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Why is girl (Mädchen) neutral in German? On gender rules in the language

When students begin to learn about the articles in German, they quickly discover not only that there are three genders in the language- masculine, feminine, neutral- they also stumble upon the fact that girl in German is das Mädchen, so neutral. While this may sound counterintuitive, once they understand that the ending -chen refers to our diminutive- so in German girl is, in fact, a little girl- and nouns that end on -chen are always neuter, they usually accept it and move on.

So once you have mastered the logic of the German cases, it is important to learn the most common gender rules.

Here they are:


People and devices ending on -er are always masculine

e.g. der Manager, der Lehrer, Drucker, der Computer

Nouns that end on -ich, -ig, -ling, -ant, -us are almost always masculine

e.g. der Teppich, der Bereich, der Honig, der König, der Feigling, der Riesling, der Lieferant, der Praktikant, der Zirkus, der Kapitalismus, der Bus.

common exceptions are: das Reich, das Restaurant (see below)


People ending on -in are always feminine

e.g. die Managerin, die Lehrerin

Nouns that end on -heit, -keit, -schaft are always feminine

e.g. die Gesundheit, die Schwierigkeit, die Wissenschaft

Nouns that come from Latin or Ancient Greek ending on -tät, -ion, -ie, -ik are always feminine

e.g. die Universität, die Biologie, die Mathematik

Most nouns ending on -e, -ei, -ung, -elle, -ur are feminine

e.g. die Lampe, die Kaffeemachine, die Polizei, die Lösung, die Übung, die Quelle, die Kultur

common exceptions are: der Name, der Junge, der Kollege, der Kunde, das Ei, der Schrei, der Sprung, der Ingenieur, das Abitur.


Many modern international words are neuter (das)

e.g. das Hotel, das Restaurant, das Problem

Nouns ending on -um, -chen, -ett, -ium, -ment are always neuter

e.g. das Datum, das Studium, das Praktikum, das Mädchen, das Bett, das Minsterium, das Experiment, das Medikament

Capitalised verbs, i.e. verbs turned into nouns, are always neuter

e.g. das Essen

I hope this helps. Contact me with questions and comments. As soon as you have given the cases some practice, you might want to learn German pronouns as they build on the cases. With the above explanation on the difference between Nominative and Accusative, you'll be able to understand how to use mir and mich in German.

Other grammar topics you might want to learn or review which can be found on our blog are posts on the plural of German nouns, separable verbs in German and when they split, the German perfekt tense, adjectives in German, when to use nicht and kein in German, German word order rules. two-way prepositions in German, Accusative only prepositions, Dative only prepositions, and finally Genitive only prepositions in German. You will also find our top 5 tips on how to improve your German and on how to avoid the most common mistakes in the German language.

In addition, we have posts on language learning apps Duolingo, Memrise and others, and a review of the most popular online dictionaries You might also be interested in my Ultimate Guide to Learning German. Check it out to learn how to learn German fast.

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