I have just finished reading "Der Zauberberg" by Thomas Mann and I couldn't help but notice that the author often leaves out the auxiliary verb (especially in the form of hatte) when writing in pluperfect. Here's an example:

Bequem und nicht ohne Würde trug er auf seinen Schultern die hohe Zivilisation, welche die herrschende Oberschicht der handelstreibenden Stadtdemokratie ihren Kindern vererbt [hatte].

I've added the [hatte] where it should be - it's not in the text. There are numerous other sentences like this that I could quote. It's just the first example I could find.

Being german myself, I can safely say that in modern Standard German it would be highly unusual if not plainly wrong to leave out the auxiliary verb like this. I couldn't find any rules about when it's allowed to be left out.

So what is going on? Is it just an old grammar rule that I am not used to, or maybe just writing style?


1 Answer 1


I think puck is right in taking it as present tense. This makes sense in the context. What Mann is after here is the observation that this dignity is passed on to the next generation like a heritage. An on-going phenomenon, not his personal fate (comfortably on his shoulders, anyway).

To leave out the auxiliary as in:

Ich erinnerte mich an den Wein, den ich zuvor getrunken, und ...

the sentence of Zaubergerg is too long (ha!) and precise. But "vererbt" is zweideutig, probably not intended. I think the p.q. perfect interpretaion is far-fetched (but interesting).

It does not even matter too much which way you take it. The "Oberschicht" (not his familiy!) has passed it on to him, and he himself will pass it on. Somwehere else it is being passed on right now, and I do not know if it is in the light or in the dark.

Maybe there are better examples, as you suggest.

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