learn german grammar

Learn German Grammar: Guide to Masculine, Feminine, and Neutral Nouns

learn german grammar

Learn German grammar with this helpful guide to forming masculine, feminine, and neutral nouns from German teacher Tyler S

Whenever I begin German lessons with a new student, I provide a brief summary of “grammatical gender” within the first three lessons. This usually involves me comparing the three German words der, die, and das.

While terminology like “grammatical gender” may sound daunting, don’t let that deter you from being able to learn German grammar. With a little practice, it’s actually easy to learn how to identify whether nouns are masculine, feminine, or neutral.

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If you want to learn German grammar at maximum speed, it’s very important that you learn the tricks to memorizing grammatical gender. Every time you learn a new German vocabulary word, you’ll need to have a system for memorizing its grammatical gender.

If you do not know the grammatical gender of a word, then you won’t be able to use it and/or speak German correctly. It’s simply one of those unavoidable tasks you must master when learning German.

What Exactly is “Grammatical Gender”?

Grammatical gender is the term used to describe the three traditional categories that each German noun belongs to. The labels used for the three categories in German are masculine, feminine, and neutral (or neuter).

If you’re someone who has trouble identifying the gender of a noun, have no fear: there are many easy rules to help you identify a given word’s category.

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You can tell a word is masculine if…

1. The noun refers to a male being or an animal that is male 

  • der Vater (father)
  • der Hahn (rooster)
  • der Löwe (lion)

2. The name of a day of the week

  • der Montag (Monday)
  • der Dienstag   (Tuesday)
  • der Mittwoch  (Wednesday)

3. The name of a month

  • der Januar (January)
  • der Februar (February)
  • der März (March)

4. The name of a season

  • der Herbst (Autumn)
  • der Sommer (Summer)
  • der Winter (Winter)

5. The name of a cardinal direction

  • der Norden (North)
  • der Osten (East)
  • der Süden (South)
  • der Westen (West)

6. The noun ends with any of the following suffixes

[-el, -en, -er, -ig, -ich, -ling]

  • der Schlüssel (key)
  • der Wagen  (car)
  • der Zucker  (sugar)
  • der Honig  (honey)
  • der Teppich (carpet)
  • der Lehrling (apprentice)

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You can tell a word is feminine if:

1. The noun refers to a female being or an animal that is female

  • die Frau (woman)
  • die Tante (aunt)
  • die Henne (hen)

 2. The name of plants or plant anatomy

  • die Pfirsich (peach)
  • die Nuß  (nut)
  • die Weide (weeping willow)
  • die Blume (flower)
  • die Orchidee (orchid)

3. The noun ends with any of the following suffixes

[-age, -e, -ei, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -ie, ik, -in, ion, -tät, -ung, -ur]

  • der Courage (courage)
  • die Katze  (cat)
  • die Sämerei (seed store)
  • die Schönheit (beauty)
  • die Fertigkeit (ability)
  • die Freundschaft (friendship)
  • die Familie  (familie)

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You can tell a word is neutral if:

1. The noun is in the diminutive form and has either the “-lein” or “-chen” ending

  • das Brüderchen  (little brother)
  • das Schwesterlein (little sister)
  • das Buchlein  (little book)
  • das Schweinchen (piggy)
  • das Kätzchen  (kitty)

2. The name of a city used with an adjective

  • das historische Eichstätt  (historical Eichstätt)
  • das alte München (old Munich)

3. The name of a country used with an adjective

  • das übervolkerte Tokyo (overpopulated Tokyo)
  • das moderne Frankreich (modern France)

4. The noun ends with any of the following suffixes

[-tum, -ment, -ium, -um]

  • das Christentum (christianity)
  • das Instrument  (instrument)
  • das Helium  (a type of secondary school in Germany)
  • das Praktikum  (date)

The ability to learn German grammar is critical. If you take just a couple of minutes to read and memorize the examples above, you’ll be able to successfully identify the grammatical gender of 99% of German nouns. There are, of course, some irregular German nouns, whose category must be memorized.

Hopefully, this article gives you the necessary tools you need to learn German grammar. Bis das nächste Male! Auf Wiedersehen! (Until next time! Goodbye!)

Tyler S.Post Author: Tyler S.
Tyler S. teaches in-person German lessons in Minneapolis, MN. He received his Bachelor’s degree in German and linguistics from the University of Minnesota, and has experience working as a teaching assistant and private tutor with TakeLessons since 2008. What’s more? He can speak 7 different languages! Learn more about Tyler here!

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