Tips and tricks for choosing the correct articles in German
An article is a word that modifies or describes a noun while also telling us whether the noun refers to something specific or general. There are three different declension categories for articles: genus, numerus, and case. Genus can be either feminine, masculine, or neutral. The numerus describes whether the noun is present only once (singular) or several times (plural). Lastly, German has four cases - nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive - which describe the relationship of the noun to the other parts of the sentence.
Like most languages, German has two types of articles: definite and indefinite articles. These are usually placed before a noun. The differences between these two types of articles are:
Definite article: A definite article is used in combination with a noun. As the name suggests, definite articles describe a definite object. The definite articles used in German are DER (masculine), DIE (feminine) and DAS (neutral).
Example: The dog is running. - Der Hund rennt.
The dog is a specific one, not just a general one.
Indefinite article: Indefinite articles are used when a thing, object or person cannot be precisely assigned or is unknown. The indefinite articles used in German are EIN (masculine and neutral) and EINE (feminine).
Example:A dog is running - Ein Hund rennt.
We don't know who this dog belongs to, we just know that there is a dog and it is running.
When to use the definite article can cause some confusion, even for native speakers. To avoid making mistakes or using the incorrect article, you should have a look at the following rule.
The best way to know which definite article you should use is to look at the ending of the noun. The following graphic shows you which endings require which definite article:
As with any other rule, there are some irregularities and exceptions with this one. Therefore, you should see the rule only as a very good guide, with which you can reliably find the correct German definite article.
Another useful tip is using the article "Die" when you are not sure which definite article is the correct one. This is because almost 45% of German nouns are feminine, so you have a high chance of guessing correctly. On the other hand, the neutral article "Das" occurs least often, so you should only use it if you are sure that "Das" is the correct one.
Despite all the difficulties that come with learning German, there are always some shortcuts that will make your life much easier. It is important for you to learn the rule for using the correct definite article in order to train your feeling for the German language. This way, you will gradually think less and less about which article is the correct one.
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