Jetzt seid ihr Kerle an der Reihe.

Is the bolded phrase an apposition phrase?

  • Where did you find this slightly odd sentence? In case it is a direct translation from US-American ("you guys"): this is not how you express things in German, even not in slang. – Christian Geiselmann Dec 11 '19 at 17:24
  • 3
    @ChristianGeiselmann It would be possible, for example in a sentence like "Wir Mädels haben es schon gemacht, jetzt seid ihr Kerle an der Reihe". – Volker Landgraf Dec 11 '19 at 22:11
  • @VolkerLandgraf Yes, it is possible to think of (rare) situations where the sentence could be used. However, this does not answer my question (where did he find that sentence) and my concern that at the root of the original question might be a bad translation.from English. – Christian Geiselmann Dec 12 '19 at 10:05
  • @ChristianGeiselmann context.reverso.net/translation/german-english/ihr+Kerle – ughi tudhi Dec 12 '19 at 11:00
  • 2
    @ughitudhi Thank you for the link to this list of sentences with ihr Kerle plus their equivalents in English with you guys. This actually confirms my suspicion that this sentence probably originates in a (too literal) translation from (very common) English you guys to (rather uncommon) German ihr Kerle. I am not saying that in real-life German you will never hear ihr Kerle, but such occassions are really, really rare; whereas you guys is one of the most frequent expressions in English/American colloquial language. – Christian Geiselmann Dec 13 '19 at 13:41

No. It's just the subject. In German subjects can stand at any position within the sentence. Very often they occupy position 1 (like in English):

Ihr Kerle seid jetzt an der Reihe.

But other positions are possible too, like in your example. (The full set of rules about German word order is long and complicated and not topic of your question.)

The phrase »ihr Kerle« is the subject of the sentence. It is a nominal group, this is the name for a part of speech that consists of a noun (therefore "nominal") to which there are some other words attached that build a group that is one part of speech. Here, in your example, verb and subject are in second person. More often you see third person, so lets have a look at some third person versions:

Jetzt sind die Kerle an der Reihe.
Jetzt sind diese Kerle an der Reihe.
Jetzt sind andere Kerle an der Reihe.

What is marked bold are nominal groups that are used as subject. They all consist of a noun (Kerle = guys) and a determiner (die = the, diese = these, andere = other). You find determiners in English grammar as well as in German grammar. They can be articles, pronouns, quantifiers and many more.

The cases, where you can use a noun as a subject without a determiner are rare. At the moment I just can remember names (»Klaus schläft«) and indefinite plurals (»Planeten sind rund«) to be allowed to appear without determiner as a subject. The standard case is, that the subject is a nominal group, which means, it needs a determiner.

Let's go back to second person.

When you want to use any noun to be the subject of a sentence in second person, then it is always determined. You can't speak to just any persons. You always speak to certain persons. And this means, you have to use a determiner, and the only word I can think of to be used in such a case is the personal pronoun »ihr«. You have the same construction in English too, but the german phrase »an der Reihe sein« converts to another grammatical construction when translated into English ("du bist an der Reihe" is literally: "you are on the row", but in correct English "it's your turn"), so I use another example to demonstrate it:

You guys should leave my pub now.
Ihr Kerle solltet jetzt mein Pub verlassen.

In German (but not in English) alternative other word orders are allowed:

Jetzt solltet ihr Kerle mein Pub verlassen.
Mein Pub solltet ihr Kerle jetzt verlassen.

Of course, you also can use an apposition phrase in such a case, but it looks different:

You, dear guys, should leave my pub now.
Ihr, liebe Kerle, solltet jetzt mein Pub verlassen.

  • How can a noun be the subject of seid? Why don't you consider ihr to be the subject? After all, leaving out Kerle leaves the sentence unchanged but removing ihr forces third person agreement: Kerle sind an der Reihe. – David Vogt Dec 11 '19 at 9:03
  • The head of the NP ihr Kerle cannot be Kerle. Otherwise, sein could not be in second person (seid). In this regard, this case is diametrically opposed to your Jetzt sind die Kerle/diese Kerle/andere Kerle an der Reihe examples. – johnl Dec 11 '19 at 9:04
  • @Hubert Sagt man in Österreich das Pub? (Ich weiß, dass es einige Worte gibt, die in D und Ö einen unterschiedlichen Genus haben). Ich war schon drauf und dran, Deinen Beitrag zu editieren und in meinen Pub zu korrigieren – Volker Landgraf Dec 11 '19 at 22:15
  • @VolkerLandgraf: Ja. Es heißt das Beisl, das Gasthaus, das Café, das Restaurant und daher auch das Pub. Ich habe gegoogelt: Wiktionary findet, dass neben "das Pub" (erste Wahl) auch "der Pub" (zweite Wahl) ok ist. Wikipedia nennt ebenfalls zuerst den sächlichen und als Alternative den männlichen Artikel. DWDS und Duden schließen sich dem an. ... – Hubert Schölnast Dec 12 '19 at 12:49
  • ... Ich gebe zu, das folgende Argument hat kein großes Gewicht, aber das Wort "Pub" stammt von "public house" ab. Und weil das Haus sächlich ist, ist es nur naheliegend (aber natürlich nicht zwingend, das gebe ich zu) auch das Pub mit diesem Artikel zu versehen. – Hubert Schölnast Dec 12 '19 at 12:51

Well, no, that can't be right (what would the phrase be in apposition to?). In linguistic circles, the grammatical status of phrases like ihr Kerle is not entirely clear, simply because different theoretical and terminological concepts dictate somewhat different interpretations.

  • One way of looking at it is describing the whole expression as a pronominal phrase consisting of a head in the form of a personal pronoun, ihr, and an apposition in the form of a noun, Kerle. (Probably the predominant - and my prefered - way of looking at it.)
  • Others insist on a terminological distinction from "ordinary" cases of apposition and consider Kerle "apposition-like" (eg Zifonun et al, Grammatik der deutschen Sprache, vol 3, p 2047).
  • Still others dislike the qualification of ihr in such cases as a pronoun/proterm and analyse the phrase as a determiner phrase, with ihr in this case acting as a "transitive determiner". (Somewhat dubious as it seems to conflict with the ordinary understanding of determiners in German.)
  • No matter what the grammatical status actually is, to me the phrase seems pretty equivalent to "you guys" in English. – RHa Dec 11 '19 at 8:37
  • Sure. Similar constructions exist in many languages. – johnl Dec 11 '19 at 8:43

Yes, Kerle can be considered to be in apposition to ihr.

Both English and German have these kinds of appositions (of nouns to first or second person pronouns). However, as rightly pointed out by Christian Geiselmann in a comment, this particular example is probably a mistranslation.

In English, the singular and plural forms of the personal pronoun are identical in the second person: you. This has lead to the use of appositions, such as you guys, or the contraction y'all, as unambiguously plural forms. German has no such need: du and ihr (as well as dich, dir and euch) are clearly distinct.

Therefore, a sentence such as

Don't you guys ever give up?

should never be translated as

Gebt ihr Kerle eigentlich nie auf?

but simply as

Gebt ihr eigentlich nie auf?

In contrast to this special use, both English and German use these appositions to characterise the person or persons being referred to:

you fool, you idiot, you faithful servants, you brave souls …
du Depp, ihr traurigen Gestalten, ihr munteren Gesellen …

You men are all alike.
Ihr Männer seid alle gleich.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.