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The German Genders are driving me crazy...


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Help with German genders

hey my friend. don't be desperate. 8) I will try to help you out on this.

German uses the three genders of the  late Proto-Indo-European language group; namely the masculine, the feminine, and the neuter. Each of the German nouns will take one of those three genders. The grammatical gender of a German noun does not necessarily correspond with the real-life object's sex, which makes things really difficult and in some way “random” :=). Nouns denoting a person, such as die Frau ("woman") or der Mann ("man"), often  agree with the natural gender of what is described. However, since every German noun ending with -chen or -lein is grammatically neuter, there exist several notable exceptions to the rule (orr let's call it counterexamples) such as das Mädchen ("girl") and das Fräulein ("miss")and  “das Weib” . Moreover,  German assigns gender to nouns without natural gender, in an arbitrary fashion. For instance,  the three most  common pieces of cutlery all have different genders: the spoon = der Löffel, the fork = die Gabel, the knife = das Messer.

Learners of German are often advised to study the three genders (the articles) by heart, as there is apparently no rule that they can “stick to”. However, this is not entirely true, as there are some good ways to study the articles.

For instance, the suffix of a noun can be used to recognize about 50-80% of noun genders:

Nouns ending in the suffixes -heit, -keit, -tät, -ung, or -schaft are always feminine. As mentioned above, nouns ending in -chen or -lein take the neuter. A noun ending in –e is likely to be feminine; however, this is unfortunately not  a universal rule: die Katze ("cat"), die Hornisse ("hornet"), and die Fliege ("fly") are feminine, but der Bote ("delivery boy") is masculine, and das Ende ("end") is even neuter. Similarly, a noun ending in –er is likely to be masculine (der Keller, der Wecker, der Computer); however, the knife is das Messer and water is das Wasser, whereas die Mutter ("mother") is feminiine, as can die Butter ("butter"). However,  in Swiss German, “die Butter” takes the neuter, it is therefore Der Butter in Switzerland :=)

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  • 3 months later...

Like many languages, German has its irregularities. The rules for determining gender exist but in some cases are irrgular and the gender of many nouns has to be memorised by learners.

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I've also found that nouns derived from verbs, ie. "das Essen" from "essen", "das Schwimmen" from "schwimmen" tend to be neuter, if that helps. (Are these called verbals/gerunds in English? I am less familiar with English grammar than I am with German grammar  :smile: )

Although if they have an ending like -heit/-keit/-tät/-ung in order to form a noun then they take the feminine because of the endings like Manuel said.

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Here are some useful tips on correctly guessing (most of the time!) the gender of a German noun.

http://german.about.com/cs/vocabulary/a/nsuffix.htm

I hope this helps!

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It's important to stick with the genders in the early phases of learning German. Practice them until they become natural for you -- until you don't have to pause before using a noun, wondering what gender to use. Yes, the day WILL come when this happens, and when it does, you will glad that you took a disciplined approach right at the beginning of the process instead of trying to go back and learn them all later (which is pretty much impossible to do).

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There are no two ways about it, if you want to learn German and speak it fluently, you have no choice but to learn every new word with its gender. You can't say "I speak English perfectly except that I don't know how to use the past tense". It's the same with genders in German, they're an integral part of the grammar.

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There are no two ways about it, if you want to learn German and speak it fluently, you have no choice but to learn every new word with its gender. You can't say "I speak English perfectly except that I don't know how to use the past tense". It's the same with genders in German, they're an integral part of the grammar.

Definitely. Still, to get your message across in German, it is not extremely important that you get all those genders right. But if you reach for perfection, it is definitely a must, no question about that. It's possibly the same with measure words 量词 in Chinese. It is not absolutely necessary to master them but unless you do so, you will never be considered "proficient" in this language. However, most of the foreigners I know just know about the most basic 量词 like 个, 本 and 两.

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I'm finding it much more difficult to remember the gender of German nouns than in Romance languages I have studied.

As others have said, it really helps to learn the noun with the definite article as well as the plural form. Even though it makes learning a bit harder in the short term, it pays off in the long term.

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