German articles have the ability to break any German learner’s brain. Believe me, I know. I had struggled with it since I started learning German, until I found the little trick that I am going to share with you today.
Grammar doesn’t have to be hard. It will maybe never be the most exiting thing that you have ever done, but I is definitely a very important part of language. Using the correct grammar makes it possible for people to understand you.
In this post I want to help you understand German article changes with case changes.
What are Articles?
I think one of the things that makes grammar so confusing is that there are so many words describing everything, that in the end you don’t know what is what. So before I go on, I want to explain to you what on earth “articles” are.
“Articles” is the word we use for “the” and “a”. “The” is the definite article and “a” the indefinite one.
Unfortunately, there are more forms of each of these two articles in German. They change based on the gender and case of the noun.
There are four genders namely: masculine, feminine, neuter and plural.
There are four cases namely: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive.
This means that there are sixteen forms of each article. I don’t know about you, but that is way too much for my brain to handle. However, when I started to look at the tables that there are I soon saw something interesting. There is only one table that you really have to learn and that is what I will show you now.
Let’s take a look at the two tables that you generally get when researching German article changes.
Definite German Articles
Indefinite German Articles
Note that I used “kein” for plural nouns, because you can’t use “ein” for that. However, it changes in the same way and it is easy to use it as an example because it is simply “ein” with a “k” at the start.
If you look closely you will see a resemblance between them. (I indicated the similarities with green blocks):
The endings of the words are pretty much the same for the same cases and genders (for the most part).
“Der” and “ein” Words in German
Now you might ask what der- and ein-words are.
Articles fall under a broader term: determiners. Determiners thus include articles, but also a few other words which can be divided into two groups.
The der-words in German include:
“dies-” (“this”, “that”, “these”, “those”), “jed-” (“each“, “every”), “jen” (“that”) “manch-“/”enig-” “some”), “wenig-” (“few”), “solch-” (“such”) and “welch-” (“which”).
These words take the same endings as “der“. I will explain that in a second.
Next, we have “ein“-words. Like the “der“-words, they take the same endings as their article namely, “ein“. I will explain this in the next section. For now, these words include:
“kein-” (“none”, “no”, “not”, “not any”) and “irgendein-” (“any”). Then, it also includes all the possessive pronouns.
Simplified Determiner Endings in German
In the below chart, I put only the endings (indicated by the green blocks) and the spots where the endings between the definite and indefinite articles are not the same are not coloured in. In those cases the endings of der- and ein-words in German are not the same.
Okay, so, the table works like this. If you have a “der“- or “ein“-word, you first have to determine the gender and case of the noun that it describes. Look at this sentence:
Meine Uhr ist rot.My watch is red.
“Uhr” is the noun. It is a feminine noun in the nominative case. “Meine” is an “ein“-word, but in this case it doesn’t really matter, because for words describing a feminine noun in the nominative case, “ein“- and “der“-words use the same ending namely, “-e”. That is why we use “meine” and not “mein” or “meiner” etc…
Like I said, for a feminine noun in the nominative case, “der“-words use the same ending as “ein“-words. Here is an example:
Diese Uhr ist rot.This watch is red.
When “der“- and “ein“-Words Don’t Have the Same Endings
However, if we take a masculine or neuter noun in the nominative case or a neuter noun in the accusative case, we can no longer use the same ending for “ein“- and “der” words.
In these cases the “der“-word takes either an “-er” or “-es” ending (they follow the normal pattern). The “ein“-words doesn’t have an ending in these cases. Next, I’ll give you some examples.
“Der“- and “ein“-words before masculine nouns only have different endings when the noun is in the nominative case. Like this:
First, we have a masculine noun in the nominative case with a “der“-word before it.
Dieser Hund ist braun.This dog is brown.
Next, is once again a masculine noun in the nominative case, but this time it has an “ein“-word before it.
Mein Hund ist braun.My dog is blue.
When neuter nouns in the nominative or accusative cases are preceded by “der“- or “ein“-words, these words also work like masculine nouns in the nominative case. The “der“-words take an ending and the ein ones not.
Here is how it would look if we used a neuter noun in the nominative case is preceded by an “der“-word:
Dieses Buch ist rot.This book is red.
Next, is an example of a neuter noun in the nominative case preceded by an “ein“-word:
Dein Buch ist rot.Your book is red.
Like with the nominative case, only “der“-words before a neuter noun in the accusative case take an ending. If an “ein“-word is before a neuter noun in the accusative case, it doesn’t take an ending.
Here is an example with a “der“-word:
Ich mag dieser Book.I like this book.
If we used an “ein“-word, it would look like this:
Ich mag dein BuchI like your book.
Conclusion: German Articles
German already has so many tables and rules to study. Why study more? Basically all that you have to remember are the patterns of the endings in the table with the simplified endings and you are good to go.
Understanding German article changes made a huge difference in my German journey and I really hope that it will help you just as much.
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