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Recently, while learning German I came across the articles

der, die and das.

which are used to indicate the gender of a noun.

So, categorizing the words into masculine, feminine and neutral does not seem to be straightforward.

What are the rules for categorization?

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  • 1
    Gigili is right, don't try to categorize them. Just learn them by heart.
    – Em1
    May 26, 2012 at 19:16
  • Frustrated with German articles? You are not alone...
    – Jan
    Jun 11, 2012 at 16:05

4 Answers 4

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There's no rule as far as I know and according to this article about German grammar:

In addition, German assigns gender to nouns without natural gender, in fairly arbitrary fashion. For example, the three common pieces of cutlery all have different genders: das Messer ("knife") is neuter, die Gabel ("fork") is feminine, and der Löffel ("spoon") is masculine.

Also, see this question: How to learn noun genders better?

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  • So how people remember about the gender of nouns! Is it only through experience one will be able to identify them perfectly ?
    – sat
    May 26, 2012 at 19:16
  • @sat The article also gives a rule of thumb, how to determine about 80% of the articles. But be aware that there are exceptions which breaks the rule.
    – Em1
    May 26, 2012 at 19:20
  • @sat: See the question I linked to.
    – Gigili
    May 26, 2012 at 19:21
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    I am native speaker of Hindi that also assigns genders to nouns. I studied the language for 10 years but never came across any rules to help assign gender to nouns but I found that I rarely make a mistake. When non native speakers talk to me I hear a lot of mistakes. But here is the funny part, if I invent a noun and define it, most native speakers will assign it the same gender. I think this phenomenon is worth researching.
    – user1631
    May 27, 2012 at 2:59
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    @MonsterTruck That's called 'Sprachgefühl' (And it's indeed an English word ^^)
    – Em1
    May 27, 2012 at 7:50
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There are some rules of thumb, but there are so much exceptions of those rules, that the best way is to do what every german native speaker does: Learn for each noun separately what gender it has.

There are even some nouns whos gender depends on the region where you use the word. An example: The english word "plate" is "Teller" in german. In Swizzerland, South Tyrol and southern parts of Germany it is neuter ("das Teller"). In other parts of Germany, in Austria, Luxembourg and in Belgium it is male ("der Teller").

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    But on the other hand, a different gender can also specify a different meaning, as in "der Kiefer" (a bone) vs. "die Kiefer" (a tree) or "der See" (lake) vs. "die See" (sea). And to make it even more complicated, sometimes even the pronounciation can differ: "Der Service" (spoken like the English word "Service", meaning, well, service) vs. "Das Service" (spoken like the French word, meaning a set of plates, cups etc.).
    – celtschk
    Jun 12, 2012 at 19:06
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    @celtschk: I would argue, that die Kiefer and there Kiefer are two different nouns, they only happen to be written the same way. Jul 3, 2020 at 14:22
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There are very few hard rules, but I think the following don't have exceptions:

  • Words ending in -chen or -lein are always neutral (das Tellerchen, das Mädchen, das Tischlein, das Männlein)
  • Words ending in -heit or -keit are always feminine (die Einheit, die Freundlichkeit, die Heiterkeit, die Traurigkeit)
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  • Only, if the ending is a real ending, i.e.: der Rachen, der Holzscheit. Jul 3, 2020 at 14:19
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There are many rules which nouns have which gender, based on ending or meaning (there are some exception, but they will give you at least big propability of successfull guess).

An example I've quickly found:

Masculine Nouns

Feminine Nouns

Neutral Nouns

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