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I understand that “Ich bin der Auffassung” means something like “I believe” or “I think”. However, I do not understand how this makes sense grammatically, because when you literally translate it, it means: “I am the opinion” (I = the opinion). Is there any way to make sense of this usage, or should I just take it as it is and just memorize it?

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    grammatically, it is exactly like the more common "Ich bin der Meinung" – Ma0 May 8 at 14:06
47

TL;DR

That's the wrong literal translation. Note that Auffassung is female, i.e. die Auffassung. Here it's in the genitive case (der Auffassung). More literal translations would thus be:

I am of the opinion

I am of the understanding

which make more sense.

More detailed explanation

German nouns may change their article depending on the grammatical case. This may be confusing since they may assign an article that is used for a different gendered noun. A great start is to look up the word in a dictionary and find the corresponding articles for each case.

Auffassung is female, i.e.

  • Nominativ: die Auffassung
  • Genitiv: der Auffassung
  • Dativ: der Auffassung
  • Akkusativ: die Auffassung

It now becomes clear that it is not the nominative case in Ich bin der Auffassung.. Thus it cannot mean that you are the opinion (i.e. Ich bin die Auffassung). Instead genitive or dative are the only possible options. Dative does not make sense, as Auffassung does not receive any action/object (roughly speaking). Hence, Auffassung is in the genitive case and a more literal translation would be:

I am the opinion's

I am the understanding's

which seems a bit rough; so let's make them a tad more English:

I am of the opinion

I am of the understanding

which make more sense.

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    Great explanation, and it makes sense to me as a native speaker of English, but it makes me think that the expression "to be of the opinion" is a bit weird, almost as if there is an implied word that is missing. I'm left wondering if there are languages where this genetive-type construction isn't allowed, and if native speakers of those languages won't find this explanation useful/convincing. I guess they'll just have to shrug and accept "this is just something Germanic languages do". – JonathanZ supports MonicaC May 8 at 15:58
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    @JonathanZsupportsMonicaC Another thing English and German do is to use dative constructions with meanings very similar to this genitive one: "It seems to me" and "Es scheint mir". – Andreas Blass May 8 at 16:38
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    Just for reference, Italian, despite not being a Germanic language, uses the exact same constructions ("I am of the opinion that..." and "it seems to me that..."). So it seems to me that it is more an Indo-European thing. – Federico Poloni May 9 at 19:33
  • Which is it? "I am of the opinion" - the opinion is mine; "I am of the understanding" - the opinion, or fact, is someone else's. Or, is it not possible to distinguish form this German phrase? – Mawg says reinstate Monica May 10 at 8:34
  • Of course it depends on context but it doesn't really have a direct correspondent in English: dict.cc | Auffassung – infinitezero May 10 at 8:41
5

Of course ich bin der Auffassung has a similar meaning as I believe or I am convinced, but makes a more eloquent impression (imagine e. g. a politician) without adding substance.

I think is much weaker in my opinion, since it could just reflect a spontaneous idea.

The degree of certainty is crucial here, and der Auffassung sein implies some consideration, but less than der Überzeugung sein (to be convinced).

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    This does not address the question which is about the grammatical construct behind this, not the meaning. – Wrzlprmft May 9 at 8:10
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In addition to the top answer, "ich bin der Auffassung" also implicitly describes that a specific process has led the person to come to the stated conclusion, which can be described as his understanding of things. 'Auffassungsgabe' is a related word which describes the ability of a person to notice and consider relevant and observable things and come to a conclusion that approximates true causality.

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  • Welcome to German Language SE. I think the first part of your answer is aiming at something relevant, but it’s not easy to understand if you are not a native speaker. Can you please edit your answer to expand this? – Wrzlprmft May 10 at 15:55

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