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  1. German Grammar Lectures Lecture 1: The Gender of German Nouns Designed by Paul Joyce University of Portsmouth E-Mail: Paul.Joyce@port.ac.uk

  2. 1.1 German noun declension • There is no noun declension as such in German. Exceptions: • -(e)s endings on masculine and neuter nouns in the genitive case • -(e)n endings on nouns in the dative plural • Endings on weak masculine nouns

  3. 1.2 German Articles • Instead German cases are shown by means of the articles i.e. words such as “a”or “the” which are invariable in English. • The German definite article is called “der” and equates to English “the”. • The German indefinite article is called “ein” and equates to English “a”.

  4. 1.3 The Definite Article

  5. 1.4 The Indefinite Article

  6. 1.5 Know your genders! • For this reason you must learn German nouns together with their gender as shown by the relevant definite article! • As the previous tables indicate, German nouns have one of three genders: masculine, feminine or neuter. • There are no gender differences in the plural in German.

  7. 1.6 Quick Quiz (1) • Because things are always referred to as “it” in English, English students of German tend to guess the gender of an unfamiliar word as neuter - “das”. • But are they right to do so? • Which of the three genders actually occurs most often in German?

  8. 1.7 Quiz Answer • Approximately 45% of German nouns are masculine. • 35% of German nouns are feminine. • Only 20% of German nouns are neuter!

  9. 1.8 Typisch deutsch! • Whereas in English gender virtually always corresponds logically to the sex of the noun, this is not the case in German. • Most German nouns denoting male peopleand animals are in fact masculine, and those denoting females are mostly feminine. • BUT there are exceptions - das Mädchen, das Fräulein, das Weib!

  10. 1.9 Typisch deutsch (2)! • And unlike English nouns, names of inanimate objects may be masculine, feminine or neuter in German. • This state of affairs prompted the 19th Century American writer Mark Twain to make the following comment about the German language:

  11. 1.10 Mark Twain on German genders • “In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has.” • “Think what over-wrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl.” (Mark Twain, 1880)

  12. 1.11 Basic rules of German gender • Whilst you should always learn the gender of any new noun that you encounter, you should also remember that: • Certain nouns have a particular gender because of their meaning. • Other nouns have a particular gender because of their form.

  13. The meaning of the following nouns tells you their gender. Which is it? And why? 1.12 Quiz (2) – Gender by meaning

  14. 1.13 Quiz (2) - Masculine • der Arzt; der Löwe - male person / animal • der Süden - point of the compass • der Herbst - season of the year • der Mittwoch - day of the week • der Januar - month of the year • der Kaffee - plant-based drink

  15. 1.14 Quiz (2) - Others • die Ärztin - female person • die Löwin - female animal • das Baby - young person • das Pony - young animal • das Ypsilon - letter of the alphabet (and musical notes)

  16. Same again - only tougher! 1.15 Quiz (3) - Meaning

  17. 1.16 Quiz (3) - Masculine • der Euro - currency (BUT: das Pfund!) • der Balkan - mountain (range) • der Hagel - weather phenomena • der Abend - part of day (BUT: die Nacht) • der Wein - alcoholic drink (BUT: das Bier!) • der Mercedes - make of car • der Amazonas - non-German river

  18. 1.17 Quiz (3) - Feminine • die Elbe - German river (many exceptions: der Rhein; der Main; der Inn; der Lech) • die Vier - name of numeral • die Boeing - aeroplane (BUT: der Airbus) • (dieHonda - name of motorbike) • (die “Bismarck” - name of ship)

  19. 1.18 Quiz (3) - Neuter • Köln, Spanien, Europa- city, country, continent • das Atom - physical unit (i.e. das Pfund) • das Gold - metals, chemical elements (BUT: die Bronze; der Stahl, Schwefel) • Deutsch - languages (like most non-nouns used as nouns - das Ach, das Du, Doping)

  20. 1.19 Exceptions: gender by meaning • There are many exceptions to these rules. Just think of countries! • masculine - der Irak, der Iran, der Libanon, der Sudan, der Jemen, der Kongo • feminine - die Schweiz; die Türkei, die Tschechische Republik, die Antarktis • plural - die USA; die Niederlande

