Gender in plural



I have two questions:

Questions 1: 

Ich habe einen Freund / Ich habe eine Freund

 When you use these two words they can both be understood in two ways. One is that you have a normal regular friend and the other is that you are in a relationship with this person. 

Is there a way to avoid confusion and what do Germans do in practice?

Questions 2: 

Freunde / Freundinnen and similar words e.g. (Kunden / Kundinnen) etc. 

Do you always have to use both words if you are refering to a group of people that includes males and females? 

E.g. "I am hanging out with a group of friends (males and females)", "My customers (males and females) are...". Basically, what do Germans do in practice? 



Hallo RexV,


Thank you for your question! This is definitely a confusing topic!


1.) Ich habe einen Freund / ich habe eine Freundin

There is no specific rule when it comes to differentiating between a friend and a boyfriend/girlfriend as it usually depends on the context but there are often a few ‘clues’ that will help you determine which one is meant. Here are some examples:

  • “Hast du einen Freund/eine Freundin?” - “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?” (When someone asks you this question, they are usually interested to know if you are in a relationship)
  • “Ich habe einen Freund/eine Freundin." - “I have a boyfriend/girlfriend.” (This statement with no other information given usually means that you are in a relationship) BUT
  • “Ich habe eine Freundin, die Klavier spielt.” - “I have a friend (female) who plays the piano.” (This person is a friend of yours who plays the piano)


  • “Ein Freund/eine Freundin von mir (…)” - “A friend (male/female) of mine (…)”  (This person is just a friend)


  • “Mein Freund/meine Freundin (…)” - “My boyfriend/girlfriend (…)” (Using “mein(e)" is usually an indication that you're talking about your boyfriend or girlfriend but please note that this ‘rule’ is not always reliable as it also relies on the context)
  • “Ich treffe mich heute Nachmittag mit meinem Freund." - “I am meeting my boyfriend this afternoon.” (It's likely that you're talking about your boyfriend here)
  • “Ich treffe mich heute Nachmittag mit meinem Freund Thomas zum Grillen.” - “I am meeting my friend Thomas for barbeque this afternoon.” (Thomas is likely to be just a friend but could also be their boyfriend)
  • “Kennst du meine Freundin?” - “Do you know my girlfriend?”
  • “Kennst meine Freundin Sabine?” - “Do you know my friend Sabine?” (Sabine could be a friend or their girlfriend)
  • “Kennst du Sabine? Sie ist meine Freundin.” - “Do you know Sabine? She is my girlfriend.” (Sabine is likely to be their girlfriend)


2.) Freunde / Freundinnen and similar words e.g. (Kunden / Kundinnen) etc. 

This depends on the group of friends you are referring to. If the group consists of male friends only, you would use “Freunde”. If there are only girls in the group, you would call them “Freundinnen”. And if it's a mixed group, you can say “Freunde”. 

The same principle applies to customers (males and females) but because you usually have both male and female customers in a shop for example, you can say “meine Kunden” - “my customers" - or if you want to be more inclusive “”meine Kunden und Kundinnen"- “my customers (male and female)”.


I hope you will find this helpful!


Viele Grüße,





Super, thanks!


Regarding the first one.

What if I write “Heute treffe ich mit einem Freund” 

Would this be a way where people understand that it is a friend and not a relationship you are referring to?






Hallo RexV!


Yes, “Heute treffe ich mich mit einem Freund.” would mean that you are referring to a friend. Please note that "treffen" is a reflexive verb and therefore takes a reflexive pronoun ("mich" in this case").


Viele Grüße,


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