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I'm a native speaker of Portuguese, know some English and have been studying German. I'm trying to understand the way the gender were assigned to nouns. I thought of this hypothetical situation: a homeschooled rich German boy, who never left his home, learned Standard German from the best teachers hired by his parents at home. Those teachers forgot or chose not to mention the word beggar, der Bettler, during their lectures, and the boy has never seen one neither. At the age of 18 he decides to go to Berlin, where he comes into contact with a beggar. The beggar introduces himself by saying: "Ich bin Bettler", and the boy answers: "Du bist also ein(e) Bettler?". Is there a logical way of assuming "Bettler" is masculine once it's an unbekown word?

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    I corrected the word order and the usage of also in the question of the boy. Variants include Sie sind also ein Bettler? or Ach, du bist ein Bettler?, but also wouldn't be used here to start the question. Since it is a Satzfrage – the boy wants to reassure if the statement is true or express his astonishment –, the word order is the same as in a main clause. Apr 25 '20 at 23:08
  • The boy would have to ask if it wasn't clear from sight that the Bettler/Bettlerin is male or female. Apart from that, Bettler is not a Job designation in German like Bäcker or Schreiner, so they would rather say "Ich bin ein Bettler" than "Ich bin Bettler". People would understand the latter, but chuckle.
    – user41853
    Apr 26 '20 at 9:29
  • @a_donda the gender of the Bettler is actually clear to the boy, but the question was put into his mouth anyways to illustrate whether the boy would know the grammatical gender of the noun Bettler. Bettler, in fact, isn't a job, but (Ich bin) Deutscher, (Ich bin) Einzelgänger or (Ich bin) Vater are neither and don't give reason to chuckle at all. The article is not exclusively omitted for job designations. Apr 26 '20 at 10:12
  • You may find this helpful: german.stackexchange.com/questions/5545/…
    – Takkat
    Apr 26 '20 at 15:28
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Yes, because nouns denominating male persons ending on -er are grammatically always masculine. The female version of these is formed by adding -in, e.g., die Bettlerin. The only noun denominating a female person ending on -er I can think of is die Mutter.

By the way, there is absolutely no reason why it had to be a "soviet expatriate beggar" to leave out the article. Ich bin Bettler is Standard German.

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  • Right, no offense against slavs, didn't mean to offend any russian speaker. I just wanted, for the sake of the argument, show the article would, certanly, be left out. Apr 25 '20 at 22:15
  • Yet, I din't know "Ich bin Bettler" is standard german. Apr 25 '20 at 22:16
  • @GabrielSantos in general, the grammatical gender of a noun denominating a single person corresponds to their real gender. Das Mädchen (girl) is not an exception because it's the diminutive of die Magd, and diminutives on -lein are always neutral (so two rules apply here regularly). There are plenty of rules to infer the grammatical gender from the ending, cf. this overview or this article. It's by no means randomly. Apr 25 '20 at 23:22
  • The reason for apparent irregularities is that the grammatical genders of German didn't develop to represent the biological sex, but started out as categories for animate things (masculine), followed by a category for inanimate things (neuter) and were finally supplemented by a category for abstract nouns (feminine). Apr 25 '20 at 23:28
  • Ok, thank you, and, if you happen to be ukranian, or russian, or somehow a slav of any sort, I rephrase I didn't mean to offend. That applys to other readers too. Apr 26 '20 at 0:54

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