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As you know the article of "Schatz" is "der". My problem is this sentence: "Du bist mein Schatz".

I reckon that if I'd like to address a male,

Du bist mein Schatz

is ok but if I address a female it should be

Du bist meine Schätze

I saw some contrary examples and am not sure that they're credible.

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3 Answers 3

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As you know the article of Schatz is der.

Correct. The grammatical gender of "Schatz" is masculine.

My problem is this sentence, du bist mein schatz.

As an aside, this should be: "Du bist mein Schatz." Nouns and the first word in a sentence always start with a capital letter in German.

I reckon that if I'd like to address a male, du bist mein schatz is ok

Correct - again, it should be written "Du bist mein Schatz."

but if I address a female it should be du bist meine schätze.

Incorrect: If you address a female, the correct sentence to use would be the same as for a male addressee, "Du bist mein Schatz."

The reason is that the grammatical gender of a word and the biological gender of the lifeform described by the word do not need to match. They can be the same, or they can be totally different.

What you may have seen in use is the form "die Schätze" - but this is not a female form, it is the plural of the word. As the definite plural article in German happens to be "die", just like the definite singular article for feminine grammatical gender, some sentences may indeed be ambiguous if you do not know the forms of the word, but there is no singular form of "Schatz" that reads "Schätze".

To underline this with concrete examples showcasing the correct usage:

  • "Thomas, du bist mein Schatz."
  • "Klara, du bist mein Schatz."
  • "Thomas und Wilhelm, ihr seid meine Schätze."
  • "Klara und Claudia, ihr seid meine Schätze."

(Thomas and Wilhelm are male given names, Klara and Claudia are female given names.)

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Grammatical gender doesn't work that way. It's a property of the noun you use. It doesn't align with the gender of someone. Let me show you.

Mein Wagen muss in die Werkstatt. Er ist kaputt.

Meine Karre muss in die Werkstatt. Sie ist kaputt.

Mein Auto muss in die Werkstatt. Es ist kaputt.

It's always the same car I talk about. The car has no gender at all. It's a car. Yet I can talk about it with a masculine noun der Wagen, with a feminine noun die Karre, or with a neuter noun das Auto and even have to align the pronouns in a followup sentence to that.

That is because a noun's grammatical gender never aligns to the gender of someone (or something). And that of pronouns must align to the grammatical gender of the noun they refer to. Only if there is no noun, the gender of someone is used as a fallback. This is only the last resort.

Du bist mein Schatz.

So this works for men, women, cars and anyone and anything else.

Du bist meine Augenweide.

Again this works for men, women, cars and anyone and anything else.

The only exception to this is nouns made from adjectives as they come in all three genders. So they are matched with the gender of the person described.

Du bist mein Liebster. — for men and masculine nouns (e.g. der Wagen)

Du bist meine Liebste. — for women and feminine nouns (e.g. die Karre)

Du bist mein Liebstes. — for neuter nouns (e.g. das Auto)

And no, you own gender does not matter albeit from choice of vocabulary. Women are usually more refined and modest in that.

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  • Wiktionary gives this quote (by H. Heine): "Auf ihrem Grab da steht eine Linde, / drin pfeifen die Vögel und Abendwinde, / und drunter sitzt, auf dem grünen Platz, / der Müllersknecht mit seinem Schatz." Since "Knecht" is specifically a young man, presumably his "Schatz" is a young woman, but she has a masculine article. You could also go with "Schätzchen" but that's neuter, still not feminine. It might be worth mentioning that adjectival nouns are declined like adjectives, so "Ein Neuer" but "Der Neue".
    – RDBury
    Sep 23 at 1:49
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This is no different from very frequent words wie "das Mädchen" or in older German "das Weib" (which was a neutral word in earlier centuries). You say "liebes Mädchen!" with neuter inflection, it is not possible otherwise. With words that are in immediate contact with each other, the grammatical gender has to be observed (and Germans hardly perceive that as special).

It's different when there is a distance, like when using a pronoun. In older texts, you would have had: "Das Mädchen bekam einen Ring geschenkt. Es freute sich ungemein." Today, people feel uneasy and would perhaps prefer "Sie freute sich sehr", but it still feels difficult (for me). Anyway, when you take up something from earlier text, the real sex of a person may play a greater role in the decision, but not inside a grammatical phrase.

So the problem that you have brought up would also be felt by German speakers if it is about a text. So when a boy talks about his girlfriend and says: "Mein geliebter Schatz saß neben mir ... ??ER hielt meine Hand..." This is indeed odd for me! But the first sentence was ok.

Incidentally, this is a frequent problem in languages with grammatical gender and may find interesting solutions. I read that in Russian you get as a rule that adjective-noun agreement follows the grammatical gender, but already subject-verb agreement may not. Russian has gender forms of the verb in the past tense. They would then say things like: "Molodoj vrach prishla" Here, "vrach" is the word for medical doctor and is masculine gender, hence the form "molodoj" of the adjective. But if it is in fact a female doctor, then by the time you get to the predicate of the clause this starts to prevail and you choose the female form "prishla" insted of masculine "prishol". So it seems to be a general phenomenon that grammatical features dominate over meaning features when it is a very tight grammatical construction.

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  • "So it seems to be a general phenomenon that grammatical features dominate over meaning features when it is a very tight grammatical construction." or, maybe, it was not the brightest idea to call this particular grammatical feature gender - genus/Art/Katgorie with "levels", say, pointed, striped, and curled may have been less prone to confusion... Nov 14 at 19:36

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