The Foreign Service Institute considers German as a language similar to English, and it takes learners less than 800 hours to achieve fluency. If you are a native-English speaker or even speak English as a second language, then you are more than likely to find it easy to learn the German language. However, not everything is quite so easy, as remembering the German articles will definitely give you a hard time. Questions like “Why is there a different gender for the articles?”, “Why can’t it just be one article like “the” in English?”, “What is the rule for German articles?” will surely pop up in your mind. Let us tell you how you can master der, die and das.
German Articles: Why?
German articles are always confusing for beginners. Despite being similar to English, German is different in the sense that every single noun must go with the correct article. A change in the article results in a different meaning, or no meaning at all. To add to the confusion, the articles change in different German cases such as Akkusativ (accusative), Dativ (dative) and Genitiv (genitive). If the article is wrong, the declension of the noun will also be wrong. To avoid silly mistakes, the best thing you can do is memorise which nouns take which articles from the very first day.
Tips and Tricks for mastering the German Articles
Patterns for the German Articles
Most German language teachers would recommend to their students that they look for the signals of the German articles. It’s true – learning the article at the beginning will help you recognise and use the correct article in the future. The table below lists out the common endings that are the signals for der, die or das. Before you read it, take a pen, note down one word for one ending and check if the article corresponds to the “rule:”
Moreover, there are certain rules to help you learn the German articles off by heart. For days, months, seasons and directions, just pick der. Are you referring to a ship or an aircraft? These nouns always go with die, just like the English speakers call a ship “she.”The other good news is that names of occupations depend on the gender of the worker. For instance, a Lehrer is a male teacher (der) and a Lehrerin is a female teacher (die). When it comes to a colour, or a noun borrowed from English, das is what you are looking for. Das is the article for nouns that originate from the infinitive forms of verbs such as das Essen, das Schreiben.
Practice with an appropriate method
Despite a good amount of patterns which can help you make an estimated guess at the articles, the rules do not apply all the time. A handful of exceptions can make it hard to choose the correct article. Here, just like in learning any new language, practice is key. As discussed above, you should learn the article together with the noun. Every time you come across a new word, try to use it in a sentence. An example with a certain context will help a lot. Because of this, the word will be embedded in your mind to be recalled later. This is how you can lower the chance of making mistakes. By Trinh Tran