In English the only definite article is the, which is used for all nouns, singular and plural. On the contrary, in German nouns can be preceded by 4 different definite articles, according to gender – masculine, feminine or neuter – and number – singular or plural.
– The definite article for masculine singular nouns is der
– The definite article for feminine singular nouns is die
– The definite article for neuter singular nouns is das
– The only definite article for all plural nouns is die.
Ex: die Blume / die Blumen (the flowers); der Baum / die Bäume (the trees); das Kind / die Kinder (the children)
Generally speaking, a specific rule which allows to recognize the gender of a noun doesn’t exist. All you can do is memorize every new noun with its definite article. Nevertheless, there are some useful tips that help to guess nouns gender.
1) For example, it’s easy to assign the correct definite article to people’s common nouns.
|Die Mutter – The mother||Der Vater – the father|
|Die Tochter – The daughter||Der Sohn – the son|
|Die Oma – the grandmother||Der Opa – the grandfather|
|Die Frau – the woman||Der Mann – the man|
*An exception is: das Mädchen – the girl, because in German the suffix -chen is generally used to form diminutives which are always neuter.
Der Mann – the man and das Männchen – the little man
2) The names of seasons, months and days are masculine
3) The points of the compass are masculine too:
Der Norden – the North
Der Süden – the South
Der Osten – the East
Der Westen – the West
4) Car brands are also masculine.
Ex: Der Mercedes, der Volkswagen
5) Numbers and plant names are instead feminine.
6) Letters, notes and units are neuter
N.B. In German not only proper nouns, but also common nouns start with a capital letter.