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I found the following sentence in a book:

(...) bemerkte ich (...) eine mir auffällige Übereinstimmung bezüglich des Inhaltes der drei Zeitungsfetzen: sie enthielten nämlich alle drei einen Bericht über die Ermordung eines reichen französischen Kaufmannes in Blidah.

I was confused by this; the core seems to be "die Ermordung des Kaufmannes", which is the expected inflection of masculine genitive; but why "reichen französischen" and not "reiches französisches"?

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The correct genitive is "eines reichen französischen Kaufmannes", it just happens to look like an accusative... – Anke Apr 24 '13 at 9:13
Thanks, I mixed up the cases, this is obviously genitive, edited to reflect. The question still stands about the endings of the two attributes of the Kaufmann. :) – neuviemeporte Apr 24 '13 at 10:34

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

First, as you see on inflection tables the masculine accusative of reich is always reichen. It doesn't matter if it's weak, strong or mixed inflection.

But as @Anke already said in a comment it's genitive case here. You ask: "Wessen Ermordung? Die eines reichen franz. Kaufmannes".

Again, have a look at the table and you'll notice that the ending must be an -n.

Mixed inflection (with ein, kein, possessive pronouns etc.)
Genitive: eines reichen

You don't need to look up that for every single adjective. Inflection rules in German are quite complicated but consistent. You find a general inflection table on wikipedia.

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Thanks. I used to think the words around the inflected form of a noun always take on the ending of the article "des" in this case, and was confused by this. What is the rule anyway? Do all adjectives end in "-n" in masculine genitive, or is widely variable? – neuviemeporte Apr 24 '13 at 10:38
@neuviemeporte See my edit. – Em1 Apr 24 '13 at 10:54

In addition to the other responses, the Kaufmann and his attributes in

Die Ermordung des reichen französischen Kaufmanns

are genitive in relation to the noun "Ermordung" (whose murder? Wessen Ermordung? -- genitive). The construction as a whole is not an accusative at all. The following would be an accusative:

Er hat einen reichen französischen Kaufmann ermordet.

Er hat wen oder was ermordet? -- accusative. As @Anke said, it just happens that the inflections for genitive and accusative look the same for the two adjectives, but it's not accusative, but genitive.

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The core can never be 2 nouns (except enumerations)...

We have 2 things here, Ermordung and Kaufmann and it is not an enumeration.

Die Zeitung berichtet über die Ermordung, den Kaufmann und Uli Hoeneß.

The Kaufmann is connected to Ermordung using a Genitive. What endings adjectives describing Kaufmann get is completely independent of what the function of Ermordung is.

Die Ermordung des reichen Kaufmannes war eine Lüge. (nom.)

Die Ermordung des reichen Kaufmannes hat jemand beobachtet (acc)

Von der Ermordung des reichen Kaufmannes redet die ganze Stadt (dat.)

Der Schmied ist der Ermordung des reichen Kaufmannes bezichtigt (gen.)

You have to see at as 2 separate boxes that only form one box on a higher semantical level. The connection could also be made using a preposition. The content wouldn't change.

... über die Ermordung von dem reichen Kaufmann....

Not nice but those phrasings are out there.

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