For example:

It’s a necessary stage in one’s development.

Should it be:

Es ist eine notwendige Stufe jemander Entwicklung?


Es ist eine notwendige Stufe jemandes Entwicklung?

I thought it should be the former, as Entwicklung is a feminine noun, but then I saw this sentence on Tatoeba:

Tom found someone’s business card in his pocket, but couldn’t remember where he got it

Tom fand jemandes Visitenkarte in seiner Tasche, doch er konnte sich nicht besinnen, wo er diese herhatte.

Here Karte is a feminine noun but jemandes is used.

  • Hi and welcome to German Language Stack Exchange. Feel free to take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. The thing is that the genitive of nouns is not modified by the noun following it unlike adjectives. So the genitive of jemand is always jemandes: Jemandes Hund, jemandes Maus, jemandes Eichhörnchen.
    – Jan
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


Jemandes Entwicklung is grammatically correct, however it sounds pretty ghastly.

I think there are two possible ways to translate your first sentence comfortably, but I would half avoid a direct translation.

I mean this in the sense that you say in English “it is a necessary stage”, then you use one’s, but actually we haven’t really intrduced exactly who this one is. In English it is clearly a passive construction, however in German there isn’t a nice way of expressing one’s — referring back to a person we haven’t yet introduced. Furthermore, there is no genitive form of man (English one), it only exists in the nominative, with possessive form (sein) and reflexive (sich).

I would rephrase the German to use man — in place of the English clause: it is a necessary … After doing this, we can refer back to our man (the indefinite pronoun) using sein or the reflexive sich:

  • Zum Zwecke seiner Entwicklung muss man diese notwendige Phase überwinden.
  • Man muss diese notwendige Phase überwinden, um sich zu entwickeln.

A more direct way might be the following.

bei der Entwicklung eines Menschen ist es eine notwendige Phase/Stufe.

As a final note, I’d like to point out that these constructions are very uncommon i.e. using the genitive of personal pronouns. The most common way by far to express possession is to postposition von plus the person’s name. There may also (in South Germany) be the definite article thrown in for good measure. E.g:

Hier ist die Handtasche von (der) Maria

Other variants one might hear (Weitere Varianten, die man vielleicht hört):

Hier ist Marias Handtasche [Maria in genitive] Hier ist die Handtasche der Maria [Maria again in genitive, shown by the article]

Another alternative to my first sentence would be die Entwicklung desjenigen

I listed them in descending order of usage (in my own experience!)

  • 2
    What do you consider "dEnglish" when using "Marias Handtasche"?
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 20:23
  • 3
    Ja, aber warum das große E in dEnglisch? Denglisch kenn ich ja...
    – Robert
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 21:36
  • 3
    Mal angesehen von der Schreibung; inwiefern soll Marias Handtasche Denglisch sein?
    – chirlu
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 7:11
  • 2
    @DexterMorgan Niemand ist beleidigt, aber "Marias Handtasche" ist eben völlig korrektes Deutsch. "Denglisch" und falsch ist der sog. "Deppenapostroph" in "Maria's Handtasche".
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 11:53
  • 4
    The first sentence in this answer is extremely misleading. "Jemandes Entwicklung" is perfectly standard German and does not sound ghastly at all. It's just something that's not used much in conversational German any more, but in written German it's still quite common and does not seem to be disappearing. But "Stufe jemandes Entwicklung" does not just sound ghastly, it is absolutely ungrammatical. Since this double genitive simply doesn't work, it must be rephrased, e.g. as "Stufe in jemandes Entwicklung".
    – user2183
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 15:14

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