On the Complete German Grammar premium 2nd ed, pg 41 book I read

...when expressing one's profession or nationality, an article is not used...

And soon after I saw

Er hat Schuhe

without the article and not expressing profession or nationality.

Shouldn't that be Er hat eine Schuhe? When can/should the article be omitted?


In German, there are bestimmte Artikel (definite articles) and unbestimmte Artikel (indefinite articles). For example

Er zieht den Schuh an.

refers to a specific shoe and therefore uses the definite article "der" (in the accusative form "den").

Er zieht einen Schuh an.

refers to about any shoe, not a specific one, and therefore uses the indefinite article "ein" (in the accusative form "einen").

The difference between "der" / "die" / "das" and "ein" / "eine" / "eines" is comparable to the difference between "the" and "a" in English:

He puts on the shoe.

He puts on a shoe.

But, all of those examples have been singular. What about the plural?

There is a definite article in plural, "die":

Er zieht die Schuhe an.

referring to specific shoes.

But there's no indefinite article in plural. In this case, the article is omitted:

Er zieht Schuhe an.

referring not to specific shoes, probably about any pair will do.

Again, it's quite similar in English,

He puts on the shoes.

He puts on shoes.

Additionally, there are other cases where you omit the article, for example where other languages would use a partive article (in French or Italian, for example):

Er kauft Brot.

refers to "bread" more as substance or as a material, not to a specific loaf of bread, or even to any loaf of bread. Again, compare to English

He buys bread.

In French, this would be

Il achète du pain. (« du » as a shortening of « de le »)

In this case, the article gets omitted in singular and plural. Here, the difference between singular and plural refers to whether the object in question is countable:

Er kauft Wasser. ("Wasser" can't be counted, there's no "ein Wasser", "zwei Wasser" and so forth, you'd need a unit like "one glass of water".)

Er kauft Kekse. ("Kekse" can be counted, "ein Keks", "zwei Kekse" and so forth.)

There are some nouns that can be used as either countable or uncountable. For example,

Er kauft Brot.


Er kauft Brote.

would both be correct, but with slightly different meanings.

And as an aside, "eine Schuhe" doesn't exist. In this case, "Schuhe" would be a singular feminine noun. But "Schuhe" is the plural of "Schuh". Therefore, it would need to be either "ein Schuh" or (as explained above) "Schuhe" with the article omitted.

  • And the negation might be Er hat kein shuhe (from the book also I read ...**kein** is the negatin of **ein**, as well as of any noun that is not preceded by a definitive article) or should it be Er hat keine shuhe?
    – KcFnMi
    Apr 14 '21 at 16:32
  • @KcFnMi Here again, we need to take singular and plural into account. "Er hat keinen Schuh" would be singular, "He doesn't have a shoe". "Er hat keine Schuhe" would bei plural, "He doesn't have shoes". Apr 14 '21 at 19:30
  • German and English do differ on many abstract nouns, e.g."love" but die Liebe and "(outer) space" but die Weltraum. Also, you can say ein Wasser if the unit is implied by context, for example if you're talking to a waiter as a restaurant you might ask for ein Wasser since Glas is implied. The rules for when an article is required are hard to summarize because there are a number of exceptional cases, such as the one about professions, that rarely occur.
    – RDBury
    Apr 14 '21 at 23:06
  • 1
    @RDBury der Weltraum ;)
    – Roland
    Apr 15 '21 at 6:07
  • As for the last paragraph -- constructions like this exist in Austrian dialects, I think: ea hot *ane* Schuach = er hat Schuhe. Apr 15 '21 at 6:58

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