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I am reading "Der nasse Fisch" in German on my Kindle, (making much use of the German-English dictionary). This particular paragraph in the book confuses me:

"Diese Leiche ist perfekt! Ihr Tod hat mit den Unruhen nichts zu tun. Und seine Umstände sind so schön mysteriös"

The body is that of a male but is referred to in the first and second sentences using the female gender of "die Leiche". Then suddenly in the third sentence they refer to it in the masculine with "seine Umstände" What is the explanation for this?

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The word “seine” refers to “ihr Tod”, and “Tod” is masculine. Replacing “seine” the sentence would become

Und die Umstände ihres Todes sind so schön mysteriös.

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The quotation is grammatically correct (seine Umstände refers to Tod which is a masculine noun). Ihr Tod refers to Leiche, and the second sentence is short for

  • Der Tod der Leiche hat mit den Unruhen nichts zu tun.

However, Der Tod der Leiche is a blooper. You can say Der Tod von [name] or Der Tod des Mannes, but a Leiche is a corpse and it does not make any sense to say "the death of a corpse".

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    Your last paragraph is very (overly) nitpicking. When you're arguing "a corpse can't have a death", you should also be arguing that "a person can't have a birth". Both describe a transition from one to another state and are of course possible.
    – tofro
    Apr 18, 2022 at 7:51
  • You are a person before your birth.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 24, 2022 at 22:14
  • @tofro Certainly "der Tod der Leiche" is grammatically correct. But would you recommend to use it? Apr 24, 2022 at 22:22
  • @KritikerderElche I wouldn't recommend to use it - but accept its usage.
    – tofro
    Apr 25, 2022 at 6:54

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