I have been translating many agreements between different parties into German. Given the attempt to come up with nonspecific genders, both in the U.S. and in Germany, I am now asking myself how to handle this problem. This time, it is an agreement between a "Seller" (der Verkäufer) and a "Buyer" (der Käufer). Clearly, neither is a single male. The clause in question:

Buyer acknowledges that it has received ...

When a company name is used, one can refer back to es (das Unternehmen). In legal documents, it is customary to use the female gender, e.g., for plaintiff (die Klägerin), etc., because it is understood that the Klägerin is one of the parties (eine Partei) to the action.

How would the problem I am dealing with be handled today?

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    The Word "Unternehmen" is neuter, so if you refer to the word "Unternehmen", it is "das". If you refer to the word AG, GmbH, KG (all abbrevations for "Gesellschaft"), it is "die Gesellschaft", female, "sie". But if you use "Hersteller", "Lieferant", "Dienstleister" it is male, and so are Käufer and Verkäufer. It's the gender of words, not the sex of persons, which rules. You are talking about company names. ... Aug 28 '21 at 23:26
  • ... Some company names might be compound names, where the last part is male, so there you would talk about "der Kaufhof" (take "Müllers Autohof" instead, if you think it would be the full name "die Kaufhof AG" instead of just "Kaufhof"), "das Phantasialand", or "die Rappelkiste". "Das Unternehmen, die Gesellschaft, der Laden" may all refer to the same thing, so there isn't a fixed grammatical Gender for anything. Depending on the way of abstraction and level, the gender of the associated word is free to change. See "Der Gepard, die Großkatze, das Raubtier, das Lebewesen, das Ding, ..." Aug 28 '21 at 23:28
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    @userunknown Why is that a comment and not an answer?
    – Olafant
    Aug 29 '21 at 4:12
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    @Olafant: I have learned in school, that you say "he" in English, too. Since there are many writers and speaker, who don't care what is right and what is wrong, but want to express their political views, I suspected Roswitha might be interested in the political expression to use, not in the right usage of the language, which I'm not willing to support. Aug 29 '21 at 8:46

Like in any other situations too, German pronouns always inherit their grammatical Gender from the noun to which they refer. So, when you use the noun »der Verkäufer«, which is a masculine noun, you have to use the masculine pronoun »er«:

The seller acknowledges that it has received the goods.
Der Verkäufer bestätigt, dass er die Ware erhalten hat.

But »der Verkäufer« is a nominalization of the verb »verkaufen«, and nominalized verbs can be either masculine or feminine and some of them can even be neuter.

  • masculine form for a male person:

der Verkäufer

  • feminine form for a female person:

die Verkäuferin

So, if the seller is a female person or a company with name that is a feminine noun (like any Versicherung), you can use the feminine form, and again it is clear which gender you have to use for the pronoun: It must be the same that the noun has to which it refers, so it also has to be feminine:

The seller acknowledges that it has received the goods.
Die Verkäuferin bestätigt, dass sie die Ware erhalten hat.

So, the question is not which gender to use for the pronoun. This is always clear in German. It always must be equal to the gender of the noun.

The question you have to answer in German is another one, and it is even more tricky than the question you asked. The question is: Which form of a nominalized verb or nominalized adjective should you use.

This question is tricky, because when you make a decision pro one grammatical gender, you also decide pro a biological gender (masculine = male; feminine = female) and you exclude any person that has a different gender.

So, a good solution is not use a nominalized word but to use a "real" noun, i.e. a noun that is not derived from a verb or adjective:

The selling party acknowledges that it has received the goods.
Die verkaufende Partei bestätigt, dass sie die Ware erhalten hat.

You still have to use some grammatical gender, but in this case there is no longer any connection between the noun's grammatical gender and a person's biological gender.

But using words like Partei sounds bureaucratic and technocratic. This is why in German you often find sentences like these:

The seller acknowledges that it has received the goods.
Der/die VerkäuferIn bestätigt, dass er/sie die Ware erhalten hat.

So, you use both grammatical genders for the noun, and the capital »I« in the word »VerkäuferIn« indicates, that both forms (»Verkäufer« and »Verkäuferin«) are meant.


