This is not a duplicate of Why are there two articles in front of a noun?, because this time both articles are not pronouns, but real articles.

Nachdem die Schutzleute eine Weile überlegt hatten, gingen sie runter und holten eine Leiter, die sie an dem einen Hausgiebel aufstellte (…) und unter Geschrei und Gelächter lief sie (Pippi) den Dachfirst entlang zum anderen Giebel hin. source

A German friend of mine said that, yes, they are really articles, and the second one only shows that that Giebel (facade) is only one. But later in the text, another one appears, so that explanation doesn’t work. (The friend is a programmer, not a linguist.)

  • Why are there two articles?

  • Why are they in different cases?

  • If the construction is correct, what is the rule, how should those be constructed and when should we use them?

A reference to some grammar source would be highly appreciated.

Maybe, it is some intentional rule breaking for to express an emotion?

Or, maybe it is a part of the modern language (the source is the year 2004) not fitting to classical rules? For example, in Czech it easily could happen.

  • 9
    While einen can be an indefinite article, in my opinion it is used as adjective here: One could relace it by linken or vorderen, zur Straße zeigenden according to actual situation.
    – guidot
    Feb 22, 2017 at 9:00
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    "einen" is not an article here. It's an adjective, alternating e.g. with "anderen". The question is definitely a duplicate. Feb 22, 2017 at 9:31
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    @KilianFoth, it is definitely not a duplicate of the linked question.
    – Carsten S
    Feb 22, 2017 at 9:34
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    I feel like I would like to remove the first paragraph which references the seemingly duplicate question (it's not a dupe, besides) and remove the word "real" in the title. Does anyone agree with me on this?
    – Em1
    Feb 22, 2017 at 11:11
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    Regardless of whether it’s an article, your friend’s (and Torsten’s) explanation is essentially correct: “einen” is used to show that the ladder is erected against [only] one of the gables. Contrary to what you said, this is necessary because there’s another gable in the scene. Feb 22, 2017 at 16:49

2 Answers 2


Einen in the example sentence is not an article, it is part of an idiomatic expression.

The respective part of the sentence can be translated to:

that they placed at that specific gable

In German you could also say

die sie an dem speziellen Hausgiebel aufstellten

To reply to your comment: The sentence implies that there is more than one gable. They put the letter to that one instead of the other one. The sentence could (fictionally) be continued:

die sie an dem einen Hausgiebel aufstellten, weil aus dem anderen Hausgiebel Flammen züngelten

And in the example you linked it is EXACTLY that what is said later in the text:

...die sie an dem einen Hausgiebel aufstellten... und unter Geschrei und Gelächter lief sie (Pippi) den Dachfirst entlang zum anderen Giebel hin

--> There IS another Giebel...

One more try to answer the three questions:

Q: Why are there two articles?
A: There aren't. In German there is the idiomatic expression der eine (often used together with der andere). It can be translated to the one.

Q: Why are they in different cases?
A: The rule is simple: einen takes the place of an adjective here (it describes the noun and therefore has to have this case (as described here)

Q: When to use it?
A: Whenever you use einen as adjective (meaning: this specific) and not as article.

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    @Gangnus : By mentioning that "the Hausgiebel is not single!" you actually confirm Torsten's answer. Because it is not a single facade (and the other option exists) it has to be specified that it is THIS ONE and not the OTHER ONE. Torsten's answer is completely correct save that "der eine/der andere" are not adjectives but Indefinitpronomen (der eine: canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/InflectionRules/FRegeln-P/… --- der andere: canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/InflectionRules/FRegeln-P/…) Feb 22, 2017 at 10:50
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    This answer is correct. I just believe @Gangnus misunderstood "the one" as "the one and only" and not as "the one as opposed to the other".
    – Em1
    Feb 22, 2017 at 10:51
  • @PatricHartmann But the meaning "this one" is already included in the definite article "der", isn't it?
    – Gangnus
    Feb 22, 2017 at 11:22
  • @PatricHartmann And in the article you are referencing to (thank you), there are three uses for the word "einer" : Unbestimmte Person oder Sache, Unbestimmte Person 'man', Umgangssprachliche Redewendungen. No one of these can be applied in the case.
    – Gangnus
    Feb 22, 2017 at 11:27
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    @Gangnus "But the meaning "this one" is already included in the definite article "der", isn't it?" No. Feb 22, 2017 at 12:12

This is an idiom:

Der eine (tut etwas), der andere (tut was anders).

For example, the French film "L’une chante, l’autre pas" (One sings, the other doesn't) has the German title Die eine singt, die andere nicht.

Here 'eine' is not an article; it is declined like an adjective. Hence 'dem einen' in your example. There is a strong expectation that the other gable will be mentioned shortly.

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