The Masculine Nouns

In many German language textbooks, students are told that they must simply memorize the gender of each noun. That's not very efficient, and that's certainly not what German speakers do. As they grow up with their language, German-speaking children hear the patterns of words that require a certain gender and gradually conform to them. Along the way, they memorize the exceptions. Identifying the patterns is very helpful in determining gender, and it reduces the need for a great deal of memorization.

There are some broad rules for determining which gender a noun is, and it should be admitted from the start that in many cases there will be exceptions to the rules. But the rules are helpful guideposts for making intelligent choices when using der, die, or das.

Here are four basic categories of masculine nouns. (There are more than just four, but these are a good starting point.) Many—but not all!—words that end in –er –el, or –en tend to be masculine. In addition, cognates that refer to men also tend to be masculine. Look at the examples in Table 4-1. Listen to your CD for the German pronunciation.

Table 4-1. Determining the Gender of Cognates That Refer to Men

Notice that half of the words listed above are inanimate objects, but all the words are masculine. Additionally, nouns ending in –ling, –ig, and –ich are always masculine. Listen to your CD for the German pronunciation.

der Frühling (spring)der Neuling (novice, beginner)der Sperling (sparrow)der König (king)der Teppich (rug, carpet)

Many words of one syllable that end in a consonant are masculine. Listen to your CD for the German pronunciation.

der Arzt (doctor) der Sohn (son) der Brief (letter) der Stuhl (chair) der Bus (bus) der Tag (day) der Film (film) der Tisch (table) der Freund (male friend) der Wein (wine) der Markt (market) der Zug (train) der Park (park) der Platz (market square, place, theater seat)

In German, nouns can be made up of multiple words that are combined to form one “compound” noun. The gender of a compound noun is determined by the last part of the word. For instance, you just learned that der Tag is masculine because it is a single syllable word that ends in a consonant. This means the days of the week are also masculine: der Montag (Monday), der Dienstag (Tuesday), and so on.

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