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Essential German Grammar

NOUNS are words which name living creatures, things, places, ideas or processes. In written German it is easy to tell what words are nouns because they are written with a capital letter. A noun is usually preceded by an ARTICLE or other DETERMINER and often also by one or more ADJECTIVES or a longer adjectival phrase. Together, these form the NOUN PHRASE:

Essential German Grammar

This chapter gives you details about the main features of nouns:

􏰀 the GENDER of nouns (2.1–2.5)

􏰀 how nouns form their PLURAL (2.6–2.10)

􏰀 CASE and how nouns and noun phrases show it (2.11–2.12).

􏰁 Study carefully how your dictionary gives information about the gender of each noun, what endings it may have to show case, and what its plural is.

2.1 Gender
German nouns are divided into three categories, called GENDERS: MASCULINE, FEMININE


Essential German Grammar

The names for the genders are misleading. Nouns denoting male animals or humans are usually masculine, and nouns denoting female animals or humans are usually feminine – but not always! Look at these:

Essential German Grammar

On the other hand, words denoting things can be masculine, feminine or neuter and there often seems to be no logical explanation at all:

Essential German Grammar

Only around 20 per cent of German nouns are neuter, so:

􏰁 You should not assume that words for ‘things’ are neuter.
The gender of each noun affects the endings of any articles or adjectives used with that

noun, and you should therefore:
􏰁 always check the gender of a noun in your dictionary. It will typically be indicated by m

(masculine), f (feminine) or n (neuter);
􏰁 always learn a noun with its definite article – learning it aloud (especially in the

context of a whole sentence) helps you remember it!

However, the ending on a noun, or its meaning, may give a clue to its gender (though there are several exceptions, which you should note carefully and learn when you come across them). The most useful of these clues are explained in 2.2–2.5.

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