  21. Find the gender again - now using endings! 1.20 Quiz (4) – Gender by endings

  22. 1.21 Quiz (4) – Masculine nouns • -ant - der Konsonant; der Diamant • -ich - der Teppich; der Wüterich • -ismus - der Marxismus, der Realismus • -(m)us - der Rhythmus; der Kasus • -or - der Motor (BUT: das Labor) • -pf, -ps - der Kopf; der Schlips • -tz - der Blitz; der Sitz

  23. 1.22 Quiz (4) – Feminine endings • -a - die Villa; die Aura (BUT NOT-ma) • -ei - die Datei; die Bücherei • -heit - die Einheit; die Gesundheit • -ik - die Panik (BUT: der Atlantik, Pazifik) • -schaft - die Botschaft, die Gesellschaft • -sion - die Illusion; die Explosion • -tät - die Qualität; die Universität

  24. 1.23 Quiz (4) – Neuter endings • -chen - das Bisschen, das Mädchen • -ell (stressed) - das Duell; das Rondell • -ett (stressed) - das Kabinett; das Ballett • -it - das Dynamit(BUT: der Profit, Granit) • -ma - das Schema (BUT: die Firma) • -tel - das Viertel, das Drittel • -um - das Album (BUT: der Konsum)

  25. Find the gender again - now using endings! 1.24 Quiz (5) - Endings

  26. 1.25 Quiz (5) – Masculine nouns • -ast - der Kontrast • -ig - der Honig; der Pfennig • -ling - der Liebling • Note also that most nouns formed from a strong verb without a suffix are masculine: der Fall, der Biss, der Gang, der Schluss • (BUT: das Band, Schloss, Verbot…)

  27. 1.26 Quiz (5) – Feminine nouns • -anz,-enz - die Eleganz, die Existenz • -ie - die Biologie; die Hysterie • -in - die Freundin (= female being) • -keit - die Heiterkeit • -tion - die Revolution; die Station • -ur - die Natur (BUT: das Abitur, Futur) • -ung - die Meinung • -sis - die Basis

  28. 1.27 Quiz (5) – Neuter nouns • -il - das Ventil • -in - das Benzin, Protein (= chemical terms) • -lein - das Büchlein; das Fräulein • -ment - das Element (BUT: der Zement) • -tel - das Viertel, das Drittel • -tum - das Eigentum (BUT: der Irrtum, der Reichtum)

  29. 1.28 Tendencies: “-nis” endings • We can only speak of tendencies with the following types of endings: • -nis - 70% neuter endings: das Ereignis, das Erlebnis, das Bedürfnis, das Ärgernis, das Geständnis, das Geheimnis, das Zeugnis • -nis - 30% feminine endings: die Erlaubnis, die Erkenntnis, die Kenntnis, die Finsternis, die Besorgnis, die Wildnis

  30. 1.29 Tendencies: “-er” endings • Nouns in -er denoting male persons are masculine: der Leiter (leader); der Bäcker • Many other -er nouns are also masculine - especially instruments or tools: der Computer, der Wecker, der Stecker • BUTmany common -er nouns are feminine: die Butter, die Mauer, die Ader, die Feder, die Nummer, die Mutter, die Schwester

  31. 1.30 Tendencies: “-er” endings (2) • And some 15% of -er nouns are neuter: das Fenster; das Fieber; das Wasser; das Alter • Careful! Some -er nouns have two meanings depending on their gender: • der Leiter (= leader); die Leiter (= ladder) • der Laster (= lorry); das Laster (= vice) • die Steuer (tax); das Steuer (steering wheel)

  32. 1.31 Tendencies: “-el” endings • The majority of -el nouns are masculine: der Onkel; der Enkel; der Flügel • About 25% of them however are feminine: die Wurzel; die Regel; die Insel; die Schüssel; die Kartoffel; die Gabel; die Nadel • The rest of them are neuter: das Segel; das Mittel; das Bündel; das Mädel

  33. 1.32 Tendencies: “-en” endings • About 60% of -en nouns are masculine: der Schatten; der Regen; der Magen • None of them are feminine! • Verbal infinitives ending in -en are neuter - das Kommen, das Essen, das Streben) • Other -en nouns are also neuter: das Leben; das Zeichen; das Becken

  34. 1.33 Tendencies: “-e” endings • About 90% of -e nouns are feminine: die Kirche; die Dame; die Straße etc. • There are a number of exceptions: 1) Two masculines - der Käse, der Charme 2) Weak masculine nouns 3) Neuter nouns beginning with “Ge-” 4) Other neuters: das Auge, das Ende, das Interesse, das Image

