https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

Transitive nouns

Hi, while I am a native speaker of German today I came about a problem I could not solve, and something more of you might come across: The basic question is, whether there is such a thing as transitive nouns in German. What do I mean by that:

Today I was actually buying a box of black tea. But how do I choose the correct declination for this? These were my options:

Ich kaufe eine Packung schwarzer Tee (Nominative case)

Ich kaufe eine Packung schwarzen Tees (Genitive case)

Ich kaufe eine Packung schwarzen Tee (Accusative case)

The case for the object is obviously accusative, but it is composed of two nouns. While "eine Packung" is definitively accusative, what about the tea?

I tried to look at possible origins:

Ich kaufe eine Packung vom schwarzen Tee (Something you might hear, but it sounds wrong to my ears. Here I am using a dative case, which is commonly and wrongly used instead of the genitive)

Ich kaufe eine Packung des schwarzen Tees (Genitive, sounds a bit archaic, but so do most uses of genitive because it has fallen a bit out of use in everyday speech.*)

A general rule of thumb for me was always, that when the genitive does not sound completely wrong it is usually right and should be used, while the other cases are slowly creeping in on the genitive's territory.

Still, that is only a feeling and I would like to confer with the collective knowledge here.

  • For language learners: Use the genitive. It is correct, it is used in "proper" high German and sounds good when put in the right places. It is just that many of the former uses of the genitive have been taken over by the dative, which is not technically correct, but much more common in spoken language, although that might depend on your circle. Common errors are "wegen dem Wetter" instead of "wegen des Wetters" or the horrible "Dem Frank sein Auto".
March 25, 2018

29 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Heioqei

I disagree. Use the Genitive in writing, but not in speaking (except for very formal situations). Otherwise you run in danger of sounding like a book.

"Ich kaufe eine Packung schwarzen Tee" I always say it like this. "des schwarzen Tees" sounds very forced and it might be grammatically wrong.

"Wegen dem Wetter" in normal conversation but "Wegen des Wetters" when you are talking to your boss or writing an article.

"Franks Auto" oder "Das Auto von Frank". I agree that "Dem Frank sein Auto" is horrible.

March 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

To quote the Duden;

"Präposition mit Genitiv: Umgangssprachlich auch mit Dativ:"

Please use the Genitiv, since it is the correct form. While this is changing over time like language always is, you don't have to explicitly help it, especially if you like language (which I assume you do since you are on here).

March 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Heioqei

It's just not how people normally speak, and for foreign language learners the goal should be to have a speaking style that resembles that of a normal native speaker. In English, do you always say "it is" and "will not" rather than it's and won't? No, because that's how people formally write, not how they casually speak.

It's not incorrect to use the dative case in those situations, everyone does it. (Unless it varies regionally. I'm from lower saxony and you?)

March 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/npLam

don't they have a compound noun for this? Ich kaufe eine Schwarzteepackung perhaps? :)

March 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

Indeed you can just make up that compound word, very elegant solution. Still, I'd like the non-compound version

March 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/npLam

I wish I could help you, I thought I was getting the hang of case endings until I read your question. :(

March 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

This is indeed a mean example, with Tee not changing it's ending in every case, but together with the adjective it might work^^

March 27, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/sarefo
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  • 1007

its :D

ducks

March 27, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

ouch

March 27, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/sarefo
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  • 1007

I disagree that dative is "wrongly" used instead of genitive. Some functions of genitive are being replaced by dative, due to normal language change. You say, if you like language, you should not help its change. I love language, in part because it is always changing :) What makes the German of 1920 "better" than that of 2020? Or why is the German of 1320 then not "better" than that of 1920?

"dem … sein" is absolutely fine in several regional dialects. Certain people in mainstream culture—defining positions have a strong aversion against variants their language brain is not used to, so it will probably not become a part of standard German. That's fine. But why denigrate people speaking dialects apart from The Standard as less apt. Speak as you wish, grant others the same right. The world is more colorful that way.

By the way, you have an interesting point here (about the quantity words), would love to hear an explanation of this :) — The grammatical term for this phenomenon is "partitive Apposition".

March 26, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/sarefo
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  • 1007

Here are some ideas on the topic from stackexchange.

It seems there are two mechanisms at work:

  • genitive (eine Tasse heißen Tees) — kind of outdated

  • Apposition (Das ist eine Tasse heißer Tee; Ich trinke eine Tasse heißen Tee; Ich feiere mit einer Tasse heißem Tee.) — apposition follows case of the main noun.

March 26, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/npLam

i've never (knowingly) seen apposition before. I think I like it. Many thanks!

March 26, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

Thank you very much, that is what I was looking for.

