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"traurig" and other adjectives get an -es affix after "etwas" (e.g., etwas trauriges)

What are the conditions for this affixation? Does this have anything to do with case?

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This has been answered before, see (german.stackexchange.com/questions/3886/…). –  Uwe May 5 '13 at 19:03
    
@Uwe: in the question you linked to we have the case of nominalized adjectives, the question here is not covered by this (your answer says why). So as this Q here is admittedly very similar it is not an exact duplicate. –  Takkat May 5 '13 at 19:16
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May be this is a related question (or the same) german.stackexchange.com/questions/6489/… As for me, the OP is asking about the nominalization of adjectives. –  c.p. May 5 '13 at 20:43
    
@c.p. No, the question you linked is primarily: are the resulting words nouns and do they have to be capitalized? –  Uwe May 5 '13 at 21:18
    
@Uwe eigentlich nicht. The linked question already states that they are nouns: the question is why are they and whether every adjective can be substantivized that way. –  c.p. May 6 '13 at 2:48

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

First off, the -es ending of an adjective is the indefinite neuter nominative declination, e.g. ein schönes Wochenende, ein rotes Fahrrad, …

There are two more occasions where the -es ending is added to an adjective:

1) The adjective is used as a noun (nominalised/substantiviert) and in the nominative case. Adjectives used as nouns always have the neuter gender. Remember: Nouns must always be capitalised.

In sentence construction, 'etwas+noun' or the noun alone can be a nominative subject or a nominative object, e.g.

a) as a nominative object:

• Er sah etwas Trauriges. — He saw something sad/saddening.

• Zu Mittag aßen sie in der Kantine Geschnetzeltes. – For lunch they had Geschnetzeltes in the cafeteria. (Geschnetzeltes=meat cut into small stripes in a sauce, from adjective 'geschnetzelt' – cut into small stripes; actually, Geschnetzeltes has become a proper noun for this kind of dish.)

b) as a nominative subject:

Etwas Feuchtes kroch ihr das Bein hinauf. – Something wet slithered its way up her leg (think Slither, the 2006 comedy horror film).

Hässliches verkauft sich schlecht. – Ugly things don't sell well.

Now, what's the difference between 'etwas Hässliches' and 'Hässliches'? Same as in English: 'something ugly' versus 'ugly things in general'. Etwas/something is an indefinite pronoun here.

2) It's a different thing when 'etwas' is used as an adverb meaning 'a bit / a little / somewhat') to describe the adjective that itself describes a neuter noun in the nominative case:

• Es war ein etwas unangenehmes Erlebnis. – It was a somewhat unpleasant experience.

• Er gab ein etwas trauriges Bild ab. – He made a bit of an awkward impression.

(ein x Bild abgeben = colloquial expression for 'to look / make an impression / to appear' x.)

• Er machte ein etwas trauriges Gesicht. – He made a somewhat sad face.

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It's just the usual neuter form of the adjective after an indefinite article, the same as in "ein trauriges Kind". ("etwas" is neuter.)

Sorry, this was incorrect: it's the "no article" form, not the "indefinite article" form. The difference is only visible in the dative case ("einem traurigen" vs. "etwas traurigem").

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