  35. 1.34 Tendencies: “-al” endings • Nouns ending in a stressed -al tend to be neuter: das Ritual; das Lineal; das Journal, das Tribunal, das Arsenal etc. • There are a number of exceptions: • Masculine -der Kanal, der General, der Skandal • Feminine - die Moral

  36. 1.35 Tendencies: “-(i)cht” endings • Nouns ending in -cht tend to be feminine: die Nacht; die Macht; die Sicht, die Pflicht • Exceptions: das Recht; das Licht • BUT polysyllabic nouns ending in -icht tend to beneuter -das Dickicht, Röhricht • Exceptions - der Bericht; die Nachricht

  37. 1.36 Tendencies: “Ge-” nouns • 90% of nouns starting with “Ge-” are neuter: das Gebäude; dasGesetz; dasGerät; das Gesicht, das Gespräch etc. • Exceptions include 11 masculine nouns: • They are: der Gebrauch, der Gedanke, der Gefallen, der Gehalt, der Gehorsam, der Genuss, derGeruch, der Gesang, der Geschmack, der Gestank, der Gewinn

  38. 1.37 Tendencies: Ge- nouns (2) • Weak masculine nouns: derGenosse / die Genossin; der Geselle / die Gesellin • 11 feminine Ge- nouns:die Gebärde, die Gebühr, die Geburt, die Geduld, die Gefahr, die Gemeinde, dieGeschichte, die Geschwulst, die Gestalt, die Gewähr, die Gewalt • der Gefallen (favour); das Gefallen (pleasure) • der Gehalt (content); das Gehalt (salary)

  39. 1.38 Tendencies: Imported nouns • The tendency to say that imported nouns are automatically neuter should be resisted! • This is true for some endings - i.e. -o / -eau:das Auto, das Büro, das Kino, das Konto • Other imported noun endings are neuter if they refer to things (-är:das Militär, Salär; -ent:das Talent) but masculine when they refer to people: der Aktionär; der Student

  40. 1.39 Gender of imported nouns (2) • Other imported endings are feminine: • -ade:die Marmelade, die Ballade • -age:die Garage, die Etage, die Courage • -elle: die Frikadelle, die Bagatelle • -ette:die Etikette, die Toilette • -itis:die Bronchitis, die Arthritis • -ose: die Neurose, die Tuberkulose • -üre: die Broschüre

  41. 1.40 Recent imported nouns • Large scale borrowing of words from English is a characteristic feature of modern German. • Many English words adopt the gender of the nearest German equivalent: • der Airport(= der Flughafen) • das Bike (= das Fahrrad) • der Shop (= der Laden)

  42. 1.41 Recent imported nouns (2) • BUT it is the ending of some English words that determines the gender in German: • die City, die Party, die Publicity (because -ie is a feminine ending) • der Computer, der Dimmer, der Container (as -er for instruments is masculine) • Monosyllabic nouns from verbs are often masculine: der Hit, der Look, der Talk

  43. 1.42 Gender of compound nouns • Compound nouns usually have the gender of their final component: • der Plan hence der Fahrplan • das Bad hence das Hallenbad • Exceptions: das Wort BUT die Antwort • der Mut BUT die Armut, die Schwermut • die Scheu BUT der Abscheu

  44. 1.43 Gender of abbreviations • The gender of abbreviations is determined by the basic word: • die CDU: die Christlich-Demokratische Union • der HSV: der Hamburger Sportverein • Shortened words have the gender of the full form: die Uni (die Universität); der Krimi (der Kriminalroman); der Akku (der Akkumulator) • BUTdasFoto despite die Fotografie

  45. 1.44 Quiz: Conclusion • See how important it is to know gender rules and exceptions! Using the articles below state how many items there are and their case: Question 1: dieLehrer; der Lehrerin Question 2: der Mauer; der Maurer Question 3: die Katze; die Schätze Question 4: dieMädchen; denMännchen

  46. 1.45 Quiz: Answers • dieLehrer (masc. plural - nom. / acc.); der Lehrerin (fem. singular - genitive / dative) • der Mauer (fem. singular - genitive / dative; der Maurer (masc. plural. - genitive) • die Katze (fem. singular - nom. / acc.); die Schätze (masc. plural - nom. / acc.) • dieMädchen (neuter plural - nom. / acc.); denMännchen (neuter plural - dative)