In English, by using ’s and of, we can make chain of related words e.g.

Price of Equity-share of my son’s daughter’s friend’s husband’s company is falling.

How can we make such train-of-relations in German. Looks very difficult for a novice like me.

Can some one translate above and provide more examples to clarify the concept.


2 Answers 2


In german you call this a »Genitiv-Kette«:

Der Eingang des Hauses des Bruders meiner Frau ist weiß.
The entrance of the house of the brother of my wife is white.

And this is your example in German:

Der Preis des Eigenkapitalanteils der Firma des Ehemanns der Freundin der Tochter meines Sohnes fällt.

word by word it is:

The price of the equity-share of the company of the husband of the friend of the daughter of my son is falling.

In German we also have the other word-order to build a genitive. (But it has no apostrophe!)

Meines Freundes Auto = Das Auto meines Freundes.

But its hard to build chains with it, although it is possible:

Meines Sohnes Tochter Freundin Ehemanns Firmas Eigenkapitalanteils Preis fällt.

The Problem is, that this way of building chains is very unusual, but the major problem is, that the genitive of many words (here: Tochter and Freundin) have no special ending that lets you recognize that it is a genitive. After reading

Meines Sohnes Tochter

You will think that Tochter is standing in nominative, and then the next word (Freundin) makes no sense, so you have to correct what you think to have understood and build the next concept of your sentence. And the longer the chain becomes the harder it is to understand it. So don't use this version!

  • By "Equity-share" I meant stock on stock-exchange like NASDAQ, Frankfurt Stock Exchange etc. Commented May 30, 2015 at 11:21
  • @KaushikLele: Ich habe es gerade ergoogelt: equity-share = Eigenkapitalanteil. Commented May 30, 2015 at 11:30

It works exactly the same as in English, except that the genitive usually follows the expression that it determines, like with of:

Der Aktienkurs des Unternehmens des Manns einer Freundin der Tochter meines Sohnes fällt.

In colloquial language only, you can also use von instead:

Der Aktienkurs vom Unternehmen vom Mann von einer Freundin von der Tochter von meinem Sohn fällt.

A combination is also possible.

Obviously, such a long chain of relatives is incomprehensible, but in principle it is grammatical. Some dialects use a construction that is easier to understand (because it works in the other direction, starting with you), but it is absolutely unsuitable for a standard-language text:

Von meinem Sohn die Tochter von der eine Freundin von deren Mann die Firma der ihr Aktienkurs fällt.

  • Why " des Manns" ? why "einer Freundin" ? In my sentences there is no "man/people" which will indicate "der Mann". And should it be "der Freundin" ? Commented May 30, 2015 at 11:32
  • 1
    @Kaushik Lele: Mann is husband. Regarding the articles, if indefinite or definite article should be used depends on whether there are multiple options and on what the recipient of the message already knows. I had to guess a bit (is there only one daughter? does she have many friends?), but it is not really important for this question. I also guessed that the friend is female.
    – chirlu
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 11:43

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