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. German articles - like adjectives and pronouns - have the same plural forms for all three genders.

Indefinite article[edit]

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-like word (kein-), and the adjectival possessive pronouns (alias: possessive adjectives, possessive determiners), mein- (my), dein- (your (singular)), sein- (his), ihr- (her and their), unser- (our), euer/eur- (your (plural), 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) and the relative pronoun (welch-) (which) as well as jed-, manch- and solch- (every, many, such) take similar endings:

Definite article-like 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 other pronouns. 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.

Definite possessive [of the] (mixed) -- i.e. the genitive of the demonstrative pronoun der:

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

Interrogative possessive [of what] (mixed) -- i.e. the genitive of the interrogative pronoun wer:

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

Genitive and dative cases[edit]

German articles and pronouns 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.

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

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