March 27, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/slamRN

sarefo - Ist das ein Spinnentier in deinem Foto? Es ist schwer klar zu sehen. Es sieht biologisch aus.

April 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

Why I don't like language change:

I don't mind words changing, because they can be looked up easily. Grammar is more of a problem. The reason I don't like language to change is the loss or the inaccessibility of information further on. Language change makes information unavailable for the general public. If you want to read the actual writings from roman or Greek philosophers, you need go to translations or learn ancient Greek/Latin. This is not really a problem, because the amount of translators is much bigger then the body of work in Greek. But now imagine people in 500 years not being able to understand what we wrote now. It will impossible to translate everything that is written today into the then current Language, simply because of lacking manpower*.

I really really hate losing information that could have been kept, if only people documented it better, and losing information because people don't know the language any more, while still seeing the writing is personally torturous to me.

This is a more philosophical argument, but I am willing to have it if you like

'* A working translation engine would solve this problem, but while computer beat humans at most things, translating to a text that you want to read seems hard

March 27, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/sarefo
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  • 1007

I don't like new people being born, and old ones dying, because then after a few generations, there will be completely different people around, that have almost no memory of the original people. I really hate losing that information. ;)

The thing is that language change is a completely natural phenomenon. It just happens. People change. The world changes. Language changes. Embrace it :)

Here's a book I liked: "The Unfolding of Language" by Guy Deutscher (2006).

Computers just reached parity to humans in translating Chinese to English.

March 27, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

That is a slight misrepresentation of my view. I do like new people being born, or the equivalent of new language features emerging. The problem here is people dying.

While I would like to read your article, the link 404s (look, a new word, even with numbers) for me. While translating scientific texts (which make up much of the more worthwhile information) will be easier to translate, imagine trying to translate all of twitter, abbreviated and grammatically dubious (from a computers point of view) to another language, while keeping possible subtext, which is not at all translated.

I stand my ground here: While adding new things to a language, one should also keep the old ones. Latin texts are usually read in Latin for good reason. They have verse and subtext which will be lost in translation (exceptions exists, but are rare). It would be sad if this happens to today's languages faster then necessary because what percentage of people have intellectual access to Latin texts? (This is not some form of elitism - I don't have that access either.)

My preference would be everyone being able to get the information he wants straight from the source. This impossible as it is, since I cannot learn a language just to understand one article in Kannada, but if we keep the archaic forms in our language alive, people centuries from now will be able to read this comment and understand it without having to resort to translations.

March 28, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/john503633

If language never changed, we would all be speaking the Indo-european root language that all our languages originated from. Going against language change is completely fruitless.

March 28, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/sarefo
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  • 1007

We would never have deviated from "uggh", because the first person saying "aggh" would have been ostracized by the language mavens of the day.

March 28, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

No, we would not, but we would still understand it.

Also, because something happend a certain way in the past does not mean it has to happen like that again. Since no one wants to understand the difference between not wanting the language to change and wanting to keep both forms alive I will leave the discussion now.

March 28, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/sarefo
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  • 1007

Sorry, link fixed.

"than" ;)

March 28, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/slamRN

Jonkobu - I think that there will be computer programs that have extremely proficient translating capabilities in 500 years. But personally, I doubt that mankind has to worry about that in 500 years.

BTW, it is communism which has never been tried out (except in very small sub-societies such as kibbutzes, the very earliest Christians, or secluded tribes) as societies go from badly-run socialist systems to tyranny and despotism before that happens.

April 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/stoopher

You don't really explain what you mean by a "transitive noun", and also don't explicitly answer your question about whether German has them or not.

For what it's worth (I'm not a native speaker), the use of the genitive looks right to me. I'm sure I've read other sentences which use a similar construction. But, that said, "eine Packung schwarzen Tees" gets only two google matches, whereas "eine Packung schwarzen Tee" gets several hundred.

March 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonkobu

Oh, yes, sorry. I don't know that they are of ig they exist in German. I just guessed the name:

Ich kaufe eine Packung (-> Packung is in the accusative. If it is transitive, does that mean the the tea is too? If I knew if German had them, I still don't know if that is the name or the exact property I'm looking for)

As for the google results: Yes, the first one is more common, but that does not mean that it is correct. As I said before, the genitive seems to be dying, and if I can avoid it, I'm not helping it die. "Wegen dem" also gets more results than "Wegen des", but here the second one is definitively the correct one (in written speech, which the internet is).

March 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/stoopher

I flicked through a novel looking for examples and found:

  • ... und verliehen ihm einen Ausdruck äußerster Verzweiflung.
  • ... bis auf ein Paar hochhackiger Schuhe.

But these are not speech, so do not prove anything? Oh well. :-) Anyway, I am with you in the fight to keep the genitive alive!

March 25, 2018
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