I speak Russian. It is quite easy in Russian to determine the gender of the word.

The word termination is:
o, e = it
vowel = she
consonant = he

Of course there are some exception as in any language.

But is there something similar in German? How may I easily determine the gender of the word to use the right article? At what characteristic of the word should I pay attention to get the right gender article?






There are some rules for derivatives, but none for all nouns:

  • femininum: -keit, -heit, -ion, -ei, -ung, -schaft
  • maskulinum: -er
  • neutrum: -tum,

Nominalizations are neutrum.

And surely, there are some more rules for specific groups of nouns.

  • 4
    Die Mutter, die Schwester, die Butter, das Futter, ... Jan 19 '14 at 4:16
  • @LarsBeck wendete ein: "By the way, I'm afraid the mnemonic neutrum: -tum, -nis is wrong, consider die Erlaubnis (permission, feminine). ;)" Jan 23 '14 at 11:52
  • @userunknown Correct, I have changed it.
    – Toscho
    Jan 23 '14 at 12:20
  • @userunknown In the alemannic dialect, "der Butter" would actually be considered correct … which of course doesn't make the general rule any better.
    – linac
    Jan 23 '14 at 14:52
  • 1
    @linac: Dialekte sind aber ohne ausdrückliche Frage danach nicht on topic. Jan 25 '14 at 0:11

The questioner asks for articles by gender. To complicate it, it's not the actual "thing" that has gender in German. It's rather the word that stands for it. For example, a car can be either das Auto (neuter) or der Wagen (masculine).

By the way, I'm afraid the mnemonic neutrum: -tum, -nis is wrong, consider die Erlaubnis (permission, feminine). ;) Moved to corresponding answer for reason of consistence

  • Der zweite Absatz sollte ein Kommentar zur entsprechenden Antwort sein. Jan 19 '14 at 4:19
  • @userunknown Unglücklicherweise mangelte es mir an der zum Kommentieren nötigen Reputation.
    – Lars Beck
    Jan 19 '14 at 9:13
  • Das macht den Absatz nicht als Teil der Antwort geeignet. Ich habe es als Zitat bei der zugehörigen Antwort zugefügt. Jan 23 '14 at 11:50
  • @userunknown Das erscheint mir richtig, besten Dank (ich habe inzwischen zwar ausreichend Reputation, hatte das Ganze aber leider schon wieder aus den Augen verloren).
    – Lars Beck
    Jan 23 '14 at 13:27
  • 1
    @LarsBeck Nouns are usually assigned to gender without any semantic basis (physical attributes) and are rarely connected with the "real thing". It's called grammatical gender and it relies mostly on morphological or lexical features. This is true for most languages in the world (including all Germanic, Romance, and Slavic languages). Same thing in Russian, "машина" (mashina) -> car, fem. vs. "автомобиль" (avtomobil') -> car, masc.)
    – stillenat
    Jan 23 '14 at 14:18

Some of your test cases are good examples that the ending (even if it is not a morphological ending such as -ung, -heit, -schaft etc.) is an often fairly good (but very far from perfect) indicator of genus:

  • I can mostly think of masc. words ending in -el: Apfel, Tunnel, Zipfel; but some are neutral (Kabel), some are fem. (Gabel)
  • -at is more difficult. Heimat (f), Grat (m), Mandat (n); but I think neutrum occurs here almost only with word of latin origin (mandatum), though this case is way more productive (and hence possibly more wide-spread); but there are exceptions even to this (Primat (m) = near-human monkey; Primat (n) = preference/leading position)
  • -a is very often female (Klima (n), Karma (n), Spa (n) are among the exceptions) and often from female latin words (Aula, Charta, ...)
  • Well, Uhr is so short that any attempt to classify it by ending fails :)

In summary: Except for morphological suffixes, the spelling (esp. ending) of a word gives only something like a decent hint towards the genus. Also, there are so many possibly endings (as opposed to the rules in Russian) that it is hard to keep an overview. But if you know e.g. that Baum is masc., then it is a very good guess to assume that most words that rhyme are masc., too (Raum, Saum, Traum, Schaum, Flaum, Zaum; but Pflaume (f)). But don't rely on that rule of thumb alone (Wind (m), Rind (m), but Kind (n))

  • 2
    Der Rind? 54321
    – Carsten S
    Jan 18 '14 at 21:50

If you theorize that gender depends on the ending, you run into inconsistencies because gender is often determined by semantic content:

Cardinal directions are masculine (der Norden)

Letters of the alphabet are neuter, (das A ind das O)

Numbers are feminine, (die Eins, die Zwei)

Oceans are masculine (der Atlantik)

Continents are neuter (rarely used with an article)

Minerals are neuter (das Salz)

Spices are masculine (der Paprika, der Pfeffer)

Vegetables are neuter (das Paprika)

Verbal nouns that indicate an instance of the action are masculine and usually have an ablaut: (Der Fall, der Flug)

Verbal nouns that are things that perform the action are feminine: (Die Falle, die Fliege)

Verbal nouns that indicate the process of performing the action are neuter: (Das Fallen, das Fliegen)

Rivers inside the area settled by the ancient Germanic tribes, which was offset east of where it is now, are feminine (die Weichsel) and those outside are are masculine (der Rhein, der Mississippi)

  • Die Möhre? Der Feldspat? Das Rosmarin? Die Petersilie? It unfortunately ain't that easy. Jul 10 '14 at 8:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.