Linguim allows you to learn new languages completely free of charge. Choose a language and start learning!

Join | Login

Introduction to gender and declension concepts

Declension indicates the fact that German nouns, pronouns and adjectives change their forms in terms of gender, number and case. Hence, there are three important concepts with respect to declension in German: declension of pronouns, declension of substantives and declension of adjectives. These concepts require detailed treatment and in the upcoming lessons, this will be done. Let’s make an introduction here.


The correct implementation of declension depends strongly on the knowledge of the gender of the noun.

In German there are three grammatical genders: feminine, masculine and neuter. As in English, there are definite and indefinite articles.

The definite article corresponds to “the” of English. In German the definite article in the basic form is “der”, “die” and “das” for masculine, feminine and neuter nouns respectively. We will cover the forms in the other cases in the next lessons.

While referring to these articles usually the abbreviations “m”, ”f” and “n” are used.

For example “Buch”, which means book in German, is neuter. So its definite article is “das”. So, for example in a dictionary you will see (n) Buch, which shows simply that it is neuter.

Sometimes, especially in the language classes, you may also experience that the last letter of the definite article is used for a similar purpose: “r”, “e”, “s”. So, “s Buch” might be written instead of “das Buch”.

The corresponding indefinite articles in the basic form are ein, eine and ein respectively. Recall that the indefinite article is a/an in English.  

Definite and indefinite articles are dealt with in more detail in the next lesson. You need to learn a German noun always with its gender. Most of the time, you have to memorize it. But there are some rules you can use to remember the gender of a noun. In the next lesson, we will look at those gender rules and learn when to use definite articles and when to use indefinite articles.


In German, there are four cases: nominative, accusative, dative, genitive.

Usually, the four cases answer the following questions.

  • Nominative: Who?, What?
  • Accusative: Whom? What?
  • Dative: Whom?
  • Genitive: Whose?

The nominative is the simple form. As stated above, the definite articles are der, die, das and the indefinite articles are ein, eine, ein in the simple case (nominative). When a noun has to be used in another case, some modifications might need to apply. For example; in dative case, all three definite articles will change their form. This topic of the language is related to substantive declension, as it will be shown in detail in the related lesson, the rules of the substantive declension show how the definite and indefinite articles will change in the four cases.

For example, the verb “to be” (sein) is nominative in German. Ich bin eine Studentin (I’m a (female) student). Therefore, in this example, the indefinite feminine article is used in the simple form: eine.

But, for instance, the verb "to have" which is called “haben” in German is accusative. Therefore to say “I have a pencil” in German, you would say Ich habe einen Bleistift. The noun Bleistift is masculine. Since the verb haben is accusative, the masculine indefinite article ein becomes "einen".

You will see the other rules of the substantive declension in the related lesson.

Here is another example regarding declension. A frequently used dative verb is “antworten”, which means to answer. Answer me immediately! is Antworte mir schnell! in German. Here "mir” is the subject pronoun used in the dative case. In German, subject pronouns must be in agreement with the gender and the case as well. Furthermore, the same holds for the possessive pronouns.  

Another point one should consider is the declension of adjectives. Let’s say,

Ich habe ein Buch (I have a book)

Ich habe ein rotes Buch (I have a red book)

Das rote Buch ist da (the red book is here)

Compare these three sentences. In the first one there is no adjective. In the second one the adjective “red” is used. The red is rot in German. However, since the used noun “Buch” is neuter, and i.e. its definite article is das and also the verb haben is accusative, the adjective must be declined accordingly in accusative case. Therefore, “rotes” is used. In the third sentence, the red book is used in nominative case. Therefore, one says “das rote Buch”. More details are given in lesson adjective declension.


A noun can be either singular or plural. The definite articles for singular nouns are mentioned above. In plural, the definite article is called “die” for all grammatical genders in simple form (nominative case). The German plurals are treated in lesson substantive declension. There, you will also learn how to decline plural nouns in the other three cases.


Examples of basic masculine, feminine and neuter German nouns related to parts of the body




der Arm (arm)

die Lippe (lip)

das Auge (eye)           

der Finger (finger)

die Nase (Nose)

das Bein (leg)

der Fuß (foot)

die Shulter (shoulder)

das Gehirn (brain)

die Hand (hand)

die Stirn (forehead)

das Gesicht (face)

der Hals (neck)

die Wange (cheek)

das Haar (hair)

der Körper (body)

die Zunge (tongue)

das Kinn (chin)

der Mund (mouth)


das Knie (knee)

der Zahn (tooth)


das Kopf (head)



das Ohr (ear)



Study the vocabulary part first. Translate the following words into German. Are the corresponding German nouns f, m or n?

tooth, head, cheek, lip, face, foot, neck, tongue