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Finger weg von meinem Essen

Is Finger plural or singular and how can I tell? I'm assuming it's plural because keep your finger away from my food doesn't make any sense. But other than not making sense, how can I tell the difference?

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    As you can see from the various answers, you cannot tell. It's like "What's in your aquarium?" Answer: "Fish". So how many are there? No way to tell. – PerlDuck Jul 9 '16 at 21:07
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    @PerlDog, actually "fish" without an article would be plural, I think. – Carsten S Jul 11 '16 at 13:15
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I would also vote for plural, even if I don't share Käsebrots reason (Since grabbing is not the only action possible, it could also be touching).

My reasoning is: A more rude form of the ehaustion is Pfoten weg (see dict.cc), and here we have a clear plural; Hände weg can also be used instead of Finger weg.

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There is also the standard warning Kopf weg if something dangerous comes along in that height, and so I conclude, that all body parts of the sepcified sort should be kept out of the way, which in case of fingers is typically more than one.

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    I’d say Kopf runter. Anyhow, this convinced me that the reasoning for plural which I would have used intuitively in an answer would have been a bit faulty: nouns without any kind of determiner or attribute need to be names, plurals or abstract concepts. This only applies to proper sentences, though. – Crissov Jul 1 '16 at 20:57
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+50

"Finger weg!" is a warning/order which means "Don't touch it, grab it or finger it". One is not allowed to finger. Not with one finger and not with many fingers. In this case it doesn't matter if singular or plural. The phrase is unambiguous like "Get lost!".

@guidot and @Anetair gave pretty clear answers. In this specific case it is simply impossible to clearly tell the numerus. My kid is often told "Finger weg!" and we always mean "keep away everything." All fingers. The whole hand. Both hands. Even arms, legs or feet. Or sticks, pens, tools. Or whatever. The object in focus must not be touched.

As soon as articles like

"(Nimm) die Finger weg!" (pl.)

"(Nimm) den Finger weg!" (sg.)

"(Nimm) einen Finger weg!" (indef. sg., attention: this implies there are more fingers touching than needed and one must be 'removed')

or possessive pronouns like

"(Nimm) deinen Finger weg!" (sg.)

"(Nimm) deine Finger weg!" (pl.)

"(Nehmt) eure Finger weg!" (pl.)

come into play, more context is available. Then the numerus can be identified and (usually) matters.

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This is definitely plural.

Explanation:

"Finger weg von xxx." seems to be the short form or a variation of "Lass die Finger von xxx". Here "die" is a sign of plural.

Also it seems to be logic that it is plural because you usually don't grab stuff with only one finger. But this is just an assumption.

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    The definitely at the beginning and the just an assumption and the end looks nice to me.... Note my example elongation: Lass bloss den Finger weg vom Knopf" – tofro Jul 2 '16 at 8:39
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As a German native I can tell you that this is plural. This is because it's the short version of the request "take your finger/hand away" that translates into German as

"Nimm Deine Finger weg!"

Here you can see that is plural. You can use it for anything of which someone should stay away. Not only for food.

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    Welcome to German Language Stack Exchange! Although you will probably not need it, I’ll point you towards the tour and the help center because traditions ;) – Jan Jul 4 '16 at 23:54
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You are right that this is more likely to be plural, as this makes more sense. From a purely grammatical point of view it could also be singular, so there is no other way to tell.

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  • Checking analogous forms as guidot did allows you to tell grammatically. – Jan Jul 2 '16 at 16:49
  • @Jan, you realise that Kopf is singular? – Carsten S Jul 2 '16 at 16:50
  • Yes, but Hände, Pratzen, Pfoten, … are plural. The Kopf case is a different one. – Jan Jul 2 '16 at 16:51
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    @Jan, what if a person has only one finger, would you say something different? Or if I was touching something with one finger and you wanted me to stop? It is only context, not grammar, that makes us understand Finger as plural. – Carsten S Jul 2 '16 at 16:52
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In terms of grammar, there is no way of telling between singular and plural.

Practically speaking, I'd argue that "Finger weg" ("finger(s) off") refers to the action of grabbing for something, which is typically done with more than one finger. Hence plural.

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You can tell that it's plural by looking at the idiom, which is **die** Finger von [etwas] lassen. Finger weg is an abbreviation of this idiom, so it is definitely plural.

If you insist, you might also argue that it means that (someone / everybody) should take all and any fingers off something, which in rare situations might be a single finger, but it does mean multiple, if present.

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