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I called my cousin, because he’s German and he lived some years in Germany, about a doubt concerning the genitive.
But he said that I don’t need to learn it because 90 % of the Germans don’t use it.
Is he correct? Or do I need to learn it?

I started studying German 2 weeks ago, but I’m studying more than 1 hour per day.

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    I voted to leave open (i.e. not close) because this question is focussing on today’s usage, while the other one is more focussed on past and future usage. – Jan Dec 20 '15 at 19:45
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    There is no way of learning to speak a human language naturally while specifically avoiding one particular inflectional phenomenon, even if it's rare. Don't bother trying. – Kilian Foth Dec 21 '15 at 7:29
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    I am a non-German who worked for many years in Germany and I can assure you that the genitive is in common, every day use. – Mawg Dec 21 '15 at 9:03
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    He he - reminds me of my days in Munich and the "Bavarian genitive" wer-weiss-was.de/t/genitiv-im-bayerischen/7075645 "Hans, his house", "Gerhard, his beer", usw :-) – Mawg Dec 21 '15 at 9:05
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In my opinion:

Yes, you should learn about the genitive.

While it's use apparently is on the decline and there are many "substitutions", you should not expect it to disappear totally in the next decades.

Your cousin has a point in noting that at least in some regions (influence of dialect) and in spoken language more than in written (more informal) some Germans hardly use it. Yet many do and in order to express yourself correctly, and much more to be able to understand what you read or hear, your studies should not neglect any case, not even genitive.

  • Alright, thanks! I'm searching right now about exercises. I'll learn about it so. – Lucas Dec 20 '15 at 18:56
  • Und ich sage, es ist definitiv nicht auf dem Rückzug - jetzt was? M.a.W.: Hast Du Belege für die Behauptung, dass es auf dem Rückzug ist? – user unknown Dec 21 '15 at 17:12
  • @userunknown - I trust our fellow SE users on that: german.stackexchange.com/questions/7207/… besides, this is not my main focus, it's "learn all cases because genitive is used". – Stephie Dec 21 '15 at 17:15
  • Welcher User konkret? Ich sehe keine Erhebung die zitiert würde. Der persönliche Eindruck kann leicht täuschen, wenn man mit zunehmendem Alter etwa stärker drauf achtet. – user unknown Dec 21 '15 at 17:22
  • @userunknown du kannst ja eine Frage dazu machen. Die Forschung ist dazu ziemlich eindeutig, und leicht zu finden: Genitiv ist auf dem Rückzug (zu Details siehe meine Antwort). – jona Dec 22 '15 at 2:01
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The genitive is still being used, especially in more formal contexts. So if you want to learn German beyond a basic level, it is not possible to avoid it. That being said, if you started to learn German just two weeks ago, there may be more important topics to learn before the genitive.

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One should distinguish at least between adnominal, prepositional and adverbal Genitive here.

Genitive case as an indicator of possession is very common. This is a usage you know from English. For example,

Peters Freund hat Ingrids Buch genommen.
Wessen Buch hat er genommen?
Wessen Buch wurde genommen?

All of these sentences are perfectly acceptable and stylistically fine.
There are some alternatives, but Genitive is neither "weird sounding" nor wordy. Neither of the following options is strictly preferable:

Das Buch von Ingrid wurde gegessen.
Dem Peter sein Freund war das.

This is less clear for cases other than a person's name, e.g.

Frankfurts Straßen sind schön.
Die Straßen von Frankfurt sind schön.

Here, the prepositional variant may be a bit better, but the Genitive variant is still okay. But it quickly becomes impossible or very stilted for longer possessors:

Des Supermarkts Preise sind okay.

This is an awkward-sounding sentence. However, here, the best option is a post-nominal Genitive possessor:

Die Preise des Supermarkts sind okay.

but also (without Genitive)

Die Preise vom Supermarkt sind okay.

So here, the non-Genitive options are often (but not always) equally good or preferable. In dialects, the alternative forms of indicating a relationship are sometimes better. Nonetheless, this adnominal, possessive Genitive is very much alive and well.

Prepositional Genitive is in many instances replaced by the Dative, e.g. the semi-famous example used by a much-deried and ridiculed German prescriptivist:

Wegen des Umbaus geschlossen.
Wegen dem Umbau geschlossen.

However, there are some instances that actually used to be Dative prepositions and now show the Genitive, e.g. trotz.

Finally, adverbal Genitive has become very rare and usually sounds a bit stilted, e.g.

Er bezichtigte ihn des Verbrechens.

In most cases, "higher"/more formal registers of German show more propensity towards using the Genitive, and "lower"/informal registers as well as most dialects often use alternatives. In summary, adverbal Genitive is very rare and you usually won't encounter it. However, at least for the adnominal Genitive and many instances of prepositional Genitive, it is very common.

