When trying to write a program to display durations in German language, I noticed a problem that I did not notice before:

Words for German durations have different genders, and I wonder whether there is a rule to explain that. For example

  • Sekunde: female
  • Minute: female
  • Stunde: female
  • Tag: male
  • Monat: male
  • Jahr: neutral

So for example one can say

Bis zu meinem Urlaub sind es 2 Tage und 7 Stunden


In 2 Taqen und 7 Stunden habe ich Urlaub

So for my program the neutral and female variants are nice as the program just has to remove the last character (n) to make singular, but obviously for the male variant it's either the last (e) or the last two characters (en).

Essentially I wonder whether there exist rules to determine the gender of those duration words.

  • To continue your list: "die Dekade", "das Jahrhundert" ..... Commented Jul 4 at 13:47

3 Answers 3


Simple rule: There are no rules.

Wall clock and calendar durations are as mentioned in your list. Other (more obscure) time durations' genders also don't follow any specific rules like

  • der Augenblick
  • der Moment
  • das Jahrzehnt
  • das Quartal
  • ....

If you only use wall clock and calendar durations, a small table should be simple enough to implement.

  • I also thought so, but not knowing a rule does not mean there doesn't exist one (unless there is a rule saying that there is no rule).
    – U. Windl
    Commented Jul 4 at 13:09
  • Another idea that came into my mind: "die Zeit" is feminine, but "Der Kalender" is masculine, and could it be due to the fact that the calendar came from the Romans (Julian/Gregorian)? I'm unsure what's the gender there.
    – U. Windl
    Commented Jul 8 at 6:51
  • calendarium as the origin of Kalender is a neuter in Latin. That didn't make it into German.
    – tofro
    Commented Jul 8 at 9:07

There are a few rules for a few classes of nouns, like diminutives are always neuter (das Häuschen = the little house, das Mädchen = the girl (literal: the little maiden), das Sackerl = the little bag, ...), nominalized adjectives ending in -heit or -keit are always feminine (die Schönheit = the beauty, die Eitelkeit = the vanity, ...)

But nouns naming temporal entities are not such a class.

Generally spoken: It is an exception when a noun belongs to a class with a gender that is valid for all members of the class. The norm is, that you have to learn the gender of each noun separately, like we native speakers did when we learned our language as children.

btw.: You forgot these

  • die Woche, die Wochen (feminine)
  • das Quartal, die Quartale (neuter)
  • die Olympiade, die Olympiaden (feminine)
  • das Jahrzehnt, die Jahrzehnte (neuter)
  • die Dekade, die Dekaden (feminine)
  • das Jahrhundert, die Jahrhunderte (neuter)
  • das Jahrtausend, die Jahrtausende (neuter)

German also has some multi-gender nouns. I estimate that there are approximately 100 German nouns that have two genders, and less than 5 that can be used with all three genders. Monat is one of the nouns that was two genders. The neuter form is preferred in Austria and Bavaria, the masculine form in all other regions, but both forms are correct everywhere:

  • das Monat, die Monate (neuter)
  • der Monat, die Monate (masculine)

Addendum (Reaktion auf Kommentare)

In Kommentaren wurde behauptet, dass die sächliche Form das Monat absolut unüblich sei. Das mag vielleicht für Deutschland stimmen, für Österreich ist diese kategorische Behauptung jedoch falsch. Ich selbst benutze in der Alltagssprache ausschließlich die sächliche Form (das Monat), die in Wiktionary und Wikipedia mit dem Hinweis auf die Beschränkung auf Österreich auch klar belegt ist. Die männliche Form (der Monat) erscheint mir unnatürlich.

Hier sind weitere Belege aus dem Internet:

  • 2
    Das Monat ist absolut unüblich und kennt keines meiner Wörterbücher, und online bspw auch nicht dwds. Thus not correct... at least not in my books Commented Jul 4 at 23:00
  • Ich habe den Ausdruck "das Monat" schon gehört. Im österreichischen Wörterbuch lässt er sich aber nicht finden. Dort gibt es nur "der Monat".
    – Sonyfreak
    Commented Jul 5 at 7:37
  • 1
    @planetmaker: Beachte mein der Antwort hinzugefügtes Addendum. Commented Jul 5 at 9:48
  • 1
    There are a lot more "rules for nouns", as every linguist can tell you: there are the "s-stems" (masculine), the "m-stems" (neutral), the abstractae (feminine) and so on.
    – bakunin
    Commented Jul 5 at 13:39
  • But the names of the individual months themselves are all masculine.
    – U. Windl
    Commented Jul 8 at 6:55

There is no rule. A program that displays these kinds of durations in German needs to store singular and plural form (gender only if it needs to display things like "ein Tag" vs. "eine Stunde", you can omit it if you display "1 Tag", "1 Stunde") of each word that might occur. If it might be displayed in a context like "vor einem Tag", it also needs to store dative plural (vor zwei Tagen, aber es hat zwei Tage gedauert).

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