In the page 49 of this book, one reads:

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I don't understand the claimed must of the author regarding preferring von over genitive case in the marked sections. For example, the 4th example of the section (a) says one has to compose "ein Strahl von Hoffnung", yet why can one not say "ein Strahl der Hoffnung"?

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    As I understand it, the author is merely claiming that ein Strahl Hoffnung is bad. – David Vogt Nov 2 '19 at 17:50
  • @DavidVogt: I'm wondering why he uses "must", not "should", in his argument if that's just a recommendation. I thought that "must" implies the falsehood of "ein Strahl der Hoffnung". – Roboticist Nov 2 '19 at 17:53
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    @Roboticist I believe the author is more concerned about good formulations rather than grammatical demands. – πάντα ῥεῖ Nov 2 '19 at 17:57
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    @πάνταῥεῖ nope, wrong again. – c.p. Nov 2 '19 at 19:14
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    @c.p. The link is updated. – Roboticist Nov 3 '19 at 9:08

The author seems to be saying that von must be used when there is no determiner present to take the genitive case. In the first example we see a null-article, which obviously can't take a case. Here I would agree that you really must use the von-construction.

genitive with a declinable determiner: der Bau der Kraftwerke; der Bau eines Kraftwerks; der Bau schöner Kraftwerke

von-construction whith an indeclinable determiner: der Bau von [null-article] Kraftwerken; der Bau von fünf Kraftwerken

But when we look at that final example you were having troubles with, we can actually use multiple varieties:

genitive with a declinable determiner: ein Strahl der Hoffnung

von-construction whith an undeclinable determiner: ein Strahl von [null-article] Hoffnung

partitive apposition with a null-article: ein Strahl [null-article] Hoffnung

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    If you substitute a noun that takes an argument such as Aufkeimen for Strahl, it becomes clear that ein Strahl Hoffnung is distinct from constructions involving a genitive, since only das Aufkeimen von Hoffnung and das Aufkeimen der Hoffnung but not das Aufkeimen Hoffnung are possible. – David Vogt Nov 2 '19 at 20:23
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    I'd argue that your example is actually a subjective genitive, which is quite different from the partitive I was talkign about. subjective: Wessen Aufkeimen/Wer keimt auf? Die Hoffnung partitive: Wie viel Hoffnung? Ein Strahl Hoffnung – GrottenOlm Nov 2 '19 at 20:57
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    Let's assume eine Schüssel Milch involves a partitive genitive. Note that eine Schüssel von Milch is bad, but ein Strahl von Hoffnung is not. So either ein Strahl Hoffnung does not involve a partitive genitive or eine Schüssel Milch doesn't (or both). – David Vogt Nov 2 '19 at 21:06
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    Or the reason that eine Schüssel von Milch is bad, is that you can't replace the partitive genitive at all. That example sounds to me like you're saying the bowl is made of milk. That problem doesn't arise with ein Strahl von Hoffnung, because that interpretation works here: a ray made of hope. – GrottenOlm Nov 2 '19 at 21:13
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    Given your assumption that eine Schüssel Milch involves a partitive genitive, how do you explain that eine Schüssel der Milch is weird whereas ein Strahl der Hoffnung is not? – David Vogt Nov 3 '19 at 0:21

There are indeed cases where you cannot use genitive and you must use von.

Such is the case when you don't have an article and you don't have an adjective:

e.g. Ein Angebot fünf teurer Produkte is ok, but if the products are not qualified by an adjective (teuer), then you say Ein Angebot von fünf Produkten and not Angebot fünf Produkte.

The problem is that due to the absence of the (declined) adjective, you cannot show you are using genitive by just juxtaposing (although for other selected nouns you can). Then you use von.

  • Ein Strauß Blumen hört sich für mich nicht falsch an. – GrottenOlm Nov 2 '19 at 19:17
  • @GrottenOlm Liegt wohl an Blumen oder Strauß – c.p. Nov 2 '19 at 19:20

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