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If indicating my wife and child, should I say

Das sind meine Frau und Kind.

or

Das sind meine Frau und mein Kind.

The second sounds longwinded, while the first sounds more natural, but the possessive pronoun meine does not agree with Kind.

Is it somehow understood that that adjective applies to both, but should be treated as being modified for the second noun, where it is omitted?

Is there any actual grammatical rule that you can refer me to?

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    Not really on-topic but Germans would probably say "meine Frau und meine Tochter" or "meine Frau und mein Sohn", but not so often "meine Frau und mein Kind". Of course, if there are more children, one might hear "Das sind meine Frau und meine Kinder." Dec 20, 2018 at 17:40
  • Upvote for you coment, but it was just an example; I should have taken time & found a better one.
    – Mawg
    Dec 20, 2018 at 19:00

3 Answers 3

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It is actually important to have the possessive pronoun in front of each word to emphasize that the roles are applying to two different persons. Usually that would be clear from the number of the verb, but in casual language the following is conceivable, say, at a garden party: "Und wer ist das da hinten?" "Das ist meine Tochter und meine Frau." The answer "Das ist meine Tochter und Frau" might get you funny looks.

A more benign example may be to introduce somebody with "dies ist mein Freund und Nachbar". Here omitting the second pronoun for a single person seems natural. Generally omitting the second pronoun conveys to me the sense that the two roles are closely connected, perhaps from the Biblical passages quoted elsewhere in this thread.

None of this is, however, clear-cut, and will usually be obvious from context.

In your specific example a grammatical factor comes into play: If case, number or — for singular — gender differ between the two nouns it is actually mandatory to repeat the possessive pronoun, like it would be with an adjective: Das sind meine Frau und mein Kind. You can combine male and female plurals though, as in "das sind meine Söhne und Töchter".

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    Hmmm... ""Das ist meine Tochter und meine Frau." sounds weird too. I would say "das sind meine Tochter und meine Frau". "ist" sounds wrong and might even get you funny looks too (as if wife and daughter were one and the same person). Dec 20, 2018 at 17:04
  • @RudyVelthuis It is not correct but may happen in a conversation, as in English "Who's that over there?" "That's my daughter and my wife." Referring to a vague indication of a group of people. Maybe it's contrived. I tried to find an example where you could tell it's not a single person because the pronoun is repeated. Dec 20, 2018 at 17:17
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    But in English, that would probably even be correct. But not in German. Note that OTOH "married, with children" sounds weird to our ears (used to German), but not necessarily to the ears of people speaking English. Dec 20, 2018 at 17:35
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As far as I know, there is no grammatical rule saying that there has to be a possessive pronoun before each element in such a kind of enumeration. I rather consider it a convention, though it does sound peculiar to the German ear if left out.

In some German translations of texts from the bible you often find that the possessive pronoun is dropped. In the Book of Psalms it says „Er ist mein Schild und Schutz zugleich, [...]“, meaning “He is both my shield and my protection.”

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  • That sounds natural to me, and changing it to mein Schutz makes it sound clumsy. Of course, the bible, in German translation, is an archaic text.
    – Mawg
    Dec 20, 2018 at 11:21
  • It is Bible translations that have such constructs quite often. Mein Herr und Gebieter, Dein Stecken und Stab, ... we cannot deduce a general rule from this.
    – Takkat
    Dec 20, 2018 at 12:00
  • Die Stasi war "Schild und Schwert der Partei"... Dec 20, 2018 at 13:56
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    Though all those examples refer to the same thing of course
    – sgf
    Dec 20, 2018 at 16:35
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    It is ok in all the cases here because the noun always has the same gender and in these cases it doesn't sound odd and the pronoun can be ommited. I don't know though if there are phrases in the bilble where genders are mixed and pronouns are ommited. I don't think the examples here serve the purpose.
    – Javatasse
    Dec 20, 2018 at 18:19
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You can ommit the second or any further pronouns if all the nouns have the same numerus and gender. Otherwise it sounds odd.

Ich habe meine Häuser und Yachten verkauft.

Meine Frau und Tochter telefonieren.

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