Predicting Noun Genders

Predicting Noun Genders

Practice Exercises One-Page Summary
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Fun Facts (Which gender is most common? Does gender affect the way we think?)

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.


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], der König, der Essig [=vinegar], der Teig [=dough], der Zweig [=twig]
-ling der Säugling [=infant], der Riesling [eine Weinsorte], der
Schwächling [=weakling], der Feigling [=coward], der Fiesling [=mean/nasty person]
-ant der Elefant, der Lieferant [=supplier], der Diamant, der Praktikant [=intern]
BUT NOTE: das Restaurant
-us der Idealismus, der Kommunismus, der Zirkus


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 [=male 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


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- [note these often end in -e; Ge- is “stronger” than -e in determining gender] das Gebäude [=building], das Gebirge [=mountain range], das Geschrei [=screaming], das Gebüsch [=bushes]
Nouns with diminutive suffixes: -chen, -lein (and their dialect forms: -le, -erl, -el, -li) das Kindlein, das Mädchen, das Hartmutchen, Hänsel & Gretel
Nouns ending in -(i)um; note the suffix –tum das Museum, das Visum, das Forum, das Antibiotikum, das Aquarium, das Medium, das Opium; das Wachstum, das Datum
BUT NOTE: The suffix -auis masculine: der Baum, der Raum, der Schaum
AND NOTE: der Irrtum, der Reichtum
Nouns ending in -ment das Experiment, das Dokument, das Element, das Instrument
Nouns ending in -ma das Thema, das Schema, das Prisma, das Koma, das Komma, das Drama, das Aroma, das Asthma
BUT NOTE: die Firma, der Puma

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 are (almost) always used without an article (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, and here for a TED talk by the author. Here are some things this article says about noun genders:

  • 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.