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I was considering this sentence:

Der Dschungel is die Heimat einer Vielzahl exotischer Tierarten

Now, I was thinking, if I was to write the English equivalent:

The Jungle is the habitat of a countless number of exotic species

Directly translated:

The Jungle is the habitat a countless number exotic species.

Sometimes, in German, I have seen the dative case to fill in the English preposition "of" equivalent for possession.

I also understand English and German do not respect a 1:1 translation, which makes sense.

But, in the example above, is the preposition "of" not existent in German. How does it work?

  • Just to make sure there's no confusion, because you mention "dative": In isolation, the phrase "einer Vielzahl exotischer Tierarten" could be either in dative or in genitive, but in this particular case, it cannot be dative. It's the genitive that replaces "von", and that's probably also what you've seen before. – konst Jan 31 at 20:44
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Der Dschungel ist die Heimat einer Vielzahl exotischer Tierarten.

A "literal" English translation is:

The jungle is the exotic animals' countless number's home.

German speakers use these genitive supplements excessively, at least in writing. It's also a sign of educated speech. In some dialects, you instead hear

Der Dschungel ist die Heimat von einer Vielzahl von exotischen Tierarten.

which resembles the English sentence. Sometimes, only one prepositional object is replaced by a genitive supplement.

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In German, the genitive case is used to express the of:

... einer Vielzahl tropischer Tierarten.

As there are no visible cases in English you need a preposition to express this meaning, except for cases like my teacher's name = der Name meines Lehrers / meiner Lehrerin.

  • Not sure if I understand your comment. Instead of a preposition you use declension - not only of articles, but also adjectives and nouns. – Stef Jan 30 at 21:07
  • my apologies but I meant declination of articles! – David Smith Jan 30 at 21:22

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