German Articles – For Grammar Lovers Only
June 1, 2013
Articles – ever paid much attention to them? These are those short little words like a, an, and the. If you are a native speaker of English and if you have never tried to learn a language like Spanish, French, or German, you probably haven’t.
If you want to learn German, however, you may want to start paying attention to articles. German has three articles that are used at different times where English only uses the word “the”. In German “the man” is “der Mann”, “the woman” means is “die Frau”, and “the child” is “das Kind”.
Every noun in German is either masculine (and has the article “der”), feminine (“die) or neuter (“das”). Using the correct article with each noun is important if you want to avoid sounding like a foreigner but it’s not that important if you just want to be understood.
Matching the right article to every noun very important to German teachers. However it’s very important to
know that you can get these very wrong and still be understood. You will definitely sound like a foreigner, but you will be understood.
Fortunately it’s easy to get a feel for whether a noun requires der, die or das simply by studying our lessons and getting a feel for what goes where.
If you like grammar, here are some techniques that will help you get the right article.
If you have a good memory for faces and visual things, it might be fun for you to picture each noun in a certain color: all masculine words in blue, all feminine words in red, and all neutral ones in green, for instance.
Another idea is to draw funny or crazy pictures of about ten words with the same article that all connect somehow. Or you could have sticky notes of all masculine words in the bathroom, of all feminine words in the kitchen, and of all neuter words in the hallway.
Perhaps you have fun picturing each word with a symbol for that article: If, for example, a lion is your symbol for masculine words, you can picture a man riding on its back (der Mann), if a ballerina is your symbol for feminine words, you might think of a ballerina carrying a door on top of her head (die Tür), and if a bed is your symbol for neutral words, a plane (das Flugzeug) that has beds instead of seats might be a picture to remember that “plane” is neutral and has the article “das”.
Maybe you have your own idea of how to remember the article for each noun. The crazier or funnier, the better you will remember. The main point is: Matching the right article in to the right German word is only important if you don’t want to sound like a foreigner.