  • I think that you pointed out an important distinction here, but I feel that for the first case a discussion of instances in which the genitive does not just apply to a name are missing. – Carsten S Dec 21 '15 at 15:21
  • Better now? @CarstenS, Wrzlprmft – jona Dec 21 '15 at 15:50
  • Wieso sind Nicht-Genetivformen manchmal zu bevorzugen - das steht da ohne Argument und verstimmt mich. Übrigens: "Die Straßen Frankfurts sind schön" geht auch. – user unknown Dec 21 '15 at 17:16
  • 1. das die Alternativen manchmal schöner sind, ist weder ein kontroverser Fakt, noch bedarf es eines Arguments. "Des Supermarkts Preise sind okay" ist einfach kein schöner Satzbau. 2 Postnominale Genitiv-Attribute werden bereits behandelt ("Die Preise des Supermarkts sind okay"). – jona Dec 21 '15 at 17:37
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    "Vom Supermarkt die Preise" ist 1. nirgends in meiner Antwort zu finden, und 2. in vielen Dialekten (natürlich nicht im Standard-Hochdeutsch) der Genitiv-Variante gegenüber bevorzugt. Was du hier persönlich unschön findest, scheint mir auch von eher begrenzter Relevanz im Vergleich zur allgemeinen Situation. – jona Dec 22 '15 at 2:04
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It's still being used.

Just a few common sentences (also used in most dialects):

Ich liebe den Duft des Frühlings.

Trotz des Regens sind wir guter Dinge.

Das ist die Meinung des Vaters.

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    Ich liebe den Frühlingsduft. Oder ich liebe den Duft vom Frühling. Trotz dem Regen sind wir guter Dinge. Das ist die Meinung vom Vater. The Variants with Genitive might sound a bit more elegant, but these alternatives are all correct german as well. – fgp Dec 21 '15 at 17:06
  • In der in Wien üblichen Umgangssprache: 1. »I mog den Duft vom Frühling. (Ich mag/liebe den Duft vom Frühling.)« 2. »Obwohl's regn't samma guat drauf. (Obwohl es regnet sind wir gut aufgelegt.)« 3. »Des is n Voter sei Meinung. (Das ist dem Vater seine Meinung.)« oder »Des is die Meinung vum Voter. (Das ist die Meinung vom Vater.)« – Hubert Schölnast Dec 22 '15 at 8:05
  • @fgp: I strongly doubt that "trotz dem Regen" is correct German. Can you give a source for that claim? – celtschk Dec 22 '15 at 13:55
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    @celtschk Here you go: duden.de/rechtschreibung/trotz. Historically, trotz + Dativ is even the older form, although nowadays trotz + Gen. sounds more formal to most people. But Dativ is still used, especially in Austria, and still conserved in compound phrases like trotzdem – fgp Dec 22 '15 at 14:27
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Is the genitive used at all in everyday German?

Meines Wissens ja.

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    This doesn't really make an answer, does it? – Em1 Dec 22 '15 at 11:12
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    Yes it does make an exceptionally specific answer by answering "yes" to the question. That phrase can be heard quite often in everyday German. Maybe the pun got lost? This phrase uses a Genitive... – Jens Dec 22 '15 at 11:52
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    Yes, it indeed. I didn't noticed it at all. I just bothered with the obvious information and, unfortunately, this answer doesn't add anything to the existing ones. But for the sake of the pun, this answer may be valid though. – Em1 Dec 22 '15 at 12:10
  • While clever and all, I think it should've been a comment – clinch Dec 22 '15 at 23:19
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I am from Austria and grew up near Graz. My first language was the dialect of this region, which in fact has no genitive case. I was six years old when for the very first time in my life, I heard the genitive case from our teacher who tried to teach us how to speak standard German.

So, it is true, there are regions where German native speakers don’t use the genitive case when talking with each other.

But:

This is a regional dialect. I guess genitive-less dialects exist only among the Bavarian dialects (to which almost all dialects spoken in Austria belong). So I guess it’s less then 20 million people who are able to communicate in a German dialect without the genitive case. But there are about 95 million German native speakers, so at least 75 million people use the genitive case for everyday-speach with members of their families, friends, colleagues and other people.

But even more important:

When you learn German, you hopefully do not learn a dialect, which can be understood only by a relatively small group of people. When you learn German as a foreign language, you will learn Standard German. This is the “official” German, that everybody who speaks German will understand. And it is the version of German that is printed in newspapers and books. And this Standard German definitely has a genitive case, using which is neither rare nor outdated.

The genitive case is an important part of Standard German, and if you don’t learn it, you will not be able to produce correct German sentences.

  • "I guess Genitive-less Dialects exist only among the Group of bavarian" Genitiv is also marginal in many more northern low German dialects, e.g. Hessian. I in fact don't think there is any dialect with a stable Genitive besides for Standard High German. – jona Dec 22 '15 at 2:07
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The genitive is regularly used in written language and also in conversations among educated speakers, while the dative is often substituted in informal conversations. Newscasts etc. will also use it.

Whether you should learn it: it depends on what your goal is. For travelling through Germany or getting along in everyday life, it is not essential, but I would expect it from somebody who wants to study at a German university, for example. I recommend postponing it as an advanced topic, once you reach a good working competency for everyday situations.

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Tell your cousin that you expect eventually to represent yourself in perfect boardroom German and his advice is casting you to the status of immigrant-speech.

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    welcome to the site. I think your answer could use a bit more elaboration, as such it does not really answer the question (which is: do I need to learn the genitive?) – fifaltra Dec 22 '15 at 6:19

protected by Wrzlprmft Dec 22 '15 at 10:28

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