Although the definite article is used in a very similar way, I have noticed that it is often used in German in a way that an English speaker would find to be very counter-intuitive or unnecessary. I am not sure if there is a grammar principle at work that I am not aware of, or if it is simply a matter of pure convention. The following sentence, culled from a german-english dictionary, illuminates a bit of what I am talking about:

Nach einer langen Phase der Besatzung erklärte der Staat seine Unabhängigkeit.

The country declared independence after a long period of occupation.

From an English perspective, using the definite article here would be confusing and quite awkward (i.e. after a long period of the occupation ), namely because we have an indefinite article and definite article as part of the same phrase. But that is precisely what we have in the German, and as far as I can tell, such a mixing of definite and indefinite articles does not seem to be an issue.

My question is: Shouldn't von be used here instead? are von and genitive der interchangeable in this context? How can I be sure when to use one over the other?

2 Answers 2


Nach einer langen Phase der Besatzung erklärte der Staat seine Unabhängigkeit.

Phase der Besatzung is seen as a fixed phrase, you could drop in the word Besatzungsphase instead if you liked that better. However, if you wrote

Nach einer langen Phase einer Besatzung

the word einer would be identified as a number word for one, not as the indefinite article.

Nach einer langen Phase mehrerer Besatzungen

Because of that, phrases with genitive supplements generally use the definite article.

Replacing genitive supplements with the preposition von is only allowed if you are talking about a kind instead of an item, as Thorsten showed.

Die Einlagerung von Kartoffeln

Here, Kartoffeln is a kind. It's not a sack of potatoes you are talking about, but about potatoes in general, and what makes their handling different from e.g. apples. In contrary

Die Einlagerung der Kartoffeln

talks about a certain pile of potatoes while (caution!)

Die Kartoffeleinlagerung

talks about the action of stocking potatoes in general.


It's simply the correct use of the Genitive case. It can be found in many variations, like

Durch die Benutzung eines Rasierers
Nach langen Jahren der Enthaltsamkeit

Of course there's also the construction that uses von, but I can't think of an example where this is used with a singluar object:

Durch die Benutzung von Rasierern
Die Einlagerung von Äpfeln
Der Verkauf von Autos

  • "I can't think of an example where this is used with a singluar object": What about "ein Anflug von Müdigkeit" ?
    – Shakesbeer
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 19:36

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