of -- genitive vs. von

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flyingwitch

Senior Member
Czech
Good morning.

I am trying to figure out how to say "of" in German, which is 1) "der, des" (genitive) or 2) "von" and in which situations do I use which 1) or 2).

I have also seen the entry on Wordreference, but I didn't get much more clever after reading that.

of - Wörterbuch Englisch-Deutsch - WordReference.com

I already know that if I talk about names, I use 2) "von" :

Präsident von Frankreich - president of France
Schönheit von Prag - beauty of Prague

While:

Farbe der Haut - color of skin
Auto meines Bruders - car of my brother, my brother's car

Is there a set of rules, how to recognize when to use 1) "der, des" (genitive) and when the 2) "von" when translating the Englisch word "of"?

Thank you.
 
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  • Kajjo

    Senior Member
    I am trying to figure out how to say "of" in German
    Such basic words do not have 1:1 translations, but a whole bunch of possible translations depending on context. It makes absolutely no sense to try to list single translations. You might collect some typical usages and translate them -- but don't extrapolate to other phrases.

    Genitiv constructions vs "von"-constructions are in many cases are free choice and a matter of style. In many cases only one of them is established in certain context. In many situations the genitive construction is considered better style.

    Frankreichs Präsident = der Präsident von Frankreich -- both are possible, in serious news you would mostly hear the genitive, though
    Prags Schönheit = die Schönheit von Prag -- again both are possible; context and style decides

    Color of skin = Hautfarbe -- in many cases German just forms compounds

    das Auto meines Bruders = das Auto von meinem Bruder -- both are possible; again the genitive is usually considered better or more elevated style; the von-construction is more everyday-style

    10 litre of water = 10 Liter Wasser -- no preposition in German
    dozens of people = Dutzende Leute -- no preposition in German
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    Der Genitiv hat noch eine Besonderheit:

    Man kann ihn meist voranstellen oder nachstellen.
    Der Präsident Frankreichs = Frankreichs Präsident.

    Oft sind beide Formen austauschbar. Der Unterschied im Stil ist nach meinem Gefühl gering. Das kann bei anderen Wörtern anders sein.

    Das Haus meiner Mutter - normaler bzw. leicht gehobener Stil.
    Meiner Mutter Haus - gehobener Stil, heute eher selten


    Beachte die unterschiedliche Nutzung des Artikels.

    edit: English:

    In many cases you can change the sequence of the genitive part:

    Der Präsident Frankreichs = Frankreichs Präsident.

    I personally do not see a difference in style here.

    But there are words where I see a difference:

    Das Haus meiner Mutter - normal or slightly elevated style
    Meiner Mutter Haus - elevated style, but it is used seldom today
     
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    Gernot Back

    Senior Member
    German - Germany
    I guess, as a native speaker of a Slavic language, your problem is the use of articles, not the use of the genitive vs. the preposition von:

    Whether you use the genitive or the preposition von depends on whether you can identify the genitive as such. You can only identify the genitive with infectional endings.

    In the following sentence, you have to use von, because you want to talk about any amount of employees in general, i.e. without a definite or indefinite article:
    Die Beschäftigung von Angestellten stellt nach der Rechtsprechung eine Gewähr dafür da, dass derjenige, der sich Angestellte leisten kann, sich auch eine private Altersvorsorge leisten kann
    Rentenversicherungspflicht von Pool-Maklern - Kanzlei Michaelis

    In the next example with a definite article in the genitive case, on the other hand, we are talking about certain employees (of a certain firm) that have been mentioned directly or indirectly in the peceding context:
    Die Beschäftigung der Mitarbeiter erfülle die Voraussetzung der "einfachen kaufmännischen Tätigkeit" ....
    Anwalt und Kanzlei | Quellenmaterial

    In the sentence quoted next, we are talking about any amount of freelancers in general again, but we can use the genitive, because it can be identified as such with the inflectional ending of the attributive adjective.
    In unsicheren Wirtschaftszeiten bietet die Beschäftigung freier Mitarbeiter viele Vorteile.
    Tipps zur Beschäftigung freier Mitarbeiter

    In the last example, we are talking about a certain (inflected) number of employees, whith the help of which the genitive can be determined.
    Außerdem werden die Lohnkosten für die Beschäftigung zweier Mitarbeiter mit Behinderungen mit insgesamt 18.000 Euro bezuschusst.
    Lauchringen: Moderne Küchengeräte für das Familienzentrum Lauchringen
     

    flyingwitch

    Senior Member
    Czech
    Hello. My research continues.

