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The Basics
Knowing a Nouns Gender
Declension of Nouns
Using Cases
Declension of Adjectives
Comparison of Adjectives
Using Pronouns
How to Use Articles and Related Words

When to use definite article | When not to use definite article | When not to use indefinite article | Declining Words | Dieser | Jener | Jener and Dieser | Solcher | Mancher | Kein | Possessive Adjectives

This lesson focuses on where and when to use the indefinite and definite articles. There are places where English would have an article and German has none, and also where German has one but English doesn't.
When to use the definite article in German when it would be omitted in English:
(a) before any abstract nouns and nouns used in a generlised sense that are usually plural:
das Leben - life
die Ehe - marriage
(b) before proper nouns if preceeded by an adjective:
der alte Heinz - old Heinz
(c) with prices where English would have per/a:
Es kostet acht Mark das Kilo. - It costs eight marks a Kilo.
(d) with countries unles they are neuter singular which most are:
Er wohnt in der Tschechoslowakei. - He lives in Czechoslowakia
Er wohnt in England. - He lives in England.
(e) for items of clothing and body parts where English would use possessive pronouns:
Er hat sich das Bein verletzt. - He hurt his leg.
Sie zog den Mantel aus. - She took her coat off.
(f) with days, months, seasons, and meals:
Der Winter ist immer kalt. - Winter is always cold.
nach dem Frühstück - after breakfast
(g) with names of streets or squares, but not addresses:
Der Kennedyplatz ist gerade in der Stadtmitte. - Kennedy Square is right in the town centre.
Der Bahnhof liegt in der Königstraße. - The station is in King Street.
(h) to indicate that a noun is in the genitive or dative case:
Ich ziehe Tee dem Kaffee vor. - I prefer tea to coffee.
Ein Ausdruck des Erstaunens - an expression of astonishment
(i) with the adjective meist (most):
Die meisten Leute glauben das nicht. - Most people don't believe that.
(j) in many set phrases frequently encountered:
in der Stadt - in town
in der Schule - in school
Dem Himmel sei Dank! - Thank heavens!
in derTat - in fact
When the German would omitt the definite article but English would not:
(a) in legal, military, and other jargon:
Es ist nicht Sache dieses Gerichtes. - It's not the business of this court.
(b) often before an adjective that is before a noun:
Jüngstes Mitgleid der Mannschaft ist Schmidt. - The youngest member of the team is Smith.
(c) in many set phrases frequently encountered:
Sie hören Nachrichten. - You are listening to the news.
Es ist Mode geworden. - It has become the fashion.
Hauptsache ist... - The main thing is...
When the German would omitt the indefinite article but English would not:
(a) after sein, werden, bleiben (provided there is no adjective) when indicating proffession, nationality, or religion:
Mein Mann ist Deutscher. - My husband is a German.
Er ist Lehrer. - He is a teacher.
Er ist ein guter Lehrer. - He is a good teacher.
(b) after als (as a):
Ich spreche als Engländer. - I speak as an Englishman.
Das gab er mir als Geschenk. - He gave me that as a present.
(c) the so-called "adverbial genitive":
Sie ist guter Laune. - She is in a good mood.
Er verabschiedete sich leichten Herzens. - He took his leave with a light heart.
(d) a number of idiomatic expressions:
Freitags ist Sitzung. - There is a meeting on Fridays.
Ich habe Kopfschmerzen. - I have a headache.
Now we will focus our attention to words which decline like the definite article. These include: dieser, jeder, jener, mancher, and solcher.
Dieser is mostly used as English that and not this:
Er arbeitete fleißig in diesen Jahren. - He worked hard in those days.
Diese Route würde ich nicht empfehlen. - I wouldn't recommend that route.
Secondly, jener is used to contrast with dieser or show remoteness: Diese Geschichte ist noch langweiliger als jene. - This story is even more boring that that one.
Ich erinnere mich jenes Tages noch genau. - I can still vividly remember that day.
Thirdly, jener and dieser are used to mean the former and the latter:
Jean und Paco sind Ausländer: dieser ist Spanier, jener Franzose. - Jean and Paco are foreigners: the latter is Spanish, the former French.
With this usage dieser represents the second noun which is closer, and jener represents the first and more distant noun.
Solcher on its own declines that dieser, although, before ein it is undeclined:
Ich habe nie solchen Hunger gehabt. - I have never been this hungry.
Solch einen Wein habe ich nie getrunken. - I have never drunk a wine like this.
Mancher works the same way:
Das ist schon manchem passiert. - That has happened to many a man.
Note: the other form is rarely found and considered archaic:
manch gute Frau - many a good woman
Of the words which decline like mein, special attention should be paid to kein (not a, not any, no):
Kein is found where one would expect to have nicht ein:
Wir haben kein Auto. - We haven't a car.
Er hat keine Zeit. - He has not time.
Sie ist kein Kind mehr. - She's no longer a child.
Possessive adjectives are used pretty much the same as in English, except they should be repeated before each noun:
mein Bruder und meine Schwester - my brother and sister
Note: this applies even to nouns of the same gender:
Gib mir meinen Hut und meinen Mantel! - Give me my hat and coat!
Lesson Four - Declension of Nouns -->