German Definite Articles

Overview

If you are wondering how to say the in German, then this unit is for you. In German, words (nouns to be exact) have genders, even though they do not originate from the characteristics of the object. Let's learn more about German definite articles in the nominative and accusative cases.

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Articles are a type of determiner, or word or words that precede a noun or noun phrase and serve as a reference point. There are several kinds of determiners, including articles, demonstratives, possessives, and quantifiers.

The definite article is used to introduce or specify a noun. A noun can be a person, place, thing or object. The definite article (in English: ‘the’) is used to refer to specific things, as opposed to referring to things as a whole. We are basically learning to say the in German vs a. Make sure you have a good grasp of the 4 German Cases before you continue with this unit. 

The apple is red”, for example, refers to one specific apple, which happens to be red, but not all apples. 

 Singular Plural
 MasculineFeminineNeuter All Genders
Nominativeder (the)die (the)das (the) die (the)
Accusativedendiedas die
Dativedemderdem den
Genitivedesderdes der

When using definite articles in German, we need to keep in mind that all nouns have assigned genders. Masculine, feminine and neuter. All plural nouns assume the feminine gender, regardless of their gender in the singular. In addition, these change form depending on case (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive). For an additional German Cases chart, check out an article from our blog!

Examples
Der Junge ist gross. The boy is tall. 
“Junge” is a singular, masculine noun in the nominative. 

Das Auto ist rot. The car is red. 
“Auto” is a singular, neutral noun in the nominative. 

Die Kinder spielen. The children play. 
“Kinder” is a plural, feminine noun in the nominative. (“Kind” in the singular is neutral)

Articles are sometimes replaced by other determiners, such as the demonstratives “this” and “that” (plural: “these” and “those”). These demonstratives specifically refer to nouns, so they would not take the place of indefinite articles. There are several words that follow the same declension as the definite articles ‘der’, ‘die’, ‘das’ :

dies– = this
jen– = that
jed– = each/every (NOTE: the plural of ‘jed-‘ is ‘alle’ (all), and follows plural declension)
manch– = many/some
solch– = such a
welch– = which


Examples:

Diese Wohnung ist sehr schön. This apartment is very beautiful. 
“Wohnung” is a singular, feminine noun in the nominative. 

Manche Kinder können nicht schwimmen. Some children cannot swim. 
“Kinder” is a plural, feminine noun in the nominative. 

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

Writing:
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
Reading:
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Listening:
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.