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Wiktionary lists 2 genitive forms for a lot of nouns (e.g. Berg, Brauch), -es and -s.

For these words and others, are these forms interchangeable or are they regional? Or is one more poetic sounding than the other? Basically, when should one be used over the other?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

They are entirely interchangeable. Use whichever form you find most convenient to pronounce.

If you plan on writing poetry, this interchangeability can come in handy because these forms can adapt to whatever rhythmic structure you're aiming for. ;)

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The important part is the last part of the first sentence: The "e" is just there to help you pronounce the word. In my opinion it usually sounds and feels wrong to drop it, though. "Der Gipfel des Bergs" oder "um des Brauchs willen" just doesn't work for me. –  Alexander Kosubek Jun 26 '13 at 11:13

As Elena said, they are both interchangeable. However, the "-es" form sounds a bit antiquated if you use it in normal conversation. It is in fact more in use in written german, rather than in spoken german.

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This depends on the pronouncability of the -s, however. I’d prefer des Barsches over des Barschs and not think that the former is obsolescent. :-) –  chirlu Jun 25 '13 at 9:18
    
+1 to @chirlu for teaching me a new word. (Also, I approve of what you're writing.) –  elena Jun 25 '13 at 12:33

For a word where both -es and -s are allowed genitive forms, -es is indeed considered more poetic, but could also be interpreted as outdated as stated by Maico Heere.

The Duden says that -es is preferred in constellations where the genetive is prefixed (e.g. des Tages Hitze) or within compounds with interfix-s (des Geschäftsfreundes).

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