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The genitive [ ɡeːnitiːf ] (also [ɡɛnitiːf]), rare genitive , outdated genitive, genitive of Latin [casus] genitivus / genetivus , the descent significant [he case] ' , and Wes-case or Whose Case , outdated witness case , is a case , and thus a declination form . The most typical function of the genitive is to mark attributes , ie noun [groups] that depend on another noun . Examples in standard German are: "the neighbour's house ", "the sound of a distant bell ". In addition, the genitive also appears in additions to prepositions, adjectives and verbs, as well as in certain adverbial functions.

Many grammars follow a traditional arrangement of cases in which the genitive is then referred to as the second case .

In most German dialects , the genitive can only be found at most in personal names and relatives, as well as in fixed expressions. An exception are some dialects of Valais and Walser German , which at least until the recent past had a fully functional genitive. Instead, constructions with the dative , for example “the neighbor's house” , are widespread in dialectal terms .

Functions of the genitive

Function of the genitive in the German language

For word groups a Property - or possession ratio expressed (possessive object), the genitive is used. In the phrase the neighbor's house is the neighbor in the genitive. With the question "Whose house is this?" The genitive attribute can be determined. This use of the genitive is called genitivus possessivus in grammar . In its function as an identifier for attributes in this possessive meaning (possessive genitive), the genitive occurs most frequently in German. In universals research it is therefore also referred to as possessive marking. The genitivus auctoris (genitive of the author) has a similar function, for example “Beethoven's 1st Symphony”.

In addition, the following additional functions of the genitive in German are distinguished (based on the Latin grammar tradition):

  • genitivus qualitatis (genitive of quality / quality) - the genitive designates a quality: "second class ticket", "a pleasure of short duration"
  • genitivus partitivus - the genitive expresses a relation of the share: “half of the cake”, “two of the daughters”, “the oldest son of the family”, “the other side of the coin”, “the south of the country”. A more accurate but less common name is genitivus totius, as the genitive denotes the whole from which a part is taken away.
  • genitivus subiectivus - the genitive attribute is the source of an action: "the friend's advice", "the body's reaction"
  • genitivus obiectivus - the genitive attribute is the goal of an action: "observing the law", "punishing the traitor"
  • genitivus explicativus / definitivus (explanatory genitive / definition genitive) - the genitive explains or describes another object in more detail: "ray of hope", "the punishment of banishment"
  • genitivus hebraicus / superlativus - the genitive increases the importance of the object and expresses its highest degree: "the book of books"

Form and function of the genitive in other languages

There are different uses of the genitive, depending on the language. The English grammar knows as a variant of the possessive or attributive genitive the apostrophe -s or genitive- s , written 's , z. B. Janie 's restaurant , Janie's Restaurant '. The Latin grammar knows different word endings. In the Russian language , the numerals два, три and четыре (“two”, “three” and “four”) require the genitive singular. Мне два года. - I am two years old . Numbers from five to twenty call for the genitive plural, twenty-one for the nominative because the number ends in one, twenty-two to twenty-four again for the genitive singular (Мне двадцать два года. - I am twenty-two years old.) It is followed by the genitive plural up to 30, everything is repeated for every subsequent decade up to a hundred, the nominative for a hundred and one and so on. In Lithuanian , the genitive expresses the agent in the passive ( possessive sentence construction , e.g. tėvo sergama - “the father is sick”). In several Slavic languages, e.g. B. in Slovenian , the genitive is used instead of the accusative (but not in other cases) in negated sentences.

Genitive as a case of additions

Genitive as an object case in verbs

In the German language, the genitive in its function as the genitive of the object is governed by some verbs . Examples of such verbs are: need, do without (often with the accusative), lack, remember, wait, care (only poetic: care for calm ), mock, accept, use, reflect, enjoy (older also: oneself be happy ), remember, boast, be ashamed . In the past, the objects of the verbs forgotten (still in the name Forget mine not received), warn, wait and control in the genitive, which can still be found in older texts.

Examples of sentences: You remember your friends. She remembers her last vacation. He is in excellent health. I use the genitive.

