"Alex is not a woman, but a man."
Translation:Alex ist keine Frau, sondern ein Mann.
Aber cannot be used for mutually exclusive alternatives and if there is no possibility to have none of the options:
- Ich habe kein Bier, aber (ich habe) Wein. (I could as well have no drinks at all, or both)
- Heute ist nicht Freitag, sondern Dienstag. (Today must be one of the days of the week, there is no none-day, and no two days at once)
In another question, the correct answer is "Sie trägt keinen Rock, sondern einen Mantel". Duolingo declines the final noun to "einen Mantel". Why is the above question not declined to "einen Mann"?
Both words are masculine, both are indefinite, both words appear in the exact same position of the sentence, and both sentences feature "sondern" as the conjunctive word. I'm looking for a deviation here...
Is it because this refers to a human (or an animate form?) rather than an inanimate object? Do we retain humans in their nominative form, even when in the accusative position?
The difference is in the verb. In "Sie trägt keinen Rock, sondern einen Mantel," both Rock and Mantel are in the accusative (direct object) case, and thus kein and ein become keinen and einen. This is because something is being done (or not being done) directly to the skirt/coat (someone is wearing it).
Here, we have "Alex ist keine Frau, sondern ein Mann," and Frau and Mann are in the nominative (subject) case. This is because Alex is not doing anything to the man, he is a man. If you said "Alex ist keine Frau, sondern einen Mann" to someone, they would probably have to try hard not to smile, because what you would have said would have sounded exactly like "Alex isst keine Frau, sondern einen Mann," which means "Alex isn't eating a woman, but a man"!
So the short rule is, the accusative never follows sein, because sein doesn't connect a subject (person/thing doing an action) to an object (person/thing at the receiving end of the action). Instead, it connects a subject to a predicate (something describing a person/thing or what they are doing).
Duolingo is great for teaching me words and phrases but i most often find that the most valuable explanations come from the comments. Occasionally one is really well explained and just 'clicks'. This is one of those. Thank you.
It also makes me realise that, despite speaking fluent English, my knowledge of things like cases, objects, subjects etc. is lacking, so this is also improving my understanding of English grammar.
I suppose formally in both the English and German sentences, an elipsis was used (the part in brakets can be omitted):
Alex ist keine Frau, sondern [er ist] ein Mann.
Are the elipsis rules the same for both English and German? Or is there an example where you can leave out part of a sentence in one language, but not the other?