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2.01. Definite and Indefinite Articles │ German Grammar

What are Articles?

  1. Articles come before nouns
  2. They give the following information about nouns:

The Definite Article

The definite articles are, with examples:

  • der   –   „der Vater“
  • die   –   „die Mutter“
  • das   –   „das Kind“

Use of the Definite Article

The definite article is used when talking about something specific.

⇒ The noun is unique. You can say exactly what you are talking about.

  •   Der Hund holt die Zeitung.“

The definite article is used when talking about something generally known or alreadly specifically mentioned.

  • Das Eis ist kalt.“ (Jeder weiß was „Eis“ ist)

Declension: The Definite Article

 NominativeAccusativeDativeGenitive
Masculineder Mannden Manndem Manndes Mannes
Femininedie Fraudie Frauder Frauder Frau
Neuterdas Kinddas Kinddem Kinddes Kindes
Pluraldie Elterndie Elternden Elternder Eltern

The Indefinite Article

The indefinite articles are, with examples:

  • ein   –   „ein Mann“ (masculine)
  • ein   –   „ein Kind“ (neuter)
  • eine   –   „eine Frau“ (feminine)

Use of the Indefinite Article

The indefinite article is used when we talk about something unspecified.

⇒ The noun is not unique. It is one of many.

  •   „Der Hund holt einen Stock.“

(There are many . It could be any stick (=Stock).)

Declension: The Indefinite Article

 NominativeAccusativeDativeGenitive
Masculineein Manneinen Manneinem Manneines Mannes
Feminineeine Fraueine Fraueiner Fraueiner Frau
Neuterein Kindein Kindeinem Kindeines Kindes
Plural- Eltern- Eltern- Eltern- Eltern

*In plural there is no indefinite article.

Articles With Prepositions

In some cases, the article and preposition are joined together into one word (a contraction):

  • an + das = ans   „Ich fahre ans Meer.“
  • an + dem = am   Am Montag gehe ich…“
  • in + das = ins   „Ich springe ins Wasser.“
  • in + dem = im „Ich bin im Kino.“
  • zu + der = zur   „Ich gehe zur Arbeit.“
  • zu + dem = zum   „Ich gehe zum Kino.“
  • bei + dem = beim   „Ich bin beim Bahnhof.“
  • von + dem = vom „Ich komme vom Mars.“

These combinations are always joined together. But everybody will understand you if you leave them separated.

The difference: when separated, the article becomes a demonstrative pronoun. This means that you highlight the noun. You put it as the focus of the sentence. Joined together it´s just a neutral preposition + article combination. (More information: Demonstrative Pronouns)

Examples

  • Eine Frau fährt zur Arbeit.“

(It could be ANY woman)

(zur = zu der ⇒ Not any kind of work HER work.)

  • Die Frau fährt mit einem Fahrrad zur Arbeit.

(It is a specific woman!)

(It could be any bicycle!)

Further Information:


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