I don't understand why this isn't ,,Millionen von syrischen Kindern......" or "Millionen syrischer Kinder...." instead of ,,Millionen syrische Kinder...", that is to say, either using dative or a more obvious genitive.

  • 1
    Millionen syrische Kinder is the subject. Who or what suffers? So it has to be in … nominative. It's not the Millions who belong to some syrische Kinder.
    – Janka
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 23:01
  • 4
    @Janka No, that's not the answer to the problem. Of course the subject here is the nominal-phrase [Millionen syrische Kinder]. Millionen syrischer Kinder would be a Genitivus Partitivus and correct as well. The question is, why it is not obligatory to use Genitivs Partitivus here.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 1:59

3 Answers 3


The construction behind

Millionen syrische Kinder

is called "Apposition mit Kasusangleichung".

Millionen syrischer Kinder

would be "partitiver Genitiv (Genitivus Partitivus)". Both constructions are grammatically correct and denotate very much the same thing (1 million of Syrian children), but they have a different grammar. For more information see de:wikipedia: Apposition and canoonet

  • So, does that only apply to the nominative subject position like your comment under the question implies? I'd say it works in object position only with those inflections that are homonym between genitive and dativ, that is everything but masculin singular, because the apposition can be read as parenthetical, repeating the flexion: Ich möchte ein Glass, [eine] wässrige Lösung; the same sounds wrong with flüssiger Stickstoff. Of course there is no singular countable noun following quantifiers like Millionen.
    – vectory
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 18:18
  • You mean the meaning is more than one million children Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 13:41

I came across the same thing a while ago when I saw ein Glas Wasser and wondered why there is no von used there. Surprisingly, I realised that in my mother tongue, Persian, we use it in the same way with no preposition:

یک لیوان آب بده لطفا Give me a glass of water please.

And if in Persian we add ِ , the meaning could change in some circumstances:

یک لیوانِ آب بده لطف Give me a glass which I can use for drinking water.

The persian equivalent of "of" shown by a small slanted dash in the second example changes the meaning in Persian, but whether it is also the case in German I highly doubt it.


The question should be why Genitivus Partitivus was permittable at all. Kinder are in principle countable, and in subject position it will always be zwei syrische Kinder; It's the indefinite Millionen that's tricky. The casing depends on whether you want to stress uncountability or not; also, if definitely uncountable, e.g. Millionen grüne Liter Asbest (nonsense), would in my humble opinion more likely continue in active voice.

The nonsense-phrase "hier werden sie geholfen" (hier wird Ihnen geholfen werden) comes to mind, because it's the logical continuation (though whether that's etymologically true is a different question) of the mish-mash that you get from

Millionen Syrischer Kinder wird geholfen

as it's uncountable to boot, it has to take the singular flexion. Substituting a noun phrase that commands plural inflection, like the pronoun "sie", we get

Hier werden Sie geholfen

  • The Finnish language actually has a distinct partitiv case (Partitiivi) which follows after any number except for 1. Countability doesn't matter. Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 11:17

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