    So, there are three options:

    a) a compound noun
    b) "von"
    c) genitive case

    Let's consider these 5 sentences:


    1) "color of a car"
    a) die Autofarbe
    b) die Farbe von dem Auto (die Farbe vom Auto)
    c) die Farbe des Autos


    2) "the photo of the car"
    a) das Autofoto
    b) das Foto von dem Auto (das Foto vom Auto)
    c) das Foto des Autos


    3) "the photo of you"
    a) das Dufoto - I think that is a nonsense.
    b) das Foto von dir
    c) das Foto des dein - I think that is a nonsense too.


    4) "the president of France"
    a) der Frankreichspräsident
    b) der Präsident von Frankreich
    c) der Präsident des Frankreichs


    5) "the beauty of Prague"
    a) die Pragschönheit
    b) die Schönheit von Prag
    c) die Schönheit des Prags


    What are your thoughts about these sentences?

    Notes:
    @I was told that in the 3) sentence only the b) option is possible, while in the 2) sentence all options are fine to use. My conclusion here: it is not possible to state a rule for every expression. (e.g. "photo of XXX" should be translated only using a), b), c) - it also depends on what you are taking a photo of)

    @Kajjo has suggested the option "Frankreichs Präsident". Is this a form of the genitive? If yes, where is the "des" word missing? (same for "Prags Schönheit")

    Thank you.
     

    Frieder

    Senior Member
    1) "color of a car"
    a) die Autofarbe
    b) die Farbe von dem Auto (die Farbe vom Auto)
    c) die Farbe des Autos
    a) car colour
    b) colour of the car
    c) colour of the car

    colour of a car = die Farbe eines Autos (elevated) or Farbe von einem Auto (colloquial).

    2) "the photo of the car"
    a) das Autofoto
    b) das Foto von dem Auto (das Foto vom Auto)
    c) das Foto des Autos
    a) the car foto
    b) :tick:
    c) :tick: but unusual

    3) "the photo of you"
    a) das Dufoto - I think that is a nonsense.
    b) das Foto von dir
    c) das Foto des dein - I think that is a nonsense too.
    a) :cross:
    b) :tick:
    c) :cross:

    @Kajjo has suggested the option "Frankreichs Präsident":tick:. Is this a form of the genitive? If yes, where is the "des" word missing? (same for "Prags Schönheit":tick:)
    In these case you don't need the "des word".
    Deutschlands Straßen
    Hamburgs Staatsoper
    These words don't have an article. It's not: das Deutschland, das Prag.
    BUT: Die Schweiz, die Ukraine ...
    In these cases it has to be
    Die Berge der Schweiz
    Der Präsident der Ukraine
     

    JClaudeK

    Senior Member
    Français France, Deutsch (SW-Dtl.)
    In many cases you can change the sequence of the genitive part:
    Der Präsident Frankreichs = Frankreichs Präsident.
    This works (nowadays) only with proper names without articles (like Frankreich, Prag, Deutschland, ....)

    1) Das Haus meiner Mutter - normal or slightly elevated style
    2) Meiner Mutter Haus - elevated style, but it is used seldom today*
    * I'd say that the option 2) is obsolete or only literary nowadays for names which can take articles or possessive pronouns.
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    My conclusion here: it is not possible to state a rule for every expression.
    Right, nothing else was to be expected. In German many features depend on "with/without article", they distinguish "article/pronoun/noun/proper name" and often also on "countable/not countable" and "singular/plural". You should not expect to find one single solution to cover all these cases.

    So, there are three options:

    a) a compound noun
    b) "von"
    c) genitive case
    Yes, but please note that while compound formation is highly productive in Germany, not all possible compounds result in the "of"-meaning. Compounds can have several meanings, e.g. "die Wandfarbe" can be either wall paint (a paint substance that can be used for walls) or the wall color (color of the wall).

    "Frankreichs Präsident". Is this a form of the genitive?
    Yes, it is. It applies for proper names without article. The genitive possessive pronoun "des" is only possible if you also use articles with the word.
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    I already heared it. It is a name/noun/Begriff in the area of "Autofotografie" (which produces photos of cars).

    Example: Autofoto: Lack, Form und Licht – fokussiert.com
    Autofoto: Lack, Form und Licht
    19. März 2010/5 Kommentare/in Bildkritik /von Thomas Rathay
    Bilder einer Ausstellung: Faszinierende Motive in schwierigen Lichtsituationen, zum Beispiel Autos in Schauräumen.
     
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