Articles make it possible to identify the gender, the number and (more precisely in German) the case of the nouns. There are also two main types in German: Definite articles and indefinite articles.
I will detail here as clearly and simply as possible the rules of use of these.
1. Definite articles ( der, die, das)
They play the same function as the.
♦ These are used on the one hand to designate something or someone specific.
Example: Mark ist der Freund von Clara ( Mark is the friend/boyfriend of Clara)
♦ On the other hand, they indicate a person or thing that has already been mentioned or known.
Example: Das Medikament hilft ihm ( The drug helps him )
2. Indefinite article ( ein, eine)
As you may have guessed, they are the englisch equivalent of a or an.
♦ Their function is on the one hand to indicate something that has not yet been determined.
Example: Mark ist ein Freund von Clara. ( Mark is a friend of Clara’s)
♦ On the other hand, to quote something in a story for the first time.
Example: Ein Medikament hat ihm sehr geholfen. ( a drug helped him a lot)
As you can see, it’s not a big deal.
Important: In addition, we also distinguish cases where the article is preceded by a preposition. What you need to know in this case is that the preposition will influence your article and the name that follows it. It may also happen that the preposition and the article contract to form a single word.
We obtain shapes such as:
An dem = Am
Bei dem = Beim
Zu dem = Zum
Zu der = Zur
von dem = vom
in dem = im
in das = ins
And finally, when there are no articles, it can be:
> Names of countries except Switzerland (die Schweiz), the USA (die USA) and Turkey (die Türkei).
Example¹: Ich bin in Griechendland (I am in Greece).
Example²: ich bin in der Türkei ( I am in Turkey).
> Place names.
Example: Sie wohnen in Berlin ( they live in Berlin)
> Of a discipline such as sport, music, foreign languages, etc…….
Example: Ich spreche gern Deustch (I speak German)
Small precision: The “gern” just wants to specify that you like to speak this language well.
> When it is a generality
Example¹: Wir wollen noch Saft trinken (“We still want juice”)
Example²: Wo ist der Saft? ( Where’s the juice?)
> When we talk about what we are and want and/or can become.
Example¹: Er ist Taxifahrer. ( He is a taximan)
Example²: Er kann Ingenieur werden. ( He can become an engineer)
Please note that in German, words are very often used with their articles. So every time you find a word, put its article next to it, so you don’t forget which one corresponds to it later and this make your task easier.