A recent Slow German podcast has the sentence

Natürlich blieb Einstein kein Angestellter am Patentamt.

We have discussed this before with regard to the use of kein versus nicht. But now I am perplexed why the sentence was not written as

Natürlich blieb Einstein kein Angestellter des Patentamts.

According to Google Translate, the sentences have different meanings. When do we use a preposition like "an" and when do we use Genitive?

  • 1
    You already posted a question about this sentence. If you feel it doesn't cover this particular alternative, edit the other question. Short answer: The original is a correct sentence. Some alternatives may or may not be correct. And don't use Google Translate as a definitive answer.
    – RalfFriedl
    Oct 1, 2019 at 5:35
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    Google Translate yields the same answer in both cases for me. You can try deepL.com for a decent machine translation service. However, still with slightly different translations from the latter, the meaning is basically unchanged. So please clarify what exactly is unclear? Oct 1, 2019 at 6:37
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    @RalfFriedl If you have two questions, ask two questions. It doesn't matter how many German sentences you have, it matters how many questions you have.
    – sgf
    Oct 1, 2019 at 11:46
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    This is not a duplicate, the other question addresses the negation. The question is on-topic, just not optimally posed.
    – c.p.
    Oct 1, 2019 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


I would say that both sentences forms are roughly equal but they have a slight difference in expressing the relation to the workplace.

Angestellter am Patentamt

for me emphasises the fact that he works at this place, while

Angestellter des Patentamts

expresses a bit more that he is part of the office (part of the hierarchy/organization).

Edit: After thinking about it for a while I would like to add that I think that the traditionally correct way to say the sentence would be:

Angestellter des Patentamtes

Because the question to ask would be "Wessen Angestellter war er?" so the case would be "Genitiv"

However, the "Genitiv" case is is in most cases replaced by the "Dativ" case in colloquial German. For this the question would be "Der Angestelle von/an wem (oder was) war er?" then the sentence is:

Angestellter am Patentamt

So to sum it up both versions are correct depending on how modern you approach to German is.

  • Thank you. That is exactly the information I needed to put my own doubts to rest. Your comments give me reason to be more confident in my own perceptions of the language, and confidence is essential.
    – user38158
    Oct 1, 2019 at 20:55
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    I would generally prefer the first sentence, because "Angestellter am Patentamt" is perfectly congruent to "angestellt (sein) am Patentamt". Only when "Angestellter" is emphasized to express a contrast, would I use the second sentence. For example, "Er war kein Angestellter des Patentamts, sondern dessen Besucher." Oct 2, 2019 at 7:19

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