How to Use Definite Articles in German

Der, Die, and Das

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A definite article (der Definitartikel) is that tiny word in English we refer to as "the." In German, we have three: der, die, das. As in English, they are also placed before the noun (or their modifying adjectives). In German, however, each of the definite articles has a gender.

When to Use Der, Die or Das

  • Der - is placed before all masculine nouns. Example: der Hut (the hat)
  • Die - is placed before all feminine nouns. Example: die Klasse (the class)
  • Das - is placed before all neuter nouns. Example: das Kind (the child)

Please note that the above forms are for nouns in the nominative case only, as you would find them listed in the dictionary. To see how definite articles change in the different cases, read about the four German noun cases.

How Do I Know Which Definite Article to Place Before a Noun?

There are some guidelines for specific groups of nouns. However, for the most part, you need to memorize which noun goes with which definite article. As you do so, keep in mind these two basic rules:

Most nouns denoting male and female beings will be der and die respectively.
For example:

  • der Mann (the man)
  • die Frau (the woman)

but there are exceptions:

  • das Mädchen (the girl)

In compound nouns, the correct definite article is the one that belongs to the last noun. For example: 

  • das Hochzeitsfest/the wedding celebration (=> das Fest )
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Your Citation
Bauer, Ingrid. "How to Use Definite Articles in German." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Bauer, Ingrid. (2020, August 27). How to Use Definite Articles in German. Retrieved from Bauer, Ingrid. "How to Use Definite Articles in German." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).

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