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Same Word, Different Gender!

Arme haben Arme
Arme haben Beine
Beine haben keine Arme
Arme Beine!


There are two versions of Arme in the above saying, one meaning "poor people" and the other meaning "arms." Actually, German has many homonyms: words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings. These are called homonyms. It is especially important to know the genders of German homonyms, since you may wind up saying or writing something entirely different than you intend, merely because you got the gender wrong!


Die Band ist eingespielt; die Models wissen, wie sie laufen müssen.

The band has warmed up; the models know how they must walk.

Caption 29, Mode - Backstage auf der Modenschau

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Allerdings ist es für die Fraport AG nicht das erste Band, das in diesem Jahr feierlich durchtrennt wurde.

However, this is not the first ribbon that was ceremoniously cut for the Fraport AG this year.

Caption 22, Rund um den Flughafen - Direktflug Frankfurt-Houston

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In addition to die Band (the band, or musical group) and das Band (the ribbon), there is also a third meaning: der Band (the volume of a book). Be careful with your genders so that you don't wind up reading a rock band, cutting the volume of a book, or listening to a ribbon!


Der damalige Leiter des Museums Wiesbaden tauscht Kunst.

The former director of the Wiesbaden Museum trades art.

Caption 9, Restituierung von Raubkunst - aus der Nazi-Zeit

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Der Herbst steht auf der Leiter [dative case of die Leiter] und malt die Blätter an.

Fall stands on the ladder and paints the leaves.

Caption 13, Sabine und Ivana - Gedichte im Bus

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Der Leiter is the leader, director, or head of an organization, and die Leiter is a ladder. Here too, with the wrong gender you may wind up following the ladder or climbing up a director!



Further Learning:

Browse through Yabla videos and find the correct genders of some German homonyms. Here are some examples of homonyms with different genders: Erbe (inheritance vs. inheritor), Gehalt (salary vs. content), Junge (boy vs. young one), Heide (moor vs. heathen), Hut (hat vs. protection), Kiefer (pine tree vs. jaw), Lama (llama vs. Tibetan religious leader), Marsch (march vs. marsh), Messer (knife vs. measuring device), Pony (hairstyle vs. pony), Schild (sign vs. shield), See (sea vs. lake), Steuer (tax vs. steering wheel), Stift (pencil vs. monastery), Tau (rope vs. dew), Taube (pigeon vs. deaf person), Titan (giant vs. titanium), Tor (goal vs. fool), Verdienst (income vs. merit), and Weise (manner vs. wise person). The next lesson will be about German homonyms with the same gender, so put your learning caps on!


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