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When NOT to use articles in German

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Many students of the German language struggle to understand how to use its articles. Not only does the language have three genders, it also distinguishes between four different cases. And while the German language uses articles where the English does not, there are instances when it is actually incorrect to use articles. In this articles, you learn what those instances are.

The first is with regard to so-called proper nouns. That is, named people, places etc. Even though you might hear German native speakers refer to “die Tanja” or “der Markus”, they should actually drop the articles and just use the names instead. So rather than saying “die Tanja hat gesagt, dass sie nochmal anruft”, they should not use “die” in front of her name. Alas, they do.

The second situation when articles should not be used is when general statements are being made. When you go shopping, for instance, you don’t buy “die Tomaten” oder “den Broccoli” because you don’t buy specific tomatoes, just tomatoes in general.

Both instances when articles should not be used- proper nouns and generalisations- are the same in English. So this should make it easier for you to understand when the use of articles is not needed.

Find out more about Olesen Tuition and our German lessons below.

If you want to read more about the German language, check out our German language blog "Auf Deutsch, bitte!" where you will find entries on everything- from adjective endings to German word order.

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