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Which is/are correct and why?

  1. Der Hund ist mein.
  2. Der Hund ist meiner.

My thinking is that only 2 is correct. If a noun follows mein-? then it's a determiner, and the masculine possessive determiner is mein. (See the inflection table here.) If a noun does not follow the mein-? then it's a pronoun and the masculine possessive pronoun is meiner. (See the inflection table here.)

On the other hand one grammar I looked at said there is a special uninflected form mein used specifically after sein or similar verbs. So dieses Haus ist mein not dieses Haus ist meins. Another grammar I looked at seem to agree with my reasoning. DeepL allows both versions and the DWDS usage database has examples with both variations:

Du bist mein. ("Game of Thrones" The Prince of Winterfell, 2012)
Du bist meiner. (Transformers 3 - Die dunkle Seite des Mondes, 2011)

If either version is a allowed, is there a difference in meaning? If it depends on circumstances, which version is used when?

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  • Auch: Dein ist mein ganzes Herz.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 10, 2022 at 16:08
  • I'm not sure, but I think Something is meiner/meine/meins is normally used. Du bist mein is used for a beloved person or maybe also in poetic texts. (I don't write this as an answer because I'm not sure about the rules. I'm a native German.)
    – Bodo
    Jan 10, 2022 at 16:22
  • @Bodo: I think you may be onto something and that matches with something I just read in another (perhaps dated) grammar. I'm going to put my current thinking in an answer as a working theory so see if anyone can poke holes in it.
    – RDBury
    Jan 11, 2022 at 2:28

2 Answers 2

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There are various ways you can look at this, I'll simply present mine (sic):

Ist das dein Hund? Nein, das ist nicht meiner - sondern seiner.

Is a substantival usage of a personal pronoun, so no genitive, even it it looks like one. (Proven by: "Ist das deine Katze, nein, das ist seine")

Der Hund ist mein

is an adjective usage of the same pronoun, and yes, it's uninflected (only used in masculine singular). (Like "Der Hund ist braun").

Both are valid and OK, but the second form is archaic and only found in old texts or in archaic scenarios like GOT.

Die Rache ist mein, sagt der Herr

(Compare your favorite King James Edition, Romans 12:19)

Der Sieg ist unser

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  • I think I see what you're saying, but I don't think the uninflected form is archaic since I see it in subtitles for TV and movies set in the present day. It appears in "Die Zeit" as well: Die Situation ist mein, weil sie das Bild der freien Wahl meiner selbst ist; alles, was sie mir darbietet, ist mein insofern, als es mich darstellt und symbolisiert. (1983, it's a quote but I can't find out from who without going through a paywall.) There does seems to be a slight difference in meaning, but I can't quite put it into words.
    – RDBury
    Jan 11, 2022 at 0:10
  • @RDBury That's a Sartre quote you're giving. Existientialism wasn't exactly yesterday ;)
    – tofro
    Jan 11, 2022 at 0:58
  • Well, 20th century. Anyway, didn't Sartre write in French? I looked for other examples from Die Zeit but it looks like most of them are quotations of some kind, but you could say that about the other version. Maybe Die Zeit isn't best place to look for examples.
    – RDBury
    Jan 11, 2022 at 1:39
  • @RDBury It's definitely archaic or lyric. No modern German native speaker talks like that. If they do, they allude to a quote.
    – user6495
    Jan 11, 2022 at 7:39
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I did a bit more research in additional grammars and I have a working theory: If you're talking about actual ownership then you'd always use the inflected form, so only Der Hund ist meiner is correct assuming you actually own the dog. If it's a more figurative meaning of the possessive then the uninflected form is allowed. So Du bist mein (see Bodo's comment above) is possible because you're expressing affection and commitment rather than ownership. (At least I hope that's what you're expressing.) If it's an abstract concept that no one can own then the uninflected form is also allowed: "Die Rache ist mein." (See tofro's answer.) Der Sieg ist mein. Der Tag ist mein. Die Ehre ist mein. Also when you're expressing victory or control over something: Die Stadt ist mein. Die Menschen sind mein. It's a bit tricky since being optional does not imply it's mandatory.

Anyway, this seems to fit the available data, but feel free to poke holes in it.

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