Let’s say for example that my father is called Karl.

Ich bin Sohn von Karl.

Ich bin der Sohn von Karl.

Ich bin der Sohn von dem Karl.

Sounds fair enough but it uses the von + dative as genitive, which is ugly and only accepted in Austria and Switzerland as far as I know (maybe in southern Germany too). Unfortunately I’m writing to someone from the North right now.

Also the variant with the pronoun before the surname I’m pretty sure it’s typically Swiss and Austrian and would not be accepted in Germany, I am however not 100 % sure.

Ich bin (der) Sohn Karls.

Beautiful use of genitive, but this works fine for names that does not end in -s. Now if my father is named Andreas, how am I supposed to do it?

Ich bin (der) Sohn Andreas.

Is ambigious, as we don’t know whether I’m referring to Andrea or Andreas.

  • 6
    I would use: Ich bin Karls Sohn.
    – knut
    Mar 22 '16 at 21:15
  • 20
    No. Please don't do that. Ever. This is a German sentence, not an English one and thus the apostrophe for names not ending in -s is just plain wrong.
    – tofro
    Mar 22 '16 at 22:24
  • 1
    @knut: Sorry, your use of "Karls Sohn" was absolutely correct - my fault.
    – Thomas
    Mar 23 '16 at 20:38
  • 1
    @Thomas: Duden §97E was most probably written in one of the weaker moments of its authors. The rule and the examples are not aligned. The "Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung" does not allow their example case, not even "Andrea's Blumenladen". (See here: rechtschreibrat.ids-mannheim.de/download/regeln2006.pdf p. 98)
    – tofro
    Mar 23 '16 at 23:15
  • 1
    If you’re referring to the South, where the von construction is indeed in common colloquial use, don’t forget the article: Ich bin der Sohm vom Karl. Includes another easy way to clear up ‘Ich bin der Sohn von der Andrea’ versus ‘Ich bin der Sohn vom Andrea’ (Andrea in the second example being the Italian first name).
    – Jan
    Apr 22 '16 at 0:23

The genitive of Andreas is Andreas’. Thus:

Ich bin Andreas' Sohn.

The non-genitive and most common solution would be

Ich bin der Sohn von Andreas.


  • 7
    +1 because it is correct, but most people (and even some grammars) would recommend to prefer der Sohn von Andreas to using the apostrophe (And the apostrophe is absolutely correct here, one of the very, very few cases it is in German)
    – tofro
    Mar 22 '16 at 22:30
  • @tofro Fair enough. I somehow thought that the use of the genitive was rather the main question, but you are right.
    – c.p.
    Mar 23 '16 at 6:36
  • Thanks. I don't care myself whether I should use Dativ or Genitiv - but I was told that using von + Dativ as Genitiv was a neologism and although it was done orally it is supposed to be "ugly", especially in Germany proper (as opposed to CH and A). I could be wrong though.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 23 '16 at 6:57
  • @Bregalad This is generally true, but not quite so for names ending in -s. Using dative is not wrong here, and the language just tries to avoid the "uncommon" apostrophe by evading into a dative construct - Especially in spoken language, as the apostrophe-s is not expressed with an "s-s" like in English and thus not easy to "hear".
    – tofro
    Mar 23 '16 at 7:22

More or less all variants are used in one context or another.

In historical, biblical or arabic contexts, the usual construction would be:

Pippin, Sohn des Karls

Isaak, Sohn des Abrahams

which can, of course, be affixed to an I am:

Ich bin der Sohn des Karls.

(But that sounds very weird; this type of construction is really only used to introduce or address someone very important.)

Ich bin Sohn des Karls.

is possible, if there is something important (or you feel that there should be some implication) attached to the opposite side knowing who’s son you are.

Ich bin Sohn des Kaisers!

Auch Majestäten zahlen Eintritt.

In a less formal/historical or whatnot setting, it is often shortened in the way you suggested with postfixed genitive:

Ich bin der Sohn Karls.

It is also possible to use the standard prefixed genitive albeit without the definite article.

Ich bin Karls Sohn

These two may lead to the difficulty in differentiating between Andrea and Andreas. But honestly, if your father is Andreas or either of your parents are Andrea, you will just avoid this specific construction altogether. And actually, you wouldn’t use it in colloquial speech anyway (genitive is rather rare in colloquial German). In written form, the presence (Andreas’) or absence (Andreas) of an apostrophe clearly indicates the person’s name.

In colloquial speech — at least to me, implying South Germany — it is perfectly fine to use the von construction. However, note that in my area an article with the name is mandatory, leading us to:

Ich bin der Sohn vom Karl.

Which can also be turned around:

Ich bin vom Karl der Sohn.

And then there is a multitude of versions you may here but never read and which always succeed at irritating northerners, such as:

Ich bin dem Karl sein Sohn.

Note: never ever ever use that in your German class or write it.

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