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How can I learn noun genders better?

I have a habit of saying "dem" when I know something is dative but am not entirely sure of the gender. Would that be a good guess? Based on most used words/% words of a given gender

What about for the other cases?

I tend to use 'das' for nominative/akk and 'des' for genitive

(yes I know I should learn it all properly but I can't be the only one that does this, the Swiss seem to get away with "d'" for everything)

  • 1
    Some examples could help here I guess
    – F.P
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 14:22
  • I'd make different guesses for different words. Follow your heart.
    – Tim
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 14:43
  • Despite not answering your question: read, read, read, (news, books, blogs), the best way to improve knowledge and to empower your unintentional guessing :) Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 0:21

3 Answers 3


Having lived in Germany for 8 years, it's better for conversations to just use the wrong article instead of pause every six words and go "...der? ...die? uh...." and make the German to whom you're speaking stop and think about it, usually having to speak the whole sentence out loud to themselves before they even know themselves what the appropriate article is.

Yes it's best to learn them all but as a non-native speaker that will take a very, very long time, longer than you'll want to wait before having conversations. If it's dative, 2 out of 3 of the definite articles will be "dem" so if you must guess, guess "dem." With genitive, 2 out of 3 will be "des." For nominative and accusative, you're screwed.


There are some rules of thumb for guessing the grammatical gender given in this answer. With these you can make an informed guess of the gender and, since you know the case, the gender is enough to give you the hopefully correct article.

  • yeah, and apart from that, it doesn't really make a difference. "Das Hund" or "Die Hund" sounds equally wrong. ^^
    – ladybug
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 15:37

I advice against using the same gender for every word. It might well give the impression that you don't even try to learn and in addition makes you forget the proper case for the other genders.

The alternative is to start to learn and practice a few of the linked heuristics (e.g. -ung, -heit, -chen, abstract vs. concrete) and add them. For the rest of the words guess, of course (and no, you don't have to guess the same each time to call it guessing).

  • So what's the alternative? (a) don't converse until you've learned all definite articles of all words, (b) limit your conversation to only those words for which you know the definite article, or (c) choose a random definite article when you don't know it?
    – Sean
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 22:20
  • 3
    Well, you should have a slight tendency towards a gender after having used the language a bit. It’s not like German speakers simply know the gender, it is just that their intuition to using the correct form is better than yours. However, I don’t think that always using ‘das’ will strengthen your intuition. Just use what you think it should be and you don’t need to change the strategy once you know what it is.
    – Debilski
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 22:45

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