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In this piece of dialog:

Kunde: Ich möchte um 22 Uhr essen.

Kellner: Die Küche schließt in der Woche um 22 Uhr 30.
Und das is schade, wenn Sie einen unserer köstlichen Nachtische versuchen wollen.

Can someone please make sense of the cases of the words after the comma?

My try:

... wenn Sie einen unserer köstlichen Nachtische versuchen wollen.

I will rewrite it, for clarity like this:

Sie versuchen einen unserer köstlichen Nachtische

  • versuchen wants the accusative case, right?

  • The noun Nachtisch is masculine, the plural is Nachtische.

  • einen is in the accusative case.

  • unserer and köstlichen are adjectives. So, their declension should be that of plural adjectives following the indefinite article:
    unsere köstliche Nachtische

But it makes no sense because einen is singular. I don't understand the "einen unserer" combination and therefore the necessary declension of the adjectives following it.

  • "But it makes no sense because einen is singular" Sure it's singular, it's one out of many. – πάντα ῥεῖ Dec 2 at 18:55
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    This is a prime example of a well posted question, not sure why you don't understand it and give -1... – infinitezero Dec 2 at 18:55
  • @ infinitezero I have added why – juan carlos vega oliver Dec 2 at 19:01
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    @juancarlosvegaoliver I guess the not sure why you don't understand it was addressed to the person who nominated your question for closing with the reason "unclear what you're asking" - it is indeed a well posted question. – Volker Landgraf Dec 3 at 0:12
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Versuchen sie den Nachtisch.

"Nachtisch" = accusative object (masculine).

Versuchen sie unseren Nachtisch.

"unseren Nachtisch" = accusative object

"unseren" is used as an article, a possessive article. It is the accusative masculine form of "unser" because it is the article for "Nachtisch".

Versuchen sie einen Nachtisch.

"einen Nachtisch" = accusative object.

Now "einen" is the article (accusative masculine).

Versuchen sie einen unserer Nachtische.

Now "unserer" is a possessive determiner and not anymore the article! The article job is taken bei "einen"! A possessive determiner is genitive and "unserer" is the genitive masculine plural form of "unser".

  • @ Camissa I guess you meant "unserer" is the genitive plural form of unser, right ? – juan carlos vega oliver Dec 2 at 21:07
  • So I could say : Versuchen sie einen der Nachtische, and unserer takes the place of the plural genitive article der. (Versuchen sie einen der unserer Nachtische would be incorrect) – juan carlos vega oliver Dec 2 at 21:09
  • Precisely, then it would need to be "einen der unseren Nachtische" – infinitezero Dec 2 at 21:16
  • @juan carlos Yes, as “Nachtische” is plural it’s possessive determiner is plural too. I added that in my answer. – Camissa Dec 2 at 21:41
  • I suppose einen is a pronoun here, not an article: "Versuchen Sie mal einen." - "_Einen was?" - "Einen von unseren superleckeren Nachtischen." In nominative, it would be einer unserer Nachtische ('einer' = pronoun), not *ein unserer Nachtische ('ein' = article). – Ralf Joerres Dec 3 at 16:31
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You are correct, versuchen takes the Akkusativ. And it does in this case, too! einen is the Akkusativ object. Unserer köstlichen Nachtische is in Genitiv, so the whole sentence translates to:

[...] if you'd like to try one of our tasty desserts
[...] falls Sie einen unserer leckeren Nachtische versuchen wollen

  • I don't understand well this genitive structure.If Unserer köstlichen Nachtische is in Genitiv, don't I need a noun between einen and unserer? – juan carlos vega oliver Dec 2 at 19:17
  • I've added a comparison, maybe it becomes clearer this way – infinitezero Dec 2 at 20:17
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I think ‘’einen’’ is a pronoun here so it’s not part of the ‘’unserer köstlichen Nachtische’’ which is genitiv plural noun . Actual pronoun is ‘’einer’’ but because versuchen takes accusative it becomes ‘’einen’’

  • I think it the full phrase it comes from is : einen Nachtisch unserer köstlichen Nachtische (a dessert of our tasty deserts). and then to avoid repetition Nachtisch is dropped, so that einen, as you said , becomes a pronoun. But why are you saying the actual pronoun is Einer? In the nominative you mean? Then the actual pronoun would be eine for plural nouns, wouldn't it? – juan carlos vega oliver Dec 2 at 23:09
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The word unserer is not some kind of attributive adjective but in actual fact a possessive pronoun. That would be true for all case-inflected forms of unsere (nominative plural). However, as Canoonet states, these are often termed possessive articles rather than possessive pronouns in German, because if they are placed in front of a noun they act as an article.

Versuchen Sie unseren köstlichen Nachtisch.
Versuchen Sie den köstlichen Nachtisch.
Versuchen Sie einen köstlichen Nachtisch.

Schmeckt Ihnen unser Nachtisch?
Schmeckt Ihnen der Nachtisch?

As the examples above show, you would either use an article (both definite or indefinite) or a possessive pronoun.

But your example sentence and your detailed analysis show that there is both an article and a pronoun, so what is going on here?

The answer is that the sentence does not mean:

Try our delicious dessert.
(Versuchen Sie unseren köstlichen Nachtisch.)

A rigorous examination shows that unserer is actually in genitive case while einen remains accusative (as you suspected). The translation that is not the above but rather:

Try one of our delicious desserts.
(Versuchen Sie einen unserer köstlichen Nachtische.)

This also explains the plural form; had it been ‘Versuchen Sie unsere köstlichen Nachtische’ (accusative plural) you would have been expected to try all or at least many desserts – but common restaurant practice in Germany would have you order only one dessert per person so you can only try one.

The German construction at play here is essentially einer des Ganzen: a demonstrative article (einer) followed by a genitive of a plural or group noun. Essentially, it is a pick (any) one situation exactly like its direct English translation one of many. It is permissible to use einen von unseren Nachtischen, more closely mirroring the English one of, but using the genitive is usually considered better practice.

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