What's the difference here - why we use am in one example, and an der in the other?

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It is because Main is masculine, while Oder is feminine.

Then, an in this meaning is locative (where is it?), so one should use dative.


Frankfurt am Main = Frankfurt an dem Main (because der Main)

Frankfurt an der Oder (because die Oder)

  • 3
    Thanks! The "an dem" to "am" part was a bit confusing at first :) – mcjlnrtwcz Sep 27 '18 at 8:26
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    It is worth to mention, that for an der no condensed form exists, see this question. Therefore the variants look more different than they could in case of regularity. – guidot Sep 27 '18 at 9:09
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    Dialect often has ana. – Janka Sep 27 '18 at 10:10
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    I've never seen "ana" in written form. I tend to believe that it is just a slurred form of "an der" and not actually a condensed word. – Tom Sep 27 '18 at 11:08
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    @Janka If you really want to write this, it would be "an 'er". – Paŭlo Ebermann Sep 27 '18 at 20:37

Because in German river names have various genders. Some rivers a masculine, some are femine. So it is

der Main


die Oder

and thus "am Main" (= an dem Main) but "an der Oder".

  • 1
    Question then: Are rivers mostly feminine or mostly masculine? Is there ever a neuter river? – Wilson Sep 27 '18 at 11:39
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    They are mostly feminine: Die Elbe, die Wolga, die Donau. But exceptions: der Rhein, der Main, der Neckar – GermanBeginner123 Sep 27 '18 at 11:43
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    @Wilson According to this article there are 72 rivers with a length of 100 km or more in Germany, and only 8 are masculine: der Rhein, Main, Inn, Neckar, Lech, Kocher, Regen, Rhin. And I don't know a neuter river. – IQV Sep 27 '18 at 11:44
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    On the other hand, non-European rivers seem generally to be masculine: der Nil, der Ganges, der Amazonas, der Mississippi, der Jordan, der Euphrat, … – celtschk Sep 27 '18 at 14:18
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    About river genders there is a great anser here . Unfortunately it is in german. – Javatasse Sep 27 '18 at 23:52

The declination of "der" and "die" in the case of a Dative case. "An der" and "Am" are actually Dative (location).
"Am" is, as other mentioned, a composition of "An dem"

So in the masculine case, the Dative of "der" is "dem"
and in the feminine case, the Dative of "die" is "der" (which is the same article as the masculine nominative)

Sorry, confusing but just the way it is.

Dative articles

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