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Natural gender

 
 
In German grammar, natural gender is much less important than grammatical gender. See Natural gender and grammatical gender. Natural gender is relevant to German morphology and syntax only when it is identical with grammatical gender. This can be the case with:

Nouns referring to persons  
Animal names


Nouns referring to persons

The grammatical gender and the natural gender of nouns that refer to persons are often identical. This is particularly true for terms for relatives and terms for professions:

der Mann  –  die Frau
der Vater  –  die Mutter
der Sohn  –  die Tochter
der Onkel  –  die Tante
der Knecht  –  die Magd
der Lehrer  –  die Lehrerin
der Arzt  –  die Ärztin
der Kaufmann  –  die Kauffrau

Exceptions are, for example:

das Mädchen, das Fräulein, das Weib, die Wache, das Mannequin

Feminine terms for professions:

Many masculine terms for professions were also used for women because the corresponding feminine term was lacking. In modern German, however, the feminine terms on –in (or –frau) are preferred:

Lehrerin, Beamtin, Informatikerin, Rennfahrerin, Politikerin, Geschäftsfrau.

It is also becoming more and more common to use both the masculine and feminine terms when one is referring to persons of both sexes:

Liebe Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter
Nur die Hälfte der 150 Parlamentarier und Parlamentarierinnen waren anwesend.

Sometimes, these slightly awkward formulations are avoided by using gender-neutral expressions:

die Studierenden der Universität Zürich
Wenden sie sich an eine Fachperson.
An dieser Schule arbeiten 27 Lehrkräfte.


Also possible:

Mitarbeiter/-innen
Mitarbeiter(innen)
Kolleg(inn)en

The forms with brackets are criticised by some as indicating that the parts in brackets are less important.

Although the official spelling rules do not allow for the use of capital letters inside a word, forms with "Binnen-I" are frequently used:

LehrerInnen, TeilnehmerInnen


Animal names

The grammatical gender and the natural gender of nouns that refer to animals are sometimes identical, especially when the nouns are names for domestic animals and other "commonly known" animals:

der Stier  –  die Kuh
der Hahn  –  die Henne
der Hengst  –  die Stute
der Bär  –  die Bärin
der Löwe  –  die Löwin

There are many exceptions:
  • Names for young domestic animals are often neuter:

    das Kalb, das Fohlen, das Lamm, das Küken

  • Some "commonly known" animals have a separate, neuter name that refers to both male and female animals:

    das Pferd (Stute or Hengst), das Rind (Kuh or Stier), das Reh (Ricke or Bock);

  • In general, one name is used for both male and female animals:

    die Amsel, die Maus, der Delphin, der Adler, das Schnabeltier, das Wiesel, etc.

    If necessary, the natural gender can be expressed by –männchen and –weibchen:

    das Delphinmännchen – das Delphinweibchen.

    In a few cases, other compounds are used:

    der Elefantenbulle – die Elefantenkuh.






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