mit öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln - by public transportation

After mit it should be in the dative case, is it right?
Why use öffentlichen not öffentlichem there?
Verkehrsmittel is a neuter word. Why there is a "n" in the end?


You are using dative case in plural.

The word »Verkehrsmittel« literally means »traffic-device«. So one Verkehrsmittel is one singe bus, one single tramway or one single train. But more often you are talking about more of those vehicles, so you have to use the plural form.

But also when you mean the infrastructure system provided by a city or country, you use it in plural form, even if you use just one bus for a single travel:

Ich bin heute mit den öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln zur Arbeit gefahren.
Today I traveled with the public traffic-devices (plural!) to work.
(I know, this is bad English, but it is what you literally say in German)

But you mean:

Ich bin heute mit dem Bus zur Arbeit gefahren.
Today I traveled with the bus (singular!) to work.

This is the complete table:

  • Singular
    • Nominativ

      Das öffentliche Verkehrsmittel meiner Wahl ist der Bus.

    • Genitiv

      Die Sitze des öffentlichen Verkehrsmittels sind schmutzig.

    • Dativ

      Ich fahre mit dem öffentlichen Verkehrsmittel.

    • Akkusativ

      Ich sehe das öffentliche Verkehrsmittel.

  • Plural
    • Nominativ

      Die öffentlichen Verkehrsmittel meiner Wahl sind Busse.

    • Genitiv

      Die Sitze der öffentlichen Verkehrsmittel sind schmutzig.

    • Dativ

      Ich fahre mit den öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln.

    • Akkusativ

      Ich sehe die öffentlichen Verkehrsmittel.

Verkehrsmittel is a compound noun. It derives its grammatical properties from the last member of the compound-chain which is »das Mittel«: declension of »Mittel«

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    I disagree with this: So one Verkehrsmittel is one singe bus, one single tramway or one single train. To me, a Verkehrsmittel is the entirety of all vehicles of a certain type, so: all the buses form the Verkehrsmittel "Bus". Only when talking about different types you'd use the plural, for example: Die Verkehrsmittel Bus und Bahn sind sehr bequem, aber Das Verkehrsmittel Bus ist nicht immer umweltfreundlich. – Thorsten Dittmar Nov 16 '16 at 13:53
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    Also, I'd translate Verkehrsmittel as means of transportation (it's really a shame that means is a plural word in English...), not as a single "device". – Thorsten Dittmar Nov 16 '16 at 13:55
  • Either way, the standard German way of putting it is using the plural. Very rarely will you have occasion to use this in the singular (Die Buslinie 13A ist ein öffentliches Verkehrsmittel.) So mit öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln it is. – Ingmar Nov 16 '16 at 19:18
  • I support the "means of transportation" translation. "Mittel" == "Means". – Em1 Nov 17 '16 at 8:28

Yes, it is dative case, you are right. But Verkehrsmittel is used in plural here. So it should be "mit öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln".

PS. You can think of it as "by means of public transportation" (which is also plural).

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  • But why Verkehrsmitteln have a "n" in the end? – Echo Yang Nov 16 '16 at 13:05
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    Because it's dative plural. duden.de/rechtschreibung/Verkehrsmittel In German almost all substantives normally have an "-n" in dative plural. – Eller Nov 16 '16 at 13:09
  • I believe exceptions from the -(e)n dative plural ending are mostly (only?) loanwords, e.g., "den Autos". Note that "das/die Verkehrsmittel" is the same word in singular/plural nominative. – user1583209 Nov 16 '16 at 13:23
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    @user1583209 "Auto" is a short form of "Automobil". And surprisingly the dative plural auf "das Automobil" is "den Automobilen". Same goes for "AGB", for example. Usually you'd talk about doing something with "den AGBs", but actually you're doing something with "den allgemeinen Geschäftsbedingungen". – Thorsten Dittmar Nov 16 '16 at 13:26
  • Sure. But do you know a pure German word (not abbreviation, not loanword) which has a dative plural ending which is not -(e)n? – user1583209 Nov 16 '16 at 13:32

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