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The text under the headline in the current lead article on Zeit Online is:

Hier erzählt sie vom Alltag im Krieg, der Sorge um ihre Familie und dem Stolz der ukrainischen Frauen.

As a non-native German speaker I would be inclined in this case not to contract the preposition von with its article, since vom der Sorge and vom dem Stolz are ungrammatical.

Does the Zeit usage appear problematic to native German speakers?

2 Answers 2

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Judging from a normative grammar oriented, rule-based point of view, this sentence would be considered wrong. The question whether vom is to be considered a contraction (I think it should) or not does not really matter. The OP nails it: the problem is the divergence of the gender of Krieg (m., hence von dem Krieg or vom Krieg) and Sorge (f., hence von der Sorge).

However, in practical use, most native speakers might not even notice. Pragmatically, the focus of attention is limited, and when arriving at Sorge, one might have already forgotten whether there was a vom or von dem in the first part of the sentence. One could interpret this in a way that the vom, even though it is the contraction, is still conceptualized as von dem:

Hier erzählt sie von dem Alltag im Krieg, der Sorge um ihre Familie und dem Stolz der ukrainischen Frauen.

This would be fully correct, and the speaker (writer in this case) might have had this in mind. For the listeners (readers), this will usually be the way they understand the original sentence. Most might not even spot the subtle grammatical inconsistency.

Whether this sentence appears problematic to native German speakers depends very much on who you ask. There is a bunch of people who fancy a very normative approach in grammar. This kind of approach to grammar is also used for social signalling by some. For most people, this inconsistency would be too subtle to even spot it. As it does not affect the meaning or create ambiguity, I guess most people would not be bothered, even if they spotted it.

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  • Thanks. I think that the normative approach is the right one in "serious" contexts such as academic papers. The fact that Zeit, a serious newspaper, did not follow the norm in this case is what prompted my question. The Zeit usage could possibly be regarded as an example of faulty parallelism.
    – Shoe
    Mar 31 at 6:48
  • @Shoe I would not overestimate the position of Zeit as an authority in language matters. Also, you should take into account a difference between print and online newspapers: While print editions are more thoroughly checked for grammar, style and orthography, online editions come with much more mistakes, because of the need to publish quickly. It is not uncommon that an online article experiences multiple edits after being published just in order to iron out wrinkles in the first published version. Mar 31 at 6:57
  • Thanks for answering my original and subsequent questions.
    – Shoe
    Mar 31 at 7:17
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If you propose to replace vom by von dem: It would not become wrong, but I can't imagine a native speaker keeping them separate.

The following quote is also from Zeit, but shows the point:

Sie erzählt vom Spinnennetz der Liebe zwischen Eltern und Kindern, Mann und Frau, von der Gemeinschaft mit den Tieren, von Krankheit und Tod, vom Verlassenwerden, davon, [...]

So you would more likely repeat von or use the respective contraction instead of dropping the contraction in the first occurrence.


Update: Probably it is misleading to consider vom primarily as contraction; it is a standard dictionary word. While its meaning can be conveniently explained by "contraction", this is more a background property than a mark of inferior quality.

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  • Thank you. Are there any common contexts in which the preposition and the article would typically not be contracted?
    – Shoe
    Mar 30 at 16:17
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    if you want to put emphasis on the article, the specific unit you talk of: Er fiel vom Pferd = he fell of (a) horse. Er fiel von dem Pferd = He fell of that horse. Mar 30 at 16:20
  • @planetmaker: In your counter-example I would consider dem as demonstrative pronoun instead of an article. All non-contracted examples I came up with were due to a feminine noun, where no contraction exists - see von der Gemeinschaft in my example.
    – guidot
    Mar 30 at 21:49
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    No contradiction from me. Indeed I think it can be valid argument to call the 'dem' in 'von dem' a demonstrative pronoun where it is spelled-out instead of 'vom' Mar 30 at 22:11
  • I could totally see a native speaker saying von dem Krieg, der Sorge, und dem Stolz. I would expect this to happen if the speaker has the enumeration in mind already at the beginning of the sentence. Imagine someone stressing the enumeration, for instance by counting with the fingers while talking: von dem [one finger up] Krieg, der [two fingers up] und dem [three fingers up] Stolz. Mar 30 at 23:04

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