15

Imagine a street being named "Alte Straße". Which of the following sentences is correct?

"Ein Haus in der Alten Straße"

"Ein Haus in der Alte Straße"

The first one seems more intuitive, as it is grammatically consistent, but it changes the "Eigenname" of the street. It also risks people not recognizing that this is the name of the street, and instead thinking I am referring to some old street.

The second one seems odd. It would cause me to stop, do a double take, and then ponder if the author made a mistake or not. But it has the upside of using the correct name of the street.

30

Eigennamen get inflected as well (see Duden, GfdS), which means

Ein Haus in der Alten Straße

is correct.

In written language, people should understand you're referring to the street name "Alte Straße" and not to an old street, as the first letter of the street is always written as a capital letter (see Duden) and the actual name of the street, not a description of it.

If you're really eager to emphasize that it's a street name, you could rephrase it to "Ein Haus in der Straße mit dem Namen 'Alte Straße'". However, this would sound pretty stilted and there's probably no need for it.

5
  • 8
    There are some exceptions to the standard rule, e.g., "Alter Markt" and "Hohe Straße" in Cologne, where the official spelling uses two words, even though they are inflected as if they were single words ("Altermarkt", "Hohestraße").
    – Uwe
    Jul 12 at 7:30
  • 13
    The stilted long way of saying things was a long-running theme in the satirical party "Die Partei": "Die Anhänger der Partei Die Partei haben sich das alte DDR-Lied 'Die Partei Die Partei, die hat immer recht' zur Hymne gewählt."
    – HalvarF
    Jul 12 at 10:06
  • 9
    If an element of a proper name is inflected depends also on the fact which part of the name it belongs to. E.g.: the RAF is called die Rote Armee Fraktion, but Rote refers to Armee, not Fraktion. Thus, the name could be correctly inclined to (in) der Rote Armee Fraktion (dative). However, in der Roten Armee Fraktion is also heard sometimes, be it only out of habit. Jul 12 at 13:08
  • @Uwe I thought it was Huhstrooß auf Kölsch. That's what BAP taught me.
    – SQB
    Jul 13 at 9:26
  • @SQB In Kölsch. yes. But I was talking about standard German.
    – Uwe
    Jul 13 at 15:49
7

I'd like to add something to the other answer, since there's more semantic distinctions to it. Proper nouns enjoy a spectrum here, ranging from the same inflective behaviour as common nouns have to becoming essentially uninflectable quotations used as noun phrases.

The criterion is an interaction of whether the noun phrase is grammatically transparent with the null-article and inflection rules for proper nouns. This depends on semantics (asterisks marking ungrammatical examples):

  • Phrase is transparent, and needs an article (because is an Ortsname):

    *Der Anfang der "Alte Straße"

    Der Anfang der Alten Straße

  • Phrase is transparent, but can be used with Nullartikel (since it is a kind of Produktname):

    Der Bassist von "Würzige Melonen"

    Der Bassist der Würzigen Melonen

  • Phrase is not transparent (ohne alone cannot be inflected as a noun), cannot be used with article (Produktname again):

    Der Regisseur von "Oben"

    *Der Regisseur des Obens

  • Phrase is not transparent, and must be used with article (Bergname):

    Der Gipfel des K2(s?)

    *Der Gipfel von K2

Note that if the band's name were Alte Straße, you would say der Bassist von "Alte Straße" as well!

Obviously, there are corner cases, e.g., I'd accept der Gipfel von Olympus Mons, even though that is obviously a mountain. Or, with Band names, there seem to be some exceptions (der Bassist der Toten Hosen is much preferred to der Bassist von "Tote Hosen", but: von "Fünf Achterl in Ehren" seems better than der Fünf Achterl in Ehren).

14
  • 2
    'von "Tote Hosen"' would be wrong, since the name of the Band includes the article. The Band is called "Die Toten Hosen".
    – Maeher
    Jul 12 at 14:26
  • 3
    It would be "Der Bassist der Toten Hosen", if I am not mistaken
    – MechMK1
    Jul 12 at 15:11
  • 8
    'Der Bassist der Toten Hosen', 'Der Bassist von "Die Toten Hosen"', or "Der Bassist von den Toten Hosen" would all be acceptable. Dropping the article is not.
    – Maeher
    Jul 12 at 16:45
  • 6
    @Maeher right. Whereas curiously enough, dropping ‘Toten’ could be acceptable in this case: ‘Der Bassist der Hosen’ would be how fans of the band would say it. Jul 13 at 0:51
  • 4
    What are the three asterisks (*) for? Footnotes? Italics formatting? Something else? Jul 13 at 9:41
1

If you read something in the newspaper "Die Zeit" you say:

Ich habe es in "die Zeit" gelesen

or:

Ich habe es in der "Zeit" gelesen.

Both are correct, but the latter is perhaps more idiomatic.

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