The following sentence contains a double genitive construction including one proper name:

This is the score of Chopin's first piano concerto.

How can I express this in German? Is it ok to write

Das ist die Partitur des ersten Chopins Klavierkonzerts

or is there is an error somewhere?

  • By the way, while German doesn't distinguish this and that as clearly as English does and often prefers das over dies, unless you have a very special context this is actually one of those cases where you would definitely use dies. – user2183 Sep 9 '15 at 18:54

In general, you can concatenate as many genitives as you like in German, say

Das ist eine Kopie der Partitur des ersten Klavierkonzerts des polnischen Komponisten Frederic Chopin.

But this works only as long as the genitives are formed using the appropriate form of the definite or indefinite article. As soon as there is a proper noun whose genitive form is created by attaching "s" (i.e., without an article), it gets tricky. In this case, you must usually (*) replace one of the genitives by "von + dative", that is, either

Das ist die Partitur des ersten Klavierkonzerts von Chopin.


Das ist die Partitur von Chopins erstem Klavierkonzert.

(*) It is sometimes possible to use a postpositive genitive of the proper name, but I find it really difficult to explain when it's ok and when it's not, cf. my comment to joelsa's answer.

| improve this answer | |

Uwe's answer is totally correct. But regarding your question, yes, there is a syntax error.

Das ist die Partitur des ersten Klavierkonzerts Chopins.

Would be more correct, as "Chopin" is the genetive object. If you ask

Whose "Klavierkonzert" is this? (Wessen Klavierkonzert ist das?)

The answer would be:

It's Chopins Klavierkonzert (Es ist Chopins Klavierkonzert).

Whereas in your sentence its exactly the other way around. Remember that you are trying to use the possessive genetive, which has to be postpositive in this case.

However, Uwe's answers are even more beautiful.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    Yes, you can sometimes use a postpositive genitive. But I find it very difficult to give a precise criterion when it's acceptable and when it's not. E.g., "der Tag der Auferstehung Jesu Christi" is perfectly fine, but "die Farbe des Autos Franks" is absolutely unidiomatic. For some strange reason, I find "die Partituren der Klavierkonzerte Chopins" ok, but "die Partitur des ersten Klavierkonzerts Chopins" at most borderline. – Uwe Sep 9 '15 at 19:41
  • 4
    I find it very difficult too. Names sound better if prefixed to me, i.e. "Peters Unterwäsche" sounds better than "Die Unterwäsche Peters". However if the names are somehow "old" it sounds better to me. I would not prefer "Cäsars Unterwäsche" to "Die Unterwäsche Cäsars". I believe this is one aspect of the German language which is almost completely about habits. – joelsa Sep 9 '15 at 20:04
  • 1
    @Uwe + joelsa: Fascinating - I never thought about it, but you're absolutely right. With the names I guess it could be that the postponed Genitive sounds a bit grand and thus better fits historical figures. With Uwe's examples it almost seems as if Genitives go better together the less similar in sound or form they are, i.e. "der Konzerte" clashes less with "Chopins" than "des Konzerts". Weird. – Mac Sep 14 '15 at 8:28

Look at it as a hierarchy of genitives. As long as you have the article „des/der“ to indicate the genitive, you just go from left to right where left is the possession, and right is the possessor.

Die Partitur des ersten Klavierkonzerts des Komponisten Chopin.

This means it is the composer’s concert, and the concert’s score.

However, when names are involved, you usually don’t say „des Chopin“ but „Chopins“. In this case, you have to go from right to left, where right is the possession and left is the possessor.

Chopins Klavierkonzert

In direct comparison you get:

Die Partitur des ersten Klavierkonzerts des Komponisten Chopin.

Die Partitur von Chopins erstem Klavierkonzert.

Note that the last one is not a real genitive, and is more commonly used in colloquial speach. It is actually using a dative instead of a genitive.

| improve this answer | |

Sometimes German and English grammar are not that different. Your German sentence

Das ist die Partitur des ersten Chopins Klavierkonzerts.

is correct, even though it does not parse very smoothly, and would be rendered thus in English:

This is the score of the first Chopin's piano concerto.

So we would be talking about the piano concerto of the first Chopin. Not what you meant.

Also, your English sentence

This is the score of Chopin's first piano concerto.

can be translated quite directly into German using the kind of pure genitive that you were trying to use:

Dies ist die Partitur Chopins ersten Klavierkonzerts.

However, that sounds a bit stilted, so one would usually use von for one of the two genitives:

Dies ist die Partitur von Chopins erstem Klavierkonzert.


Dies ist die Partitur des ersten Klavierkonzerts von Chopin.

As remarked by joelsa, the latter word order also again allows for

Dies ist die Partitur des ersten Klavierkonzerts Chopins.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    Daß der ursprüngliche Satz richtig wäre, ist die exklusive Carstens Meinung. Nach chirlus abweichender Ansicht kann der Genitiv nicht zwischen Attribut und Substantiv stehen. – chirlu Sep 10 '15 at 6:17
  • @chirlu, aber „des ersten Chopins Klavierkonzert“ ist korrekter Nominativ, nicht wahr? – Carsten S Sep 10 '15 at 6:39
  • 1
    Gutes Argument. So gesehen ist es tatsächlich nicht falsch, es bedeutet aber auch nicht das Gemeinte. – chirlu Sep 10 '15 at 8:19
  • @chirlu, ja, das hätte ich wohl deutlicher und früher schreiben sollen. – Carsten S Sep 10 '15 at 8:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.