So far I thought von is equivalent to by when it refers to an author / creator of work, but now I'm confused as I saw some text to use durch.

How do I properly refer to the creator of a work?

People were created by God. (Die Menschen sind von Gott geschaffen.)

The book is written by Mark Twain. (Das Buch ist von Mark Twain geschrieben.)

The film was directed by Quentin Tarantino. (Der Film wurde durch Quentin Tarantino eingeführt.)

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    Your examples are rather bad, in my opinion, both the (presumably) English original and the German tranlslation, particularly the last one. That said, yes durch can be used for by in certain, not all, cases as well. – Ingmar Nov 3 '15 at 5:52
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    "Regie führen", "dirigieren" or "leiten"; these are the German words that are possible translations for "to direct". In your example, "Regie führen" is the right choice. – Em1 Nov 3 '15 at 8:41
  • @Iris, i think it's retroactive interference.I'm editing my post.Thanks! – user1474062 Nov 3 '15 at 11:03
  • Your third sentence — as already mentioned by Ingmar — is certainly not idiomatic. I assume you've seen a phrase like "durch + [someone] + [verb]" and then made up your example. Technically, the sentence above may even be the correct original German sentence ("einführen" + "durch" is a valid collocation), but you came up with an incorrect translation into English ("einführen" != "to direct"). Here's the thing: the phrase is not wrong per se, but if the context is a book that is written by or a film that is directed by, then you won't go with "durch". – Em1 Nov 3 '15 at 13:27

There are certain rules you have to consider when using the passive voice as you did in your examples:

First of all, I don’t know where you read the third example, but it’s certainly wrong. Here it should also be Der Film wurde von Q. T. geleitet.

However, there are two main rules that explain when to use either von or durch :

  • If the agent of an action is a person, the von-phrase is used

  • If the agent of the action is not a person, the durch-phrase is used


  • Der Brief wird von mir geschrieben
    (the letter is being written by me) → agent of action = person

  • Das Haus ist durch den Sturm zerstört worden
    (the house was destroyed by the storm) → agent of action = object

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    “Here it should also be Der Film wurde von Q. T. geleitet.” Certainly not; you don’t leiten a film in German. T. führte Regie bei dem Film, T. war der Regisseur des Films etc. – chirlu Nov 3 '15 at 4:39
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    My question was actually how we could refer creater of a work? And you by-passed my first example – user1474062 Nov 3 '15 at 5:17
  • @chirlu Leitung as in Aufnahmeleitung used to be used instead of Regie in German movie credits (probably inherited from French-influenced theater jargon). Interestingly, it is never Leiter, Regisseur or geleitet von so there is no direct equivalent for English director and directed by, although Regisseur and Regie führen are used in other contexts. – Crissov Nov 3 '15 at 5:53
  • @Crissov: Spielleiter was sometimes used (but is obsolete now); Aufnahmeleiter is a different role. – chirlu Nov 3 '15 at 6:38
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    In most cases I would consider a creator of a work as a person, so you always refer to him/her with von. For your first example, there is a special rule in german Grammar: if the agent of the action is either a person OR an object, you can use both von and durch. Taking God as an example, you can't really say, if God is a real person or something else, an object included. Both is possible: Die Menschen wurden durch/von Gott geschaffen. – T Sieksmeier Nov 3 '15 at 9:47

Why do you use passive voice in your examples? IMHO, both "The letter is being written by me" and "Der Brief wird von mir geschrieben" sound awkward.

Gott hat den Menschen geschaffen.


Der Mensch wurde von Gott geschaffen.

(Note that this is "god created man" as opposed to "god crated the humans".)

Mark Twain hat das Buch geschrieben.


Dieses Buch ist von Mark Twain.


Mark Twain ist der Autor dieses Buchs.

and finally

Tarantino hat bei diesem Film Regie geführt.


Tarantino ist der Regisseur dieses Films.

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  • Technically, your answer addresses the title of the question. You gave several ways how to refer to the author. That said, OP seems to look for something different, namely what is the right preposition. I'm afraid this is not addressed by your answer. – Em1 Nov 3 '15 at 14:56
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    @Em1 Yes, I did not want to repeat @T Sieksmeier's answer with all the passive constructions cause I don't think a word for word translation is appropriate here. – Robert Nov 3 '15 at 14:58
  • Fair enough. My point was, however, that this is rather a comment. A comment suggesting to avoid passive voice. My reasoning: this doesn't answer the question (assuming I did understand the question). – Em1 Nov 3 '15 at 15:01
  • Just to explain my edit. I understand the sentence "Der Brief wird von mir geschrieben" as I'm writing it right now. And when I am writing a letter, "the letter is being written by me". Rollback if you disagree or when I misunderstood you, but I think Simple Present is the wrong tense in English here. – Em1 Nov 3 '15 at 15:12
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    @Em1 The edit is good, it makes it sound even more awkward ;-) – Robert Nov 3 '15 at 15:54

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