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In this lesson, we're going to have a look at German nouns and start building basic sentences. 😊

What are nouns?

Very generally, a noun is a word, that refers to a thing or a person. Places, ideas & animals are also nouns. And there's a few more types of things that are nouns. But for this introductory lesson, let's just focus on things & people.

So some examples of nouns are: apple, Thomas, supermarket.

Definite & Indefinite Nouns

Now, nouns can be definite or indefinite. In English, when I'm talking about a particular apple, I will say "the apple". If I'm talking about apples more generally or no particular apple, I would say "an apple".

This is the same in German: The definite form is der Apfel, while the indefinite form is ein Apfel.

German Noun Gender (der, die, das)

So far, German seems to be quite similar to English. But one thing that's different & maybe a bit funky about German is that nouns have gender:

Every German noun is either either masculine, feminine or neuter. And while it might seem to make sense that a noun like man should be masculine, and tree should be neuter, this is not how to works: Objects like apples, tables, lamps & pillows can take any of 3 genders.

So make sure that when you study German vocabulary, you also learn the gender of each noun.

Building Sentences with Nouns

Now let's take a few nouns and try to build a sentence: der Apfel, Thomas, der Supermarkt. If we want to build a sentence from these words, we'll need to connect them in a meaningful way.

That's what verbs are for. We'll cover verbs in more detail in the next section, but for now let's just create a few sentences using some basic verbs: to eatessen & to gogehen.

Thomas geht zum Supermarkt.

Thomas goes to the supermarket

Now that was simple enough, right? Just like in English!

But here's the thing:

Der Apfel ist rot.

Ich esse den Apfel.

Why has the article of apple just changed? Why isn't it the apple in both sentences?

The German Case System

The answer to the first question is that the article of apple hasn't actually changed - it's still der Apfel (masculine).

But the answer to the second question (why we can't use the same word everywhere) is: the German case system.

In German, sentences work like little puzzles. If you take a word and want to fit it into that sentence, that word needs to have the right form, so it can dock into the structure of that sentence. It has to be the correct puzzle piece.

There are 4 puzzle pieces (cases) in German: Nominativ, Akkusativ, Dativ, Genitiv.

In this lesson, we'll look at the nominative & the accusative cases.




Now that we know all of that, let's practice a little. Take these nouns:

der Hund der Mann der Apfel

die Frau die Lampe die Wohnung

das Kissen das Sofa das Buch

Identify Nominative & Accusative:

  1. Der Mann sieht den Hund.
  2. Jana möchte den Hund kaufen.
  3. Der Mann liest das Buch und die Frau isst den Apfel.

Turn definite into indefinite:

Der Mann sieht den Hund ===> der Mann sieht einen Hund.


Der Mann sieht die Hunde. Der Mann sieht Hunde.