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It is said that trotz historically went well with both the dative and the genitive cases, while in contemporary usage the genitive becomes the norm and the dative survives only in idiomatic ‘frozen’ expressions. My difficulty is with those special cases when the dative case is used instead of the genitive. I have no idea when the dative must be used.

It seems to me that the so-called idiomatic expressions are a bunch of combinations of pronouns and trotz, such as trotzdem, trotz allem/alledem.
Could I conclude that when trotz goes with a pronoun, the dative case should be used instead of the genitive while with a noun, the genitive should be used?

If my claim is wrong, could anyone provide some tip on when the dative case must be used instead of the genitive with trotz?

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Canoo.net sums it up nicely. The general rule is: Use genitive. Then the following exceptions apply:

  • Since genitive plural is unmarked, always use dative plural if there is no article and there are no adjectives;
  • Always use (uninflected) dative singular for single nouns without adjectives or article;
  • You may use dative if the noun has no article, only adjectives;
  • You may always use dative colloquially;
  • The forms trotzdem, trotz Allem and trotz alledem require their dative case.

In the end, it turns out that there seem to be more exceptions than rules, however, it does still seem to be more concise writing it this way rather than reversed (use dative unless …).

  • thanks for your answer ; I am a bit doubtful over this 'Always use (uninflected) dative singular for single nouns without adjectives or article'; for in such cases of single nouns, the genitive marks the case more clearly than the uninflected dative ; for example, to me ,,trotz Frosts und Schnees'' seems better than ,,trotz Frost und Schnee'' ; – Lynnyo May 3 '16 at 1:31
  • @Lynnyo But trotz Frost und Schnee is more usual. – Jan May 3 '16 at 17:46
  • Good advice for a non-native speaker. As a native speaker I can confidently always use dative, because that is the case that goes with “trotzen”. – Carsten S May 3 '16 at 20:18
  • (Ok, to be honest, I only wished I was that confident.) – Carsten S May 3 '16 at 20:18
  • @Jan : is the usage of ,,trotz'' with the dative case CORRELATED to the case government of the verb ,,trotzen''? I mean, 'to defy sb./sth.' in German is ,, j-m./etwas(dat.) trotzen'' and this dative case in the verbal phrase is preserved to some degree into the prepositional phrase? – Lynnyo May 4 '16 at 4:22

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