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German Zero Article

Konjunktiv 1

What is the Zero Article?

In general nouns are preceded by an article. But there are exceptions. In some cases no article is used. When no article is used, we call that the zero article.

Use of the Zero Article

The Indefinite Article in the Plural Form:

  • „Dort steht ein Auto.“

  „Dort stehen Autos.“

  • „Hast du einen Stift mitgebracht?“

  „Hast du Stifte mitgebracht?“

Like in English there is no plural of the indefinite article ⇒ Unspecified things get no articles if they are plural (= Zero Article).

For names of people and companies that don‘t have an adjective in front of them

  • „Ich arbeite mit Max.“

  „Ich arbeite mit dem arroganten Max.“

  • „Ich arbeite bei Siemens.“

›For cities, continents, and most countries that don‘t have an adjective in front of them

  • „Er kommt aus Berlin.“
  • Deutschland liegt in Europa.“

But:

  • „Ich komme aus der Schweiz.“ (“die Schweiz” is an exception that always requires an article)
  • „Er kommt aus dem schönen Berlin.“

After size, weight, or number descriptions

  • „Ich möchte bitte eine Tasse Tee.“ 
  • „Die Brauerei braut jeden Tag 10.000 Liter Bier.“
  • „Ich hätte gern 100g Mortadella.“
  • „Ich möchte gern 10 Eier.“

›For nationalities and languages

  • „Olga ist Russin.“
  • „Sie will Deutsch lernen.“
  • „Pedro ist Spanier.“
  • „Er spricht schon Deutsch.“

For professions, when using „werden“, „sein“, „als“

  • „Olga ist Architektin.“
  • „Jan arbeitet als Deutschlehrer.“
  • „Pedro will Ingenieur werden.“
  • But: „Der Arzt macht einen Fehler.“ (The person himself is in the focus not the profession in general.)

For materials and substances used in a general context

Materials and substances means things like milk, paper, water, iron, gold,…

  • „Mein Schreibtisch ist aus Holz.“
  • Papier wird aus Holz hergestellt.“
  • But: Das Papier im Drucker ist alle.“ (Specifically your paper. We talk about the thing: “paper” not about the material.)

Advice for the Zero Article

There are many rules that look quite complicated at first glance.

But: Most languages have a zero article. For example, the rules for the German and English zero article are 99% the same. German is different from Latin languages in that they have an indefinite plural article. But the rest is all the same! So check it in your own language. The rules are probably similar!

Further Information:


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