For some of these verbs it is also possible to use a preposition instead of the genitive construction: she remembers her last vacation. He mocks those present. They enjoy the flowers.

In numerous verbs in legal and judicial language, the person is in the accusative and the thing in the genitive (cf. the genitivus criminis in the Latin language). Examples are: suspecting, accusing, blaming, accusing, denouncing, convicting someone of something; but also rob someone of something, deprive them, horrify, expel them.

Genitive in adjectives

A number of adjectives can also rule the genitive, for example bar, eager, conscious, thoughtful, capable, free, happy, finding, remembering, aware, cautious, certain, used, having, knowledgeable, single, powerful, tired, full, guilty , certain, part, part, weary, indifferent, undamaged, irrespective, unthinking, ignorant, ignorant, indifferent, not far, unworthy, unworthy, suspicious, lossy, full, full, far away, worth, worthy. In some cases, however, the genitive object only appears in standing phrases.

Examples: He is devoid of all mind. I am aware of that. She is happy, tired and tired of life. She is certain of the matter. He is guilty of the crime. A glass full of sparkling wine. He is not worthy of it.

Genitive in prepositions


The genitive can also be found with many German prepositions . Some of them represent a "screwed" official style . In the course of linguistic history, the number of prepositions that require the genitive has increased significantly, be it as a result of the development from noun to preposition (such as “defiance” to “despite”), as a result of tendencies towards university verbs (such as “with help” to “ using ") or as a result of the change of direction (for example in the case of" lengthways ").

Prepositions that can be constructed with genitive are:

apart, minus, at the beginning, in view of, on the basis, on the occasion, instead of, instead of, due to, starting, exclusively, outside, away, evidently, for, both sides, both sides, both sides, mountain side, regarding, regarding, inside, thanks, this side, input, including, inward, end, exclusive, in case, far away, occasionally, halfway, with regard to, regarding, as a result, inclusive, in the middle, within, inside, inward, beyond, force, alongside, alongside, loud, left-hand, left-hand, left, left-hand , for lack, with, by, means, name, north, north-east, north-west, whether (out of date, for example in: whether of the loss suffered), above, east, in the frame, right-hand, right, right-hand side, side, side, side, side, instead , instead of, south, south-east, south-west, in spite of, for ... sake, below, for reasons, by means of, on the part, subject, during, due to, west, time, according to, in favor, to the detriment, to the side, to the disadvantage, plus, for the purpose of.

The genitive correction of the prepositions from the above list is sometimes fluctuating, in many cases the dative is also a variant that can occur depending on the style level or dialect. In addition, there is a group of prepositions that require the dative or accusative when they are placed after them (i.e., to be more precise, occur as postpositions ) and can only rule the genitive when placed in front: along the river - along the river. However, another pattern shows because of ( because of the accident / accident - because of the accident); or, in older German, without, which governed the genitive and which is undoubtedly still preserved in the word .

There are transitions between prepositions and conjunctions. For example, instead of being used as a conjunction and then no case rules, the case that follows depends on the verb: He entered the garden instead of the courtyard. (See also in the article Conjunction (part of speech) # Delimitation of prepositions ).

Colloquial substitutions and opposing developments

In common prepositions such as during , the genitive in everyday language is occasionally replaced by the dative. In the southern German-speaking area, the preposition because is always used with the dative, for example because of the bad weather, which is generally not considered to be correct.

But the reverse development can also be observed. In an effort to create a particularly upscale and officially appearing style of speech in radio and the press, prepositions that require the dative (corresponding, opposite, opposite, corresponding, near) or the accusative (concerning) in the standard language are occasionally combined with the genitive. In the language of the chancellery, newly formed prepositions also grow out of nouns, for example for, for, for, on the part .

Standard language substitutions

Regardless of such tendencies, the genitive of prepositions is always replaced by the dative if a noun in the plural is not accompanied by an article or an adjective with case endings and therefore the noun alone does not indicate that it is in the genitive, because the form of the Genitive plural matches the nominative plural form. So it is said because of Hagels with a noun placed in the genitive, plural, on the other hand, because of Hagelschauern - the dative case must be used here, since the genitive in the plural (“Hagelschauer”) cannot be recognized by the noun alone.

