The article – a neverending story
Posted 2. September 2009on:
I am a German native speaker, which means German articles (as in „Das Mädchen“) don’t faze me – it rarely happens that I forget what article goes with which word. However, every person that tries to learn German will tell you one thing – the way articles are defined (or defy definition) in German is very hard to learn!
Let me back up a bit – an article that denominates a, well, noun, is an article – this is extremely basic, and you all have seen and used articles. In English, you have articles that are genderless – the and a. In German, the three genders all have their own articles (der, die, das for male, female and neutral respectively) – I’m not even going plural here, because then you’d have double that amount.
Now, if German were to simply follow grammatical logic, you’d think that a „die“ article is linked to a ‚female‘ noun. For instance – „the girl.“ should be, following that logic, be translated into „Die Mädchen.“, because a girl is inherently female.
But that’s not how German works. Most of the time that logic applies, but there are alot of examples where it completely fails you, and then you will look like an utter fool for saying „die Mädchen“. Now, some exceptions to rules have their own little rules so you can remember when there’s an exception. However, there isn’t one with this exception – every article relates to some shift in usage in the past, which might explain a few of the oddities in article usage, but it is impossible to collect a comprehensive list of every German noun and why the specific article is used for it – most of it doesn’t follow logic, since language itself doesn’t necessarily follows logic – we try to systemize it so we can learn it easier, but languages are not planned out and created like that – oddities happen.