Could someone please explain how to say "of", as in "the book of the man"?

I suspect it is fairly simple but I don't understand the differnce between:

der Buch des Mann


der von dem Mann

(assuming both are correct).

  • Related: german.stackexchange.com/q/48/23 – Takkat Mar 10 '12 at 14:18
  • Can you please explain what "the book of the man" means? A book about a special man? A book, written by a special man? A book, owned by a certain man? A book about the man as a generic case - not about a special man? – user unknown Mar 10 '12 at 17:30
  • Furthermore: How is the headline related to the question? I only know "Von des Messers Schneide tropfte das Blut" - aber hier "Das Buch der Frau", "Das Buch von einer Frau" ('Ein Buch vom Mann' ist im Deutschen natürlich zuerst ein Buch von Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann oder Klaus Mann). – user unknown Mar 10 '12 at 17:35

You got it almost right - it's "Das Buch des Mannes" or, more archaic, "Des Mannes Buch".

This is the genitive case, which, in spoken language, is nowadays often replaced by the simpler (but in my opinion still wrong - I recommend you don't use any of these!) dative case, which would be "Das Buch vom / von dem Mann", or even worse, "Dem Mann sein Buch".

  • 2
    There is an ongoing argument about whether "wrong" or "right" are good terms when talking about language or not. But I agree that in written language dem Mann sein Buch sounds horrible. In everyday conversation, I might use the dative from time to time without feeling bad about it. – 0x6d64 Mar 10 '12 at 13:40
  • You're right, thanks. Edited to reflect the fact that this is my opinion rather than undisputed fact. – Jan Mar 10 '12 at 14:02

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