Thoughts on German Gender

I am 67 and trying not to be a permanent beginner German learner. One of the most difficult things in German I find is having to attach a gender to every noun. There are many suggestions. Blue for Male. Red for Female Green for Neutral. This is a good start but ultimately you will turn a beautiful multi coloured world into a boring tri coloured one and the system breaks down because of the miss-match between your marker items (the 3 colours) and the vast number of nouns. This can be helped by adding another set of markers say a Square for Male, a Circle for Female and a Cross for Neutral. You could also use Cold for Male, Hot for Female and Wet for Neutral.
Or maybe even feelings, Angry for Male, Calm for Female and Tired for Neutral.
Or maybe famous people, Churchill for Male, The Queen for Female, Gandhi for Neutral.

Nevertheless even if using all the above there is the miss-match between a few markers and the vast amount of nouns. Was it Blue ? Was it red ? Cold ? Hot ? Angry ? Everything can become a bit of a mush.

I think there is a better way. I’ll call this the Gender Pair Method. All you do is think about the noun who’s gender you want to remember and pair it with a noun who’s gender you already definitely know. This gender and noun then becomes a marker.

e.g. you can’t remember that Berg is masculine just think of a man walking up a mountain, can’t remember the gender for Straße just think of a woman walking down a road. Of course only use one known noun and one unknown noun. (if you don’t know the gender of a noun it’s unknown).

As you get better at German the amount of nouns you definitely know the gender of increases. Therefore you have more and more markers as you go along. No more boring mush. Hello variety.

Hope this is helpful.


I had a similar problem with genders at first. I tried rote memorization of words with der-die-das, tried to associate colors - all in vain.

The most effective way for me turned out to be the following:

  • I chose a real geographical place that I remembered well.
  • I divided it into three parts, one for feminine, one for male and one for neutral objects.
  • So when I needed to remember the gender of a word, I just left it in the appropriate area and that’s it.
    It’s hard to forget where you put an object, especially when you’ve done something with it - and there’s no limit to what you can do in your imagination :slight_smile:

It is quite a time-consuming activity, and over time I found myself using it less and less. Somehow the genders stopped being such a problem.


Well, I’m a believer :grin: and I have decided to not think about it anymore for now.

I think that if you have lots of input, and afterwards writing and speaking outputs, best if with a full immersion period in the target country (even few months at the end of your LingQ’s studies), you will get there without any trick.

There is a moment, if you keep studying the language and immersing yourself in it, that you “feel” or “get” the language.

For example, you understand that a word in a sentence doesn’t sound right, or that you don’t remember the spelling of a word but you “know” that what you are writing is not correct.

This is a moment when you are more in sync with the language. I believe that if I keep studying or learning German, there will be a moment when I will get the language. In this moment, most of the genders nouns will go into their place simply because they will sound right (and the few others it doesn’t matter, there are always synonymous and workarounds).

I use a few associations here and there too but as I said, I don’t think about it anymore. Once I will decide to increase my writing outputs consistently, when I will be satisfied with my inputs, I will focus more on those details.


I have a similar method for German. I associate the word with an image. So for Bus I picture a rubgy team travelling to the game in a bus. The team is male, hence der Bus. For terrace, I picture a hen party on a terrace, hence die Terasse. And so on. For heart, well we all have a heart, so it must be das Herz.

I find that this works initially until the gender is in long term memory. But my 60 year old memory seems to be improving, probably due to language learning, so it’s not always needed.

One lovely aspect of German is that der Busfahrplan and die Waschmachine are obvious if you know der Plan and die Maschine.

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