Nouns are people, places and things. They can be abstract or concrete, singular or plural, or even collective (singular in form, plural in meaning).
In German, every noun has a gender (masculine, feminine, neuter), which may or may not correspond to its natural gender (boys are masculine, but girls are neuter because the word for girl is the diminutive of maid, and all diminutives are neuter) After all, what gender should a rock, a star, or freedom have?
Nouns can be the subjects and objects of verbs, as well as the objects of prepositions.
German nouns are determined according to three categories: gender, number and case. They are always written with a capital letter which is also the case with all nominal words:
There are three grammatical genders in German language: masculine, feminine and neuter. These genders are expressed by the articles der, die and das accordingly.
The grammatical gender of nouns meaning male or female beings is usually in accordance with the natural gender:
To monolingual speakers of English the concept of noun gender may seem somewhat strange. After all, in English nouns are simply nouns; prefaced with either the or a/an on occasion.
In many languages, however, nouns have what is called gender. For example, in French and other Romance languages nouns can be either masculine or feminine. In German nouns can be one of three different genders: masculine (m), feminine (f) or neuter (nt). Although a challenge, mastering German noun gender is important to the learning of German.
Noun gender actually has little to do with biological gender. Many nouns, which would logically have either masculine or feminine gender in real life, have neuter grammatical gender. For example, the German word for girl - Mädchen has neuter gender. The reason for this is clear, as the word Mädchen is a combination of Magd (maid) and the diminutive suffix -chen (little), so that a girl is a little maid in German. Furthermore, all words ending in -chen are neuter, so Mädchen is neuter.
Finally, all nouns have gender in German, even though there is nothing particularly gendered about the concept. Why should cheese be masculine and a leg neuter?
Gender is not universal across languages, either. Some words which are feminine in English are neuter or masculine in German, and some words which are masculine in German are feminine in other European languages. Let us consider the following examples:
das Schiff the ship - notice that we often refer to ships as feminine objects in English.
die Sonne the sun - note that the sun is often masculine in other European languages, such as the Romance languages.
der Mond the moon - the sun is feminine, and the moon is masculine in German, which is just the opposite of many European languages.
For this reason, one must memorize the gender of each noun when learning that noun. Certain categories of nouns all have the same gender. For example, all nouns made from verb infinitives are neuter; all nouns ending in -heit, keit or -ung are feminine, etc.
Finally, in a compound noun, the final part of the compound determines noun gender. So, since Haus is neuter, Rathaus,Kaufhaus, and Krankenhaus are also neuter.
Each noun in German can take either a definite article, an indefinite article, or no article at all, depending on the situation. Such articles must agree with the noun in case, gender and number. The cases are nominative, accusative, dative and genitive.
Definite articles refer to a specific noun: the dog, the cat, the bird, the snakes. The definite article must agree in gender with the noun to which it belongs.
In the nominative case, the masculine definite article is der, the feminine is die and the neuter is das. The plural article is die, which looks like the feminine article. Do not confuse them, as they change depending on their grammatical case.
The indefinite article refers to an indefinite or unspecified item: a dog, a cat, a bird. There is no indefinite article for plural nouns. In such cases, no article is provided, and the noun appears alone: snakes, referring to snakes in general.
In the nominative case, the masculine indefinite article is ein, the feminine is eine, and the neuter is ein. The masculine and neuter articles are the same in the nominative, dative and genitive, but differ in the accusative. Do not confuse them.
Note: it is der Frühling/spring, but das Frühjahr/spring because of the noun das Jahr/year (both words meaning spring)