Tag Archives: definite article

Less Tension from Declension?

How’s this for a memory aid (eine Eselsbrücke)? 
For the articles and adjective forms for the Dative case with definite articles recite:

Two dems (dames) der (dare) a den (Dane) to a definite dativ (date); they’re all –en (in)

   Masculine definite article dative case: dem 
   Neuter definite article dative case: dem
   Feminine definite article dative case: der
   Plural definite article dative case: den

When these articles are followed by an adjective, that adjective takes an n/en ending.

Jemand muß dem armen verzweifelten englischsprachigen Mann helfen.
Jemand muß dem armen verzweifelten englischsprachigen Kind helfen.
Jemand muß der armen verzweifelten englischsprachigen Frau helfen.
Jemand muß den armen verzweifelten englischsprachigen Studentinnen helfen.

Perhaps this little mnemonic will be of some help for some other poor and desperate English speaking person, at least when trying to use the dative case with a definite article with verbs like helfenpassen and danken?!

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“Tiny” words that get no bigger

Yesterday I was discussing how to form the plural of das Kaninchen – “rabbit.” This discussion began because this word, and a picture of a rabbit, appears on the cover of the Pixi book Unsere Tiere: Ein Bestimmungsbuch – Our Animals: A Field (Classification) Guide – and unfortunately for German learners, the cover is the only place where the definite article appears. (This seems a bit ironic given the book’s title includes a compound with die Bestimmung, a word from the same family as the adjective bestimmt, since the “definite article” is a bestimmter Artikel.) Bob joked that we would simply have to use the definite plural – die – all the time which got us wondering how the plural for –chen words was formed.

A quick check with dict.cc showed that several sample –chen words (that we’d been discussing on another day because of their pronunciations) – das Stäbchen and das Mädchen (“chopstick” and “girl”) – had null plurals. Immediately, a new hypothesis came to mind, perhaps both of the major diminutive forms –chen and –lein – have null plurals? I investigated this with das Buchlein and das Fräulein (“booklet” and “unmarried woman”) and it appeared to hold true. A quick search today led me to this page on the German for English Speakers site. It shared two facts that I already knew about the two big German diminutives (pun intended): they take das as a definite article and they often trigger an umlaut during conversion. It also confirmed the new idea that their singular and plural forms are identical.

I have to say I love a rule that tells you to do absolutely nothing to signal a grammatical change, such rules seem rather few and far between in German!

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