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Some Hints on How to Guess Gender
Masculine Feminine Neuter

Practice Exercises

Übung Here's a general exercise to practice noun genders.

Basic Scientific Vocabulary This exercise lets you practice the genders of the nouns in the Basic Scientific Vocabulary for Scientific German 232. There are over 80 items; you will see 30 of them each time you load the exercise.

Masculine

Male people, male animals der Mann, der Professor, der Lehrer, der Stier
Many instruments/things that do things (when these words end in -er or -or) der Computer, der Toaster, der Kugelschreiber, der Motor
Days, months, seasons, most weather 
elements
der Tag, der Freitag, der September, der Winter
der Schnee, der Regen, der Nebel [=fog]
Points on the compass: der Norden, der Süden, der Osten, der Westen
Makes (names) of cars:  der Volkswagen/der VW, der Porsche, der Toyota
BUT NOTE: das Auto
Most non-German rivers der Mississippi, der Mekong, der Nil, der Amazonas
Most nouns ending in -en der Garten, der Hafen [=harbour], der Ofen [=oven]

 
Nouns ending in...
-ig der Honig [=honey], der Käfig [=cage]
-ling der Schwächling [=weakling]
-ant der Elefant, der Lieferant [=supplier], der Kontrast
-us der Idealismus, der Kommunismus, der Zirkus

Feminine

Female people, female animals  die Frau, die Professorin, die Kuh, die Gans
Most German rivers die Donau, die Mosel, die Elbe, die Weser, die Oder
BUT NOTE: der Rhein, der Main
Most nouns ending in -e BUT NOTE: der Käse, der Name, das Ende, das Auge, der Affe [and other animals], der Biologe [and other male job designations], der Kunde [=customer]

 
Nouns ending in...
-ei  die Bücherei (library), die Datei (file [on a computer])
-schaft  die Wissenschaft [=science], die Freundschaft [=friendship]; die Wirtschaft [=economy; also means "pub"!]
-heit/ -keit die Dummheit [=stupidity], die Schwierigkeit [=difficulty]
-ung  die Landung [=landing], die Bedeutung [=meaning]
-tät  die Universität, die Elektrizität
-ion die Situation, die Religion, die Funktion
-ik  die Logik, die Ethik, die Symbolik, die Mechanik
-ie  die Philosophie, die Biologie, die Monotonie, die Magie
-enz/ -anz die Frequenz, die Toleranz, die Diskrepanz
-ur  die Kultur, die Prozedur, die Natur

Neuter

Human babies and animal babies das Baby, das Kind, das Kalb, das Lamm
Most metals  das Gold, das Kupfer, das Silber, das Nickel, das Kadmium
Verb infinitives turned into nouns  das Leben [=life], das Schwimmen (as in: Swimming is fun)
Collectives with Ge- das Gebäude [=building], das Gebirge [=mountain range], das Geschrei [=screaming], das Gebüsch [=bushes]
Nouns w. diminutive suffixes: -chen, -lein (and their dialect forms: -le, -erl, -el, -li)  das Kindlein, das Mädchen, das Hartmutchen
Hänsel & Gretel
Nouns ending in -ment or -(i)um das Experiment, das Museum, das Datum, das Opium

Fun Facts (Which gender is most common? Does gender affect the way we think?)

Click here for an article by Duden (in German) that includes the following fun facts:

  • 98.7% of German nouns have a single gender. Just under 1.3% can be used with two genders, and .02% can be used with all three genders. Less than 0.1% of nouns have no gender at all (e.g. AIDS, Allerheiligen (a holiday)).
  • Of the nouns with a unique gender, 46% are feminine, 34% masculine, and 20% neuter. So, if in doubt about the gender of a noun, guess "die" :)

Click here for a generally fascinating article on the results of actual empirical research on how language affects the way we think. Here are some things this article says about gender:

  • Does treating chairs as masculine and beds as feminine in the grammar make Russian speakers think of chairs as being more like men and beds as more like women in some way? It turns out that it does. In one study, we asked German and Spanish speakers to describe objects having opposite gender assignment in those two languages. The descriptions they gave differed in a way predicted by grammatical gender. For example, when asked to describe a "key" — a word that is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish — the German speakers were more likely to use words like "hard," "heavy," "jagged," "metal," "serrated," and "useful," whereas Spanish speakers were more likely to say "golden," "intricate," "little," "lovely," "shiny," and "tiny." To describe a "bridge," which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish, the German speakers said "beautiful," "elegant," "fragile," "peaceful," "pretty," and "slender," and the Spanish speakers said "big," "dangerous," "long," "strong," "sturdy," and "towering." This was true even though all testing was done in English, a language without grammatical gender. The same pattern of results also emerged in entirely nonlinguistic tasks (e.g., rating similarity between pictures). And we can also show that it is aspects of language per se that shape how people think: teaching English speakers new grammatical gender systems influences mental representations of objects in the same way it does with German and Spanish speakers. Apparently even small flukes of grammar, like the seemingly arbitrary assignment of gender to a noun, can have an effect on people's ideas of concrete objects in the world.
  • In fact, you don't even need to go into the lab to see these effects of language; you can see them with your own eyes in an art gallery. Look at some famous examples of personification in art — the ways in which abstract entities such as death, sin, victory, or time are given human form. How does an artist decide whether death, say, or time should be painted as a man or a woman? It turns out that in 85 percent of such personifications, whether a male or female figure is chosen is predicted by the grammatical gender of the word in the artist's native language. So, for example, German painters are more likely to paint death as a man, whereas Russian painters are more likely to paint death as a woman.



   
 

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