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Der Nullartikel - the Zero-Article

Normally, a noun in German comes with an article:

With a definite article (der, das, die) or with an indefinite article (a, an).

But sometimes we don't need an article. Then we say: The noun has got a zero-article.

You will easily learn the zero article in German grammar and how to use it in this article.

I. What is the Zero-Article, der Nullartikel?

Normally nouns have a definite article (der/die/das) or an indefinite article.

But there are exceptions.

In some cases, nouns come without articles. Then we say: The noun has a zero article.

You can think of it like a vacuum:

  • There is no air = There is a vacuum.

  • There is no article = There is a zero article.

zero article in German Grammar with examples

II. How to use the Zero-Article in German Grammar

In the following cases, you do not need an article. That means: we have a zero-article.

To show it's position, it is marked here like this: ()

1. The indefinite article in the plural

The indefinite article (a, an) has no plural form. That's why you need the zero article here:

  • Hier ist eine Blume 🌷. - Hier sind () Blumen💐.

  • Franziska hat einen Hund 🐕. - Franziska hat () Hunde🐕🐩.

2. Proper names of People and Companies

We use the zero-article for proper names of people and companies.

  • Das ist () Sonja.

  • Die Geschirrspülmaschine ist von () Siemens.

3. Nationalities and Languages

The same is true for nationalities and languages:

  • Ich bin Deutsche und Pierre ist Franzose.

  • Pierre lernt Deutsch.

  • Lena spricht Französisch.

4. Cities, Continents, Countries

Cities, continents, and most countries also take the zero-article.

  • Warst du schon in () Hamburg?

  • Deutschland liegt in () Europa.“


Some countries always have an article:

  • Olha komme aus der Ukraine

  • Jim kommt aus den USA.

5. Professions

For Professions, you need the zero-article if you use „werden“ (to become), „sein“ (to be), or „als“ (as).

  • Theresa ist () Lehrerin/ Schülerin/ Krankenschwester/ ...

  • Frau Müller arbeitet als () Taxifahrerin.

  • Alexander will () Arzt werden.

6. After Size, Weight, or Number descriptions

There is a zero-article after size, weight, or quantity (number description).

  • Möchtest du eine Tasse () Kaffee?

  • Du brauchst 250g () Zucker.

  • Für dieses Rezept nimmst du drei () Bananen.

7. Materials and Substances

Materials and Substances come without an article.

For example: Wasser, Holz, Gold, Papier, Seide, Wolle, ...

  • Der Tisch ist aus () Holz.

  • Das Spiezeug ist aus () Plastik.

8. Abstract Nouns

Abstract Nouns are the ones that you can neither see nor touch.

For example: Luft, Liebe, Glück, Wut, Freude, Hoffnung ...

They also come with the zero-article.

  • Die Blumen brauchen () Licht.

  • Das Malen macht mir () Freude.

III. Exceptions: you need an article, if ...

1. There is an adjective before the noun

If there is an adjective before the noun, you usually (not always!) need an article:

  • Das ist () Sonja. (without adjective)

  • Das ist die liebe Sonja. (with adjective)

  • Alexander will () Arzt werden. (without adjective)

  • Alexander will ein guter Arzt werden. (with adjective)

Remember: Just like in English, there is no plural of undetermined articles.

  • Hier sind () Blumen.

  • Hier sind schöne () Blumen. (with adjective but without article)

2. Specific People or Things

  • Frau Müller ist () Taxifahrerin.

  • Frau Müller ist die Taxifahrerin mit dem großen, neuen Auto. (= precisely this women)

  • Frau Müller ist eine Taxifahrerin, mit der ich sehr gerne fahre. (= closer description, can be one of many)

  • Hier sind die schönen Blumen, die mir mein Mann geschenkt hat. (these specific flowers - with a determined article).

IV. Summary

The zero-article means: There is no article in front of the noun.

You usually need the zero article when a noun is unspecified.

If there is an adjective before the noun, you often cannot leave out the article.

Is there a zero article in your language? Is it used the same way as in German?

Recognizing the differences and similarities can help you learn German!


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