3

Say I want to construct a noun clause which refers to two elements with one noun, each described with a different adjective, in a context that would make one genitive and one dative. Or simply the following noun clause in English:

the unification of the subjective with the objective element of …

(Note: I believe that this phrasing is not very natural [and perhaps wrong?] to English, but I use it for the comparison with the German structure)

In German it would be:

die Vereinigung des subjektiven mit dem objektiven Elements des …

There seems to be a conflict between the genitive and the dative case sharing the noun "Element". Should it have the genitive s or should it be left without it, implying a dative? Or is it wrong altogether?

Of course, there are also alternatives:

die Vereinigung des subjektiven Elements mit dem objektiven (Element des) …

It seems in this case that the second "Element" can only be omitted when there's no further noun clause connected with "des".

Or:

die Vereinigung der subjektiven und (der) objektiven Elemente des …

although it sounds here as if there are many subjective and objective elements.

Which would be the preferable choice?

  • 2
    Es heißt: die Vereinigung des subjektiven mit dem objektiven Element des … – Ludi Aug 29 '16 at 6:26
7

Fragments of sentences are often more complicated to handle than whole sentences. So let's try a whole sentence:

Die Vereinigung des subjektiven Elements mit dem objektiven Element ergibt keinen Sinn.
(The unification of the subjective element with the objective element makes no sense.)

You can shorten it to this:

Die Vereinigung des subjektiven Elements mit dem objektiven ergibt keinen Sinn.

This is grammatically correct and of acceptable style.
Now the adjective »objektiven« has no following nouns whose attribute it could be. So it refers to something else. The most obvious thing to which it might refer is the word »Element«. (But this is not absolutely clear; it also could refer to something outside the sentence, this depends on the context.) Since »objektiven« is not an attribute of this word, it no longer needs to match with it in its grammatical case (nor in number). You can see this very often:

Walter legte fünf große Bälle auf den Tisch. Der grüne gefiel mir am besten.

instead of

Walter legte fünf große Bälle auf den Tisch. Der grüne Ball gefiel mir am besten.

»Fünf große Bälle« is plural and accusative. But »der grüne (Ball)« is singular and nominative. Although the "five big balls" doesn't match with "the green ball" either in case or in number, you can leave one ball out.

You could also do this:

Die Vereinigung des subjektiven mit dem objektiven Element ergibt keinen Sinn.

Now the 1st element is left out, and the adjective »subjektiven« refers to the other element without being its attribute. But now »objektiven« is an attribute of »element«, and so those two (plus the article dem) must match in gender, number and case. But the reason is not really that one word is the other's attribute. The real reason is that all three words (article dem, adjective objektiven and noun Element) together are one part of speech (a male singular dative nominal phrase to be precise, if you also add the preposition mit you get a prepositional phrase).

If you use an adjective that refers to something without being this something's attribute, then it is better to have the referred part of speech used before the lonely adjective. This helps the readers brain to find this part of speech quicker. So

Die Vereinigung des subjektiven Elements mit dem objektiven ergibt keinen Sinn.

(referred noun before lonely adjective) is better understandable (and therefor better style) than

Die Vereinigung des subjektiven mit dem objektiven Element ergibt keinen Sinn.

(Here you read »subjectiven« and it does not match with anything you did read before. So your brain needs to put it on the stack of unmatched words, and needs to wait until you read »Element« to resolve this situation. This more complicated than having »des subjektiven Elements« already in your short term memory when reading »objektiven«.)

But both versions are grammatically correct.

  • Little correction: ›mit dem objektiven Element‹ isn't an object but a prepositional phrase. – deponensvogel Aug 29 '16 at 18:32
  • @deponensvogel: Danke. Es kam mir auch seltsam vor, dass innerhalb einer Nominalphrase Objekte auftauchen können, aber ich wusste diesen Bestandteil nicht anders zu benennen. Ich hab's jetzt korrigiert, ich hoffe, es stimmt jetzt so. – Hubert Schölnast Aug 30 '16 at 6:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.