2

Sometimes, in German, I want to describe a plural of an objects for instance:

Die Delphine können mit den Menschen in gewisser Weise kommunizieren.

Dolphins are able to maintain certain communication with humans

Now, for the most part, the sentence makes sense to me, but I can't understand why we need the "Die" i.e.

Delphine können mit den Menschen in gewisser Weise kommunizieren.

Is the definite article really that necessary? I thought the top instance was more formal than the second one (i.e. for colloquial speech) but I wasn't sure.

  • I actually think the second one would be used more often, if you take away "den" then it sounds perfect: Delphine können mit Menschen in gewisser Weise kommunizieren. – Vickel Jan 30 at 16:52
4

The use of the article depends on the preceding context. In general, no article is used in the plural:

Delfine können mit Menschen in gewisser Weise kommunizieren.

→ dolphins in general, as a species (same applies to Menschen, no article)


but:

Die Delfine können mit den Menschen in gewisser Weise kommunizieren.

→ you place extra stress on the dolphins, e.g. after talking about different animals as in the following example:

Im Meer leben viele Tiere: Fische, Delfine, Robben usw. Die Delfine können mit den Menschen kommunizieren.

meaning that the dolphins are the only ones who can communicate, the others can't.

(In this case you'd place an article before Meschen too. I can't explain why, it just sounds better with the article. Simply Menschen without article is also acceptable.)

  • Notice that in these examples, die is actually not an article but a demonstrative pronoun, the form of which only resembles that of the article die. – Björn Friedrich Jan 30 at 18:39
  • @BjörnFriedrich - I don't think so. It is a demonstrative pronoun in a case like "Im Meer leben viele Delfine. Die können mit uns kommunizieren." When die is followed by a noun it's an article. See duden.de/rechtschreibung/der_Demonstrativpronomen#Bedeutung2a. – Stef Jan 30 at 19:40
  • The assumption that die (also der and das) followed by a noun cannot be a demonstrative pronound is wrong! Surprisingly enough, the DUDEN page lists several counter examples of your assumption, e.g., the first one at 1.a. is: der Mann war es. I admit that in your examples die can be either an article or a demonstrative pronoun; but that depends on its function, and not on whether it is followed by a noun. – Björn Friedrich Jan 30 at 20:05
  • @BjörnFriedrich right, but this has nothing to do with the case in question here. In 1a, the Der is stressed: It was this man (not the other). Der can be substituted by dieser here: welcher Mann? --> dieser bzw. der. – Stef Jan 30 at 20:16
0

In the same way as the definite article in plurals is not always necessary in English it is also not necessary in German:

Your second example would be used more often, and if you take away "den" then it sounds perfect:

Delphine können mit Menschen in gewisser Weise kommunizieren.

exceptions exist: e.g. in this case the sentence sounds better with the definite article

Die Mannschaften haben ein gutes Spiel geliefert

but then in English you would use the article as well: the squads played a good game

  • of course you need the article before Mannschaft as it is singular. This has nothing to do with the question. – Stef Jan 30 at 17:20
  • @Stef thanks to point that out, now it sounds good I think – Vickel Jan 30 at 17:24

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