I was reading a history book on the topic of Robin Hood and the following line was in it:

Robin Hood lebte im Sherwoodwald

Now, I know that this sentence translates to roughly

Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest.

but I also know that im = in dem

so to me, the sentence translates better as

Robin Hood lived in the Sherwood Forest

My question is, why is the definite article needed in this instance?

  • 1
    You would, BTW not say "Sherwoodwald", but rather "Wald von Sherwood"
    – tofro
    Jan 29, 2019 at 7:42
  • The question is not how to translate things 1:1 from Language A to Language B, rather how certain thoughts are expressed (with respect to grammar and tradition) in the two languages. Actually the term "translation" is misleading. A good translation is rather "express the same thought in a different language and possibly different cultural context". Jan 29, 2019 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


That's because some kinds of named things have mandatory articles in German, some kinds have no article mandatorily, and for some kinds, it's mixed. The lists are long and boring.

Pieces of landscape in general need the definite article, cities don't and for countries, it's mixed.


lebte im Wald

lebte in der Stadt

lebte am Fluss

lebte an der Küste

lebte auf dem Mond

there is no other way to say any of the above without using the definite article.

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