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I am a bit unsure about the accusative dative nominative cases.

In the English version of my form - I am asking the user to make an entry for "Mother's Name".

In the German version of my form - should I write "Mutters Name"? Or would the more correct form be "Name der Mutter"?

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  • 7
    If this is about the name of the mother before she changed it because of marriage (usual case in Germany) - you might consider "Geburtsname der Mutter"
    – bukwyrm
    Feb 24 at 11:12
  • 1
    Sidenote: Do you really want to ask for that?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Feb 26 at 19:47

5 Answers 5

24

In a form to fill in family information it should be "Name der Mutter" (and similar "Name des Vaters", "Name des 1. Kindes", "Namen der Großeltern".

"Mutters Name" of course is not incorrect but uncommon and especially in this context it has to me the wrong vibe. It expresses somewhat an aquaintence which is not given in a to-be-filled-out form. "Mutters Name" implies to me a context where one could use "mom" in English. I'd usually use a construct like "Mutters zweiter Vorname war Hildegard" only in a personal and attached context where it also could be "Muttis".

EDIT to add (the Gist of Henning's correct answer): in a form, where "Mutter" is used somewhat as a category, as a general word, it should be "Name der Mutter", while "Mutters XXX" is only used in context where "Mutter" is used as a name substitute for a specific person.

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    Yeah I second this. It's not wrong per se, but so is a lot of stuff that is weird nevertheless
    – Hobbamok
    Feb 25 at 11:21
  • To be more specific "Mutters Name" is grammatically wrong unless you treat "Mutter" as some sort of name ("Mutters Fahrrad" (no article!), but "meiner Mutter Fahrrad"). For example "Meiner mollig Mutter Magermuttermilch macht manche müde Männer Montags morgens meistens munter" can not be worded as "Meiner mollig Mutters &c.".
    – Lazy
    Feb 27 at 10:08
  • Yes indeed, Henning works out the distinction much more accurately Feb 28 at 7:33
21

Both versions are grammatically correct, but they use "Mutter" in different ways.

Name der Mutter

uses "Mutter", "mother" like a category. You might say, it refers to the human being who has the attribute of being the mother (of somebody).

Mutters Name

uses "Mutter" like a name, like a proper noun. Say, for example, a friend of yours calls his mother "Mutter", but you now need her legal name for some reason.

So, for a form, "Name der Mutter" would probably be more appropriate.

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    This is the point, the distiction between category and name usage. I only disagree on the "friend" example. If I'd use the wording "Mutters Name", I'd always refer to my mother. Asking a friend "Wie lautet Mutters Name?" asks for my mother's name, not their mother's. Feb 24 at 10:11
5

The answers provided are correct. I just want to add that in formal forms, it's usually Geburtsname der Mutter, to make clear to fill in the name the mother bore at her birth. This might be advantageous since the answer won't change over time.

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  • A term synonymous to Geburtsname in the sense of family name before marriage is Mädchenname.
    – RHa
    Feb 25 at 7:49
  • @RHa Ja. But since meanwhile the family name does not need to be the man's name, it makes sense to write it identically: "Geburtsname der Mutter" bzw "Geburtsname des Vaters" Feb 25 at 10:20
  • 3
    @RHa Though I'd consider "Mädchenname" as being almost archaic by now. I know that it was in use 30 years ago, but AFAICS only in colloquial contexts. With the name rights reform in 1993 ("Neuregelung des Namensrechts", see Wikipedia), the standard procedure at marriage went from "woman takes husbands name" to "the couple explicitely has to choose" -- therefore, "Mädchenname" did not describe all cases that are covered by "Geburtsname" any more. I think that was one point that put "Mädchenname" out of fashion.
    – orithena
    Feb 25 at 17:14
0

"Mutters Name" would be grammatically incorrect. The correct genitive form would be "(der) Mutter Name". This is absolutely not common, usually one would put it like "Name der Mutter". Of course in conversational language this does not get worded like that anyway.

"Mutters Name" could be used as a colloquialism, but only by using "Mutter" as a name instead of a function. Like if you address your mother as "Mutter" you can use it like that ("Mutters Brot ist das beste"), but as I said this would not indicate the function of mother, but one specific person you address as mother.

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  • And even in the case where Mutter's Name is grammatically correct, I would still consider it highly un-idiomatic. You would probably say something like "der Name meiner Mutter" instead, since that sounds so much less weird.
    – xLeitix
    Oct 19 at 11:30
-1

To add to the other answers, "Mutters Name" sometimes occurs in conversational language. Here are some examples of very informal language:

  • Wie isn dei Muddas Name?
    (or "Wie ist dein Mutters Name?"; most common variant: "Wie ist der Name deiner Mutter?")
  • Wie heißtn dei Vadda seine Schwester?
    (or "Wie heißt dein Vater seine Schwester?", most common variant: "Wie heißt die Schwester deines Vaters?")

I included the second example because it shows a similar construction with "dei Mudda" / "dei Vadda" (even though it is grammatically different in sentence structure).

For me it's hard to say what kind of dialect the above sentences are. I think it's a dialect that is not bound to region, but rather occurs Germany-wide in certain social circles.

PS: The above examples might suggest a traditional and binary world view of mothers and fathers. I think I have never heard of a non-traditional example in those circles, otherwise I would have included it. I support non-traditional family models and non-binary genders.

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  • Despite the PS, "dein Vater ihre Schwester" looks quite non-traditional to me; did you mean "dein Vater seine Schwester"? Feb 26 at 21:54
  • @AndreasBlass Yes, I meant dein Vater seine Schwester. However, just today I confirmed with a Bavarian native speaker that dein Vater ihre Schwester is also spoken by at least one person. Might be a speciality of that very person, I don't know. (I applaud of you having considered my PS in your thought process -- but actually that was completely independent :))
    – ComFreek
    Feb 27 at 22:44
  • Comfreak, we live in modern times, and “dein Vater ihre Schwester” might be correct in some cases.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 27 at 23:46

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