Hat der Hotelgast der Schauspielerin den Pelzmantel gestohlen?

Ja, er hat ihn gestohlen.


Ja, er hat ihn ihr gestohlen.

Can we say that ‘der Hotelgast der Schauspielerin’ is the same as ‘the hotel guest of the actress’? or is der Schauspielerin the indirect object of the sentence?

  • To me the sentence is not ambiguous. It were if you'd say "Gast" instead of "Hotelgast". Why would an actress' guest be specified as "hotel guest"? Does she have different kind of guests and is it important that it was the "hotel guest" as opposed to the "hostel guest"? Therefore there's only one way to understand the question: "The hotel guest, who has nothing to do with the actress, has stolen her coat." So, from a grammatical point of view it is ambiguous, but your example is not.
    – Em1
    Oct 23 '15 at 13:48
  • 2
    If you'd swap "der Schauspielerin" with "den Pelzmantel", the grammatical ambiguity is gone. "Hat der Gast den Pelzmantel der Schauspielerin gestohlen?"
    – Em1
    Oct 23 '15 at 13:50

Yes, the sentence is ambiguous. It translates to either of the following depending on how you parse it:

Has the hotel guest stolen the [= her] fur coat from the actress? / Has the hotel guest robbed [= stolen] the actress of her fur coat?

Has the actress’s hotel guest stolen the fur coat?

Normally this is resolved by context. When it isn’t, good authors will notice the problem and rephrase. English tabloid headlines are famous for similar problems.

  • 1
    Then I attempt to revise it to achieve the probably intended meaning :) Hat der Hotelgast den Pelzmantel der Schauspielerin gestohlen?
    – Behrouz
    Oct 23 '15 at 9:23
  • @Behrouz Yes, that would be largely unambiguous.
    – Jan
    Oct 23 '15 at 11:25

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