In certain connections, the dative can be used in the standard language for prepositions that otherwise require the genitive, as with some .

Attributive genitive

A genitive can also mark an attribute . It depends syntactically on the reference word.

The genitive is usually added in German:

  • the sails of the ship
  • the architect's belly

The genitive can also be placed in front. This positional variant is known as the "preceding genitive attribute". In addition, the term “ Saxon genitive ”, which was taken over from the English grammar description, occurs, since this construction in English comes from its preliminary stage Anglo-Saxon (see English my father's house ). The preceding genitive attribute is used in today's German almost exclusively with proper names (and nouns that function as proper names) and in fixed expressions. The reference word is always without an article. Adjectives of the reference word are strongly declined.

  • Peter's girlfriend
  • Anna's funny dog
  • Father's new car
  • Many dogs are dead to the hare.
  • Man is man's wolf.
  • That is the solution to the riddle .

In older or poetic language, the preceding genitive is more common:

  • I am with you every day until the end of the world. (Luther and Zurich Bible; standard translation: ... until the end of the world. )
  • The boy's magic horn
  • The emperor's new clothes
  • my father's house
  • my daughter's dress

Even in today's journalism, the preceding genitive is not so rare:

  • The world champion's memory is already waning (headline in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung of July 23, 2018, p. 35)

Dative and accusative do not exist as attributes in this form. They can stand alone in elliptical form, for example the dative as an elliptical dative object on envelopes: Mr. Meier (should this letter be delivered) or the accusative as an adverbial definition of time: How long will you stay? - (I stay) all day.

Form of the genitive

Question: “ Whose leaves are on the ground? "
Answer:" The leaves of the tree are on the ground. "

Question: " Whose noises can be heard? "
Answer:" The noises of the car can be heard. "

Question: “ Whose picture is on the dresser? "
Answer:" The picture of the family is on the dresser. "

Question: “ Whose scent can you smell? "
Answer:" I can smell the scent of the flowers . "

Question: " Whose cell phone is ringing? "
Answer:" Maria's mobile phone is ringing. "

Question: " Whose roof is on fire? "
Answer:" The roof of the small, red house is on fire. " (Outdated)


  • If a proper name ends in an S-sound and there is no article, possessive pronoun or the like in front of it, the apostrophe is used to mark the genitive in writing in accordance with Section 96 of the Rules for German Spelling . Endings can be: s (Klaus') , ss (Grass') , ß (Weiß ') , tz (Katz') , z (Merz ') , x (Marx') and ce (Bruce ') .
    • It should be noted that the letters mentioned form the genitive by apostrophizing only if the sound [s] actually corresponds to them or if it remains silent; if not, an s is appended in the written as well as in the spoken language , e.g. Milošević s , not * Milošević ' (as well as Millowitsch s , not * Millowitsch ' ) or Beneš s , not * Beneš ' (as well as Bausch s , not * Bausch ' ).
      • The only exception to this are words that end in one of the graphemes that remains silent. It is written Jacques ' (and not * Jacquess ) or Giraudoux' (and not * Giraudouxs ), although an [s] is definitely appended in the spoken language ([ˈʒak + s]).
    • Since the genitive in German has to be marked, the apostrophe cannot be used in trailing genitive cases. In the Syntagma Klaus' Hund can be recognized by word order and intonation that Klaus is in the genitive; In the syntagm of the dog Klaus , however, Klaus can only be interpreted as the dog's name, and this cannot be changed by adding an apostrophe to Klaus : * the dog Klaus' would be understandable when reading, but a text that cannot be pronounced.
    • If stylistically unfortunate genitive of proper names that end in an S-sound, like Klaus 'friend Thomas or Marx' "capital" are to be avoided, then the outdated genitive formation with -ens can be used: Klaus's friend Thomas, Marx's "capital" . Furthermore, in this case it is also possible to paraphrase from (analytical formation of forms: Thomas, the friend of Klaus, “Das Kapital” by Marx ).
  • With solid turns with names of the genitive is often one with the suffix -sch (from -isch ) formed adjective replaced: instead of Verner 's Law states verner MOORISH law or Verner ' MOORISH law .
  • With masculine and neuter nouns a “fleeting e ” can appear in many cases (similar to the dative singular ) . So two genitive variants are possible. Example: "of the tree" or "of the tree". Sometimes this extension is mandatory: E.g. "Of the end".
  • In poetic language and firmly established expressions , the older, shorter genitive forms of pronouns are still used, which have become rarer since the 16th century: Wes bread I eat, the song I sing.

