German Articles

The Definite Article

Forms – Formen

Each of these definite articles translate into English as “the”.

Definite Articles
Cases Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative der das die die
Accusative den das die die
Dative dem dem der den + n
Genitive des + s des + s der der

Usage – Gebrauch

The German definite article, in short, replaces the word “the” in English, with just a few exceptions. Formally, it is used for

  • something which already has been mentioned or is already known. Readers or listeners know what someone is writing or speaking about. For example, “Ich habe eine Tasse. Aus der Tasse kann ich trinken.”
  • something that there is only one of (nouns of rivers, mountains, stars, planets): die Alpen, die Donau
  • the superlative: das ist der höchste Berg der Region)
  • generalizations (X is a kind of….): Die Rose ist eine Blume.
  • certain countries and regions: die Schweiz, die Türkei, die USA (plural), das Elsass, die Steiermark
  • abstract concepts, such as das Glück and das Leben — this use differs from English.

Der-Words

Related to the definite article are “der-words”, which decline like the definite article. Here is a list of der-words:

der-words in German
German English
jen- that, those
solch- such (a)
manch- many, some
jed- each, every
all- all
dies- this, these
welch- which

Usage is very similar to usage in English. One thing to keep in mind is that, unlike in English, jener (that) is mostly used to contrast with another noun, dieser, and rarely by itself.
Der-words are declined like the definite article. Here is their declension:

Der-word declension
Cases Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative -er -es -e -e
Accusative -en -es -e -e
Dative -em -em -er -en + n
Genitive -es + s -es + s -er -er

Indefinite Articles

Indefinite Articles translate into English as “a” or “an” and therefore there is no plural. Like in English you use the plural noun without any article.

Forms – Formen

As there is no indefinite article in the plural, kein is used to illustrate plural declension. Make special note region in bold, Oklahoma, where the indefinite article lacks a primary case ending. This is important when declining adjectives.

Indefinite Article Declension
Cases Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative ein ein eine keine
Accusative einen ein eine keine
Dative einem einem einer keinen +n
Genitive eines +s eines +s einer keiner

Er schnitt eine Zwiebel. – He chopped an onion.
Er schnitt Zwiebeln. – He chopped onions.
Er schnitt keine Zwiebeln – He chopped no onions

Usage

The indefinite Article is used to introduce new persons or objects or to talk about things which are not precisely identified.

Ein-words

All possessive pronouns, as well as the word, kein, are declined like the indefinite article. These are known as ein-words.

Ein-words
German English
kein- no, none
Singular
mein- my
dein- your (sing, informal)
sein- his
sein- its
ihr- her
Plural
unser- our
euer- your (plural, informal)
ihr-, Ihr- their, your (singular and plural, formal)

Here is their declension:

Ein-word Declension
Cases Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative -e -e
Accusative -en -e -e
Dative -em -em -er -en +n
Genitive -es +s -es +s -er -er
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