brauchen ein Brot und einen Käse

refers to some unknown bread and cheese: I don't know where bread and cheese is, but we need some


In plural you can't use 'ein', so you only have defined article (specified) and no article (unspecified)

Wo sind Tomaten

refers to some tomatoes in general, for example in a supermarket: Where can I find tomatoes?

Wo sind die Tomaten?

refers to some tomatoes you may have bought earlier: Do you know where I put the tomatoes?

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