2
case noun
nom der Staat
gen des Staates
dat dem Staat
acc den Staat

That is, it is starke Deklination. But on various sites, this is called gemischte Deklination. Is gemischte Deklination a mistake and is »der Staat« actually declined according to starke Deklination?

2 Answers 2

7

First, in my experience the "Strong/Mixed/Weak" classification for nouns is more confusing than helpful for learners. With all due respect to Jacob Grimm who invented it, I think it was originally more directed toward linguists than learners of German. So I have to look up the definitions every time someone uses these terms. To review (per Wiktionary):

  • Strong means an -(e)s is added in the genitive and plural does not end in -(e)n.
  • Weak means an -(e)n is added to all inflections except the nominative singular.
  • Mixed means an -(e)s is added in the genitive, but the plural does end in -(e)n

There are, of course, variations and subclasses of these classes, so I'm oversimplifying somewhat. But the point is you need to look at the plural form to determine the class. (But the class does not determine plurals, one reason I don't consider it a useful classification for learners.) The plural of Staat is Staaten in all cases, which matches the "mixed" class.

2

It doesn't help to look at the singular form alone. You must take in account the declension of the plural form too.

The Wikipedia article about German declension lists »Staat« as an example for gemischte Deklination. This word is listed as example for the class W3: 1. Mischklasse, Genitiv -(e)s. It belongs to this class because it is declined strong in the singular form by adding »-es« to the singular genitive, but is declined weak in the plural form by adding »-en« to all four cases:

Fall Singular Plural
Nominativ der Staat die Staaten
Genitiv des Staates der Staaten
Dativ dem Staat den Staaten
Akkusativ den Staat die Staaten

But der Staat is one of those words that had more than just one plural forms in former days. (Most prominent example of a word that still has multiple plural forms: das Wort - die Worte, die Wörter.) In fact, »der Staat« even had four different plural forms, but three of them became distinct more than 200 years ago. Wiktionary lists all of them, and I copied the full declension table here:

Fall Singular Plural 1 Plural 2 Plural 3 Plural 4
Nom der Staat die Staaten die Stäte die Staat die Staate
Gen des Staates der Staaten der Stäte der Staat der Staate
Dat dem Staat den Staaten den Stäten den Staaten den Staaten
Akk den Staat die Staaten die Stäte die Staat die Staate
  • Plural 1 is mixed declension (class W3), as exlained before
    Other words in this class: der Schmerz, der Autor
  • Plural 2 is strong declension (class S1: plural with umlauts and -e)
    Other words in this class: der Baum, der Bach
  • Plural 3 is strong declension (class S6: unchanged plural except dative -en) Other words in this class: der Teufel, der Meister
  • Plural 4 is strong declension (class S4: plural with -e and dative -en) Other words in this class: der Berg, der Fisch

Since about 1800 only the plural 1 is used, the three other forms are only of historic interest and have become completely distinct.


Note, that there are also alternative forms for the singular of »Staat«, but they don't influense the class of declension:

  • Genitive case:

    • des Staates
    • des Staats

    Both form are in use and they mean the same. The frequency of »des Staats« is growing while »des Staates« becomes less used over the years, but »des Staates« still the more frequently used version.

  • Dative case:

    • dem Staat
    • dem Staate

    The form »dem Staate« is outdating and only very rarely used today. It was more often used in the past. But both forms mean the same.

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