This sentence appears in today's DW Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten:

Mindestens 60 Prozent der Erwachsenen sollen jährlich Fortbildungskurse belegen und die Zahl der Menschen, die von Armut und sozialer Ausgrenzung bedroht sind, soll um mindestens 15 Millionen sinken.

However, the only preposition that Duden indicates to be used with bedrohen is mit. Is this sentence grammatically correct, and if so, why?

A second question about this sentence. In English we would say, "...should decline to no more than 15M." But the German sentence appears to say, "...should decline to at least 15M." Why is it not written as, "..., soll um nicht mehr als 15M sinken." or something similar?

  • 4
    Only one question per question, please ;)
    – RHa
    May 8 at 18:49
  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because the 2 questions should be split, to judge the 2 answers independently. May 9 at 9:42

mit vs. von

The use of mit comes from bedrohen itself, while von comes from the passive voice. It's not an either-or relationship, because they are not mutually exclusive and have different meanings.

Let's start with the active voice first. In the simplest case, we have neither mit nor von:

  • Der Räuber bedroht den Kasper.
    The robber threatens Kasper. (literally)

  • Armut bedroht die Menschen.
    Poverty threatens the people. (figuratively)

Chiefly in the literal meaning, mit can indicate the instrument the threatening is carried out with:

Der Räuber bedroht den Kasper mit der Pistole.
The robberer threatens Kasper with a pistol.

Von, on the other hand, can only appear in the passive voice. Hence, the phrase *bedrohen von doesn't exist, but it's possible to construct a similar phrase with the passive infinitive: bedroht werden (von …). But for a start, the basic passive would be:

Der Kasper wird bedroht.
Kasper is threatened.

Von then tells us who threatens:

  • Der Kasper wird vom (=von dem) Räuber bedroht.
    Kasper is threatened by the robberer. (literally)
  • Die Menschen werden von Armut bedroht.
    The people are threatened by poverty. (figuratively)

For the instrument, we can have mit in the same way as in the active in the passive voice, too:

Der Kasper wird mit der Pistole bedroht.
Kasper is threatened with a pistol.

And hence, whenever we can use mit in the active, we can as well use both of them in the passive:

Der Kasper wird vom Räuber mit einer Pistole bedroht.
Kasper is threatened by the robberer with a pistol.

sinken auf vs. sinken um

The answer to your second question (which actually should have been asked separately) is in fact not about mindestens vs. höchstens, but about sinken auf vs. sinken um:

  • Die Zahl der von Armut Bedrohten soll um mindestens 15 Millionen sinken.
    The number of those threatened by poverty should decrease by at least 15 million.
  • Die Zahl der von Armut Bedrohten soll auf höchstens 15 Millionen sinken.
    The number of those threatened by poverty should decrease to not more than 15 million.

Arguably, the following slightly changed word order would be possible with mindestens and auf if you consider the decrease a number that should be as big as possible:

Die Zahl der von Armut Bedrohten soll mindestens auf 15 Millionen sinken.
The number of those threatened by poverty should decrease at least to 15 million.

Your example would mean (caveat: has an probably unintended meaning, not recommended to use):

Die Zahl der von Armut Bedrohten soll um nicht mehr als 15 Millionen sinken. [sic!]
The number of people threatened by poverty should decrease by not more [sic!] than 15 million.

  • 1
    Wonderfully clear and helpful explanation. Thank you.
    – user44591
    May 8 at 23:23
  • 1
    Man sollte eine Frage erst schließen, um sie aufsplitten zu lassen, statt sie zu beantworten und damit den Anreiz, die Aufteilung auch durchzuführen, herauszunehmen, und das Problem im Kontext der Antwort zu kritisieren. May 9 at 9:45
  • 1
    @userunknown Sure (cf. my meta question on that), but the "incentive" was already gone since there have been two other answers addressing both points and not mentioning it. Seeing that it didn't seem practical to move the other answers in parts ex post, I considered it most useful for everyone to answer and add a friendly hint for next time. Hence, I'm wondering why you commented on this answer particularly, and if that has something to do with the downvote since I'm positive that this doesn't make the answer less useful to anybody. May 10 at 2:47

I am a bit puzzled by your question, because English makes the same distinction:

He was threatened with a gun.

Er wurde mit einer Waffe bedroht.


He was threatened by Peter.

Er wurde von Peter bedroht.

The semantic distinction is that the first form states what he was threatened with, whereas the second form states who was doing the threatening.


mit Armut bedroht

threatened with poverty

is a weird turn of phrase, because it implies that somebody was threatening to make someone poor (something like a robbery, or the threat of lawsuit).

In contrast

von Armut bedroht

threatened by poverty

grammatically means that poverty is doing the threatening. There is no implied other actor that deliberately tries to make someone poor. That is, poverty is being seen as something that arises on its own rather than through human intent.

As for your second question, you got the preposition wrong:

soll um mindestens 15 Millionen sinken


should be reduced by at least 15 million

  • 1
    Good answer, which might be improved by adding that bedrohen durch is a strong indication for passive voice, so the full construction is bedroht werden durch.
    – guidot
    May 8 at 19:19

"To threaten with" is "bedrohen mit", yes, but this here is simply the normal "von" construction for a passive, independent of the particular verb: They're not threatened with, but by poverty and social exclusion.

("Sinken um" also is "drop by", not "to".)

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