Der, Die, Das

So, I mentioned in an earlier post that German has three genders, and that it was going to be tricky. News flash: it still is! Thankfully, unlike with French, I’m guiding my own learning in German. So I’ve decided, unlike when I was taught French, that I will build gender into every word I learn. For this, the words der, die, and das have been very helpful. They all mean “the”, but der is masculine, die is feminine, and das is neutral. So, for example, when I learn the word Fisch (Fish), I actually learn der Fisch (the Fish). That way I don’t forget that Fisch is male later on.

In German, “Junge” (boy) is masculine, while “Mädchen” (girl) is neutral. Photo credit:

The difficult thing about all this (just when I thought it wasn’t going to get more complicated) is that the gender of a word doesn’t necessarily correspond with the gender of the person to which it refers. So, for example, Mädchen (girl) is das Mädchen. It takes the neutral “the”. Even more odd: Junge (boy) is der Junge. So “boy” has a gender, while “girl” doesn’t. How cool is that?! Linguistically, does that mean that girls acquire gender later in life while boys are born with it?

Nobody I’ve told about this in real life has been quite as excited/curious as I am, so I’m throwing my excitement into the void that is the internet instead. Maybe I should have been a linguistics student after all…


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