2

I asked a cousin about her friend Anna in German and she responded:

Anna ist Studentin: Sie studiert Kunst

But I thought this was grammatically incorrect due to a lack of an indefinite article:

Anna ist eine Studentin: Sie studiert Kunst.

Anna is a student. She studies art.

Is she right with omitting the indefinite article? Why?

  • 1
    You don't say though, "she studies [an/the] art". Same difference, no? – vectory Feb 12 at 18:57
7

Your example is one of the exceptions where German doesn't require an article. Some Grammars call this the Nullartikel (the "article that isn't there").

Substantives that denote profession, function, nationality, descent, ideology go without any article if expressing affinity to a group. This applies when the substantive stands in nominative and is tied with a form of sein or werden to the attributed nominative.

In short:

Occupation goes with no article.

Sie ist Studentin

Er ist Polizist

Er war Sozialist

  • I'd say "may go without". The article is perfectly acceptable there, though rather meaningless. A source that says otherwise would be appreciated, if that's the case. – vectory Feb 12 at 19:00
  • @vectory canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/Wort/Artikel/Gebrauch/… See "Angabe von Beruf, Herkunft,..." - The omission of the article is not optional, at least not in these generic examples. It may occur when you make it clear you mean a specific individual: "Mein Mann ist ein Arzt des Bundespräsidenten" vs. "Mein Mann ist Arzt". – tofro Feb 12 at 19:06
  • Is that proscriptive? Deskriptively, it is certainly true, I wouldn't use an article there. But I don't see a good reason why it shouldn't be different, and it would probably not even raise any eyebrows, if anyone said it. "Sie ist 'ne Verkäuferin" is accepatable in my sociolect, I guess. Englisch police being a pluraletantum comes to mind, he is police, and "ich hab Polizei" (kennt der ein oder andere vielleicht) ;) – vectory Feb 12 at 19:24
  • It's certainly, Er ist ein guter Polizist (except for Böhmermann, or in Kanaksprak, youth slang and whatnot), which the canoo link doesn't mention for "Berufe, Herkunft" ("Zugehörigkeit zu einer Gruppe"), as if that is a different thing, but does mention the same pitfall under "Abstrakta", as if that is a different thing The same doesn't apply to "Sammelbegriffe", though (chiefly "gutes Obst"). But: Der Apfel ist das beliebteste Obst. – vectory Feb 12 at 19:55
2

In German both variants are valid. They just transport a slightly different meaning:

Anna ist Studentin

Anna is a person of kind Student: It describes her profession or any other property that makes her belong to a specific group of people.

Same would be:

Anna ist Ärztin

or

Anna ist Hundebesitzerin

Using the article you say that she es a specific entity of that group.

Anna ist eine Studentin

Anna is one specific student.

I admit: The difference is very very small and I think almost every German speaker would use the two 100% interchangeable except probably authors who WANT to transport this litte difference in meaning.

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