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I have a sentence

Kaufe ich oft Hüttenkäse, Äpfel, Fleisch, Saft, Joghurt, Nudeln, Reis, Tee, Kekse, Brot.

What kind of definite articles do I need to use there and do I need to use them at all?

  • @Olafant: In this terseness the comment is not of much use. – guidot Oct 31 '19 at 13:32
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    @Olafant and we have a clear “no answers in comments” rule. – Stephie Oct 31 '19 at 16:25
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    @Stephie What about the rule no discussion of community behavior or site policies in comments? – Olafant Oct 31 '19 at 17:01
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    @Olafant this is not a discussion, we already have the Meta Q/A. Community discussion would be if we started discussing whether answering in comments would be acceptable or not. Pointing out that something goes against agreed policy is ok if done in a friendly (at least neutral) and constructive way. – Stephie Oct 31 '19 at 17:04
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    I‘d really love to answer the question resulting from the German double meaning of „Artikel“ (in that case a typical example of false friends)... Natürlich braucht man Artikel auf der Einkaufsliste, sonst hat man ja gar nichts einzukaufen... – Torsten Link Oct 31 '19 at 18:13
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Your example sentence uses a strange or even wrong word order.

It should read:

Ich kaufe oft Hüttenkäse, Äpfel, Fleisch, Saft, Joghurt, Nudeln, Reis, Tee, Kekse und Brot.

Note, that I replaced the last comma by und to give a real sentence.

As can be seen in Canoonet, unspecific substances have no article, since neither the definite nor the indefinite would match. For piece-wise stuff as apples of course a number and for other as rice an amount in gramms or liters could be added to get a more recipe-type list.

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    Well, but Ich kaufe oft fünf Äpfel, although grammatically correct, does not make sense in practice. There is just no situation in life to really use it, unless you make up some fancy scenario where somebody for what reason ever is used to buying regularly five (not four, not six) apples. So, the most normal (most realistic) thing to say is stil Ich kaufe oft Äpfel. – Christian Geiselmann Oct 31 '19 at 14:56
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    Ich kaufe oft sechs Äpfel would make perfect sense, since this is a frequent prepackaged size. But I mainly tried to cover the "shopping list* aspect from the title, where items without amounts do not help much for the poor guy to buy the stuff. – guidot Oct 31 '19 at 15:24
  • Yes, of course. My comment was merely on that tiny side-aspect of everyday-life-relevance. – Christian Geiselmann Oct 31 '19 at 17:44
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What kind of definite articles do I need to use there and do I need to use them at all?

No you don't need any definite article to list things.

Let's assume that your shopping list has a part of frequent bought things, it should simply read like

Kaufe ich oft:1
Hüttenkäse, Äpfel, Fleisch, Saft, Joghurt, Nudeln, Reis, Tee, Kekse, Brot

There's no need to prefix those nouns with their definite articles like

Kaufe ich oft:
den Hüttenkäse, die Äpfel, das Fleisch, den Saft, den Joghurt, die Nudeln, den Reis, den Tee, die Kekse, das Brot


1Note the colon (:) to introduce the following list.

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  • I think Kaufe ich oft is an ellipsis for "Folgendes kaufe ich oft", otherwise the sentence structure (verb at 1st position and not a question) is rather unusual. – infinitezero Nov 1 '19 at 12:31
  • @infinitezero Might be a partial template for a shopping list. TBH I have no clue what the OP actually asks about. – πάντα ῥεῖ Nov 1 '19 at 12:40
  • I think the question is quite clear, does one need articles before those items – infinitezero Nov 1 '19 at 14:07
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No, you don't need articles like "ein" and "der" in your list.

A real-world example

I recently bought a chocolate bar in Germany (Zotter brand, Hanfpraline, Vegan). Let's look at the back of it:

Back of a Zotter Hanfpraline Vegan chocolate bar

It contains this sentence with a list of ingredients and no articles:

Kann Spuren von Schalenfrüchten aller Art, Erdnüssen, Milch, Eiern, und Sesam enthalten.

(Also, the main ingredient list contains no articles, but that is not an actual sentence so maybe that is less compelling to you.)

Some logical reasoning

An article like "ein" means "one" or "a", and that would not make sense because many things on your list cannot be counted, or if they can be counted then it is unlikely you would buy just one.

An article like "der" means "the", which adds some amount of specificity to the object you are talking about. But your sentence is pretty generic; you aren't saying which grocery store or what brand, you're just trying to say that you generally buy these types of things.

I think you can see that anyone reading the sentence would totally understand it without articles. The articles do not add any crucial meaning to your sentence.

Disclaimer: I'm a native speaker of English, not German.

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  • minor correction: "ein" can mean "one" but it can also mean "a" (like "ein Auto" can either mean "one car" or "a car"). – Volker Landgraf Nov 2 '19 at 13:48
  • Thanks, I edited it! – David Grayson Nov 2 '19 at 16:44

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