This is just an addendum to Hubert Schölnast's comprehensive answer.

If the seller (buyer) is a natural person, then the rules explained by Hubert definitely apply.

But if the seller (buyer) is a legal entity, then most frequently the female form is used. The reason is that a company's legal form is a specified Gesellschaft (GmbH, OHG, GbR, KG, AG, ...) whose grammatical gender is female.

Look at this model contract:


(nachfolgend „die Verkäuferin“ genannt)

der [●]
(nachfolgend „die Käuferin“ genannt).


Die Verkäuferin ist die [●]. Sie ist eingetragen im Handelsregister bei dem Amtsgericht [●] HR[●]. Der Unternehmensgegenstand der Verkäuferin ist [●]. Aufgrund einer von der Verkäuferin angestrebten strategischen Neuausrichtung, beabsichtigt die Verkäuferin, sich von den Geschäftsfeldern [●] und den hierzu gehörigen Betrieben (nachfolgend zusammen „der Betrieb“ genannt) zu trennen.

Die Käuferin ist die [●]. Sie ist eingetragen im Handelsregister bei dem Amtsgericht [●] HR[●]. Der Unternehmensgegenstand der Käuferin ist [●]. Die Käuferin beabsichtigt, den Betrieb von der Verkäuferin zu kaufen.

Die Parteien vereinbaren, dass der Betrieb im Wege der Einzelrechtsnachfolge (asset deal) von der Verkäuferin auf die Käuferin übertragen wird.

Update (with "disclaimer" that I am not a jurist):

Hubert Schölnast comments that this is true only for legal entities which are a "Gesellschaft" (because this word has female gender). In essence he is right. Although the most frequently used legal form is "Gesellschaft", there are also other legal forms. Most of them are also "female" forms like

A prominent "male" example is

In Germany there are quite big ones as "ADAC" and "TÜV".

Note, however, that colloquial speech may differ from the use in legal documents. For example, der Hessische Rundfunk is a "male" expression, but its legal form is Anstalt des öffentlichen Rechts which is female.

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    This is only true because the noun Gesellschaft is a feminine noun. This is not true for any legal entity. If the legal entity has a name that is a masculine noun you have to use the masculine pronoun also for legal entities. »Der ORF bestätigt, dass er ...« »Der Kurier bestätigt, dass er ...« and therefore also *»Der Verkäufer ist der ORF/Kurier/...« Aug 30 '21 at 16:00
  • @HubertSchölnast You are right as far as colloquial speach is concerned. Everybody would simply say "Der ORF verkauft dem Kurier sein Grundstück x-Straße 10". I am not a solicitor, but I could imagine that in legal documents "ORF" appears as "ORF Stiftung des öffentlichen Rechts" with legal form Stiftung des öffentlichen Rechts which has female gender. Concerning "Kurier": Print media must have a legal form, and often they belong to a publishing company (like Kurier Zeitungsverlag und Druckerei GmbH). Here you have it again. But thank you for you comment, I shall edit my answer.
    – Paul Frost
    Aug 31 '21 at 8:29
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    Der ORF heißt ganz offiziell »Österreichischer Rundfunk« und ist somit grammatikalisch männlich. Seit 2001 ist er eine »Stifung öffentlichen Rechts«. Das ist aber nur die Bezeichnung der Rechtsform, es ist nicht der Name des Medienhauses. Der ORF heißt nicht »Österreichische Rundfunksstifung öffentlichen Rechts« sondern er heißt einfach nur »Österreichischer Rundfunk«. Aug 31 '21 at 9:11
  • Paragraf 1, Ziffer 1, erster Satz des ORF-Gesetzes in der aktuell gültigen Fassung: »Mit diesem Bundesgesetz wird eine Stiftung des öffentlichen Rechts mit der Bezeichnung „Österreichischer Rundfunk“ eingerichtet.« Aug 31 '21 at 9:12
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    Und du hast auch selbst erkannt, dass es auch viele Unternehmen gibt, die eine männliche Rechtsform haben, nämlich alle Vereine und Clubs. In Österreich z.B. der ÖAMTC, der seine Rechtsform (»Club« = Verein) auch im Namen trägt. Aug 31 '21 at 9:15

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