German articles

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German articles are used similarly to the English articles, a and the. However, they are declined differently according to the number, gender, and case of their nouns.

Declension[edit]

The inflected forms depend on the number, the case and the gender of the corresponding noun. Articles have the same plural forms for all three genders.

Indefinite article[edit]

Declension of the indefinite article (ein) and negative article (kein). Keep in mind that ein has no plural forms.

This article, ein-, is used equivalently to the word a in English, though it literally means one. Like its English equivalent (though unlike Spanish), it has no direct form for a plural; in this situation a range of alternatives such as einige (some; several) or manche (some) would be used.

Indefinite article endings (mixed)
Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative ein ein eine -eine
Accusative einen ein eine -eine
Dative einem einem einer -einen
Genitive eines eines einer -einer

The same endings are used for the negative indefinite article (kein-), and the possessive determiners, mein- (my), dein- (your, used to a friend), sein- (his), ihr- (her and their), unser- (our), euer/eur- (your, if addressing a group), Ihr- (your if addressing an authority figure, always capitalised).

Definite article[edit]

Declension of the definite article

This table gives endings for the definite article, equivalent to English the.

Definite article (strong)
Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative der das die die
Accusative den das die die
Dative dem dem der den
Genitive des des der der

The demonstrative pronouns (dies-, jen-) (this, that; strong) and the relative pronoun (welch-, jed-) (which, every; strong) take identical endings, which are preceded by -e- if it is not already present.

Definite article endings (strong)
Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative -er -es -e -e
Accusative -en -es -e -e
Dative -em -em -er -en
Genitive -es -es -er -er
  • Note that this is essentially the same as the indefinite article table, but with the masculine nominative -er and the neuter nominative and accusative -es.

Possessive "article-like" pronouns[edit]

Under some circumstances (e.g. in a relative clause) the regular possessive pronouns are replaced by the genitive forms of the pronouns derived from the definite article. English equivalents could be, "The king, whose army Napoleon had defeated..." or "The Himalayas, the highest parts of which were as yet unsurveyed...". They agree in number and gender with the possessor. Unlike other pronouns they carry no strength. Any adjective following them in the phrase will carry the strong endings.

There are possessive pronouns derived from the definite article and derived from the interrogative article. They have the same forms for all cases of the possessed word, but they are only rarely used in the genitive case.

Definite possessive [of the] (mixed)

  • Masculine: dessen
  • Neuter: dessen
  • Feminine: deren
  • Plural: deren

Interrogative possessive [of what] (mixed)

  • Masculine: wessen
  • Neuter: wessen
  • Feminine: wessen
  • Plural: wessen
NOT: Die Soldaten dessen Armee (Correct: Die Soldaten dieser Armee)

Up until the 18th century, a genitive noun was often used instead of a possessive pronoun. This is occasionally found in very literary modern German, and sometimes hence used for a facetious effect.

OLD: "Des Königs Krone" (The king's crown)
(MODERN: "Die Krone des Königs" - BUT: "Die Königskrone" (compound noun))

These pronouns are used if using the ordinary possessive pronoun is understood reflexively, or there are several possessors.

Genitive and dative cases[edit]

German articles in the genitive and dative cases directly indicate the actions of owning and giving without needing additional words (indeed, this is their function), which can make German sentences appear confusing to English learners. The gender matches the receiver's gender (not the object's gender) for the dative case, and the owner's gender for the genitive.

  • Ich gebe die Karten dem Mann - I give the cards to the man.
  • Die Entwicklung unseres Dorfes - The growth of our village.

For further details as to the usage of German cases, see German grammar.

External links[edit]