The separation of the s with an apostrophe in the genitive case is no longer common in German. It was still widespread in the written and printed high-level German language well into the 19th century; the Prussian Academy of Sciences published Kant's works under the title "Kant's Collected Writings" even in the 20th century. With the reform of German spelling in 1901 , this was considered a mistake. According to the reformed spelling (§ 97E of the official regulation) it has been allowed since 1996 to insert an apostrophe in front of the genitive ending -s in personal names in order to clarify the basic form: Carlo's Taverne .

Examples of genitive s

Frage: „Wessen Uhr ist defekt?“
Antwort: „Hans’ Uhr ist defekt.“ oder auch: „Hansens Uhr ist defekt.“
Frage: „Von wessen Wunderland wird erzählt?“
Antwort: „Von Alice’ Wunderland wird erzählt.“

Alternative formation of the genitive

The possessive genitive can be replaced in German by prepositional additions with von (i.e.: the works of Goethe ). This happens mainly in everyday language. In addition, the construction with of regularly reproduces the indeterminacy of plural expressions if the genitive cannot be marked by an adjective or number attribute: a mother of four children instead of: the mother of four children . The numerals two and three still have their own genitive forms, which are often avoided (especially in everyday language) ( a mother of three children instead of a mother of three ).

If there are several attributes next to each other, the genitive and of -constructions are used for stylistic variation (on the day of Mary's wedding instead of on the day of Mary's wedding ) . The von construction also offers a way out when no word can carry the genitive ending ( the screaming of geese; the screaming of geese, on the other hand, does not contain indefiniteness).

Another form of displaying ownership, which is only used in colloquial language and dialects, is a form in the dative with a trailing pronoun indicating ownership: our grandma her little house , the father his car , the Ernst Kuzorra his wife her stadium ( Johannes Rough ). However, it is avoided in standard language as it is perceived as incorrect by most speakers. This form is common in many Germanic languages ​​and is known in English as "his-genitive". The current spelling of the English genitive with the help of an apostrophe, such as father's house "father's house", is a reinterpretation of the genitive formed by means of the morpheme s as a contraction of the his genitive ( father his house "father his house"). The genitive of this type, which is also widespread in Scandinavian, for example far sin has "father's hat" or "father his hat", is borrowed from Low German and is referred to in Norwegian as garpegenitive "genitive in the style of the Hanseatic people who settled in Bergen".

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Genitive  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Genitive attribute  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Genitive object  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. for example Walter Henzen : The genitive in today's Wallis. In: Contributions to the history of German language and literature 56, 1931, pp. 91–138.
  2. The use of the dative case, probably in favor, but representing it as controversial: prepositions with genitive keyword “because of” , Canoonet
  3. generally recognized form: because of the bad weather (genitive)
  4. Brigitte Grunert: Problem case Wem-Case in Der Tagesspiegel , February 10, 2008, accessed on April 20, 2016.
  5. ^ Hans Bickel , Christoph Landolt : Swiss High German. Dictionary of the standard language in German-speaking Switzerland. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition, published by the Swiss Association for the German Language. Dudenverlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-411-70418-7 , p. 105.
  6. because of .
  7. Wolfgang Müller: The dictionary of German prepositions. 2013, p. 2199
  8. who . In: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: German dictionary
  9. Revised version of the official regulations (2006). (PDF) German spelling advice
  10. See Bokmålsordboka / Nynorskordboka, Lemma garpegenitiv .