We are doing a lip-sync opera in the Christmas event :).
And it's good to have a place I can ask native Germans about these things and I'm grateful to people giving me answers.
In Mozart's Opera 'Zauberflöte', there is papageno-papagena duet song here. In time 1:23, I see this lyrics.

Welche Freude wird das sein,
wenn die Götter uns bedenken,
uns’rer Liebe Kinder schenken,
so liebe kleine Kinderlein!


Why is it 'uns'rer Liebe Kinder schenken'?
If it means 'If the gods bestow(or present) us lovery chlidren', shouldn't it be just uns?
What is the original form of uns'rer?
Why isn't it uns Liebe Kinder schenken? Please see see https://germanwithlaura.com/personal-pronouns/

  • 2
    You are analyzing it incorrectly, it's not "liebe Kinder" but "unserer Liebe" (our love, dative).
    – Carsten S
    Dec 11, 2022 at 15:22

3 Answers 3


"Uns'rer" is a shortened version of "unserer", probably to keep the rhythm scheme. The verse "unserer Liebe Kinder schenken" continues the preceding verse. If we simplify that a bit, to get the other verses out the way for the moment, we get

Die Götter bedenken uns (und) schenken unserer Liebe Kinder.

"Bedenken" as verb in general means something like "to think about something" or "to ponder about something". From this, we get to "jemand mit etwas bedenken". You could read that as "to keep somebody in your thoughts when you give out or distribute something". It's mostly used to mean something like "to take somebody into consideration (when giving out something)", "to bestow something on somebody" or "to gift something to somebody":

Der Lehrer bedachte die Arbeit der Schüler mit viel Lob.
The teacher bestowed a lot of praise onto the students' work.

This phrasing is rather old-fashioned and has a vibe of generosity. You don't give something to somebody because they're entitled to it, but because you're such a magnanimous person.

In the next part, "unserer Liebe" is simply the dative object specifing the recipient of the gift:

Tante Ilse schenkt unserer Tochter viele Spielsachen.
Aunty Ilse gifts a lot of toys to our daughter.

So, the speaker is looking forward to the time when the gods will gift children to their love:

How much joy it will be,
when the gods take us into consideration, / when the gods look favorably upon us,
gift children to our love,
such darling little children!


Regarding why it's not "uns Liebe Kinder schenken", this would mean something different.


(...) unserer Liebe Kinder schenken (...)

"Liebe" is a noun, meaning something like "the love". "Unsere Liebe", "our love" is the recipient of the gift giving that the speaker is hoping for.

Wir schenken den Kindern Bücher zu Weihnachten.
We gift books for christmas to the children.

Die Götter sollen unserer Liebe Kinder schenken.
The gods shall gift children to our love.

Here, "unsere Liebe" is a distinct part of the sentence. You might structure it like this

(Die Götter) (sollen) (unserer Liebe) (Kinder) (schenken).

What you are maybe thinking of, is using "liebe" as an adjective, meaning something like "kind", "nice" or "beloved". But in this case, "lieb" (or in plural "liebe") would need to be lowercase:

Die Götter sollen uns liebe Kinder schenken.
The gods shall gift sweet-natured children to us.

Here, "uns" and "liebe" don't belong to the same part of the sentence. This example could be structured like this

(Die Götter) (sollen) (uns) (liebe Kinder) (schenken).

  • Thank you, it is also a clear explanation! I confused Liebe with liebe, that was the point.
    – Chan Kim
    Dec 12, 2022 at 9:52
  • Agree "bedenken" is rather archaic in the sense of "schenken". It's not when we're talking about heritage and testaments. "Er wurde im Testament mit 500€ bedacht" is absolutely common.
    – tofro
    Dec 15, 2022 at 15:07

"Uns'rer" is a (lyrical) contraction of "unserer". It is analogous to English where i.e. "do not" is contracted to "don't", although in English this is much more common than in German.

Having cleared this, you may want to try a translation yourself, so don't read any further if you want to puzzle yourself.

OK, since you are still with me:

"unserer Liebe" is a Dativ and hence an object. Something is done to "our love".

Now, what is done is: someone (the gods from the line above) will "Kinder schenken" - gift (reward with) children.

The whole phrase translated freely (sorry, but rhyming in English is beyond my level of proficiency):

Welche Freude wird das sein,
Oh, what joy that will be
wenn die Götter uns bedenken,
when the gods will provide for us
uns’rer Liebe Kinder schenken,
(and) reward our love with children
so liebe kleine Kinderlein!
so nice little children.

So, basically it is a matter of when a daddy loves a mommy very much ...

Addendum: "uns liebe Kinder schenken" is something different, although the meaning is close.

"Uns'rer Liebe Kinder schenken" means the love is given the children (by the gods, as a reward for existing). "Our love" is treated as an (personified) actor here, to whom the children are given. It is similar to say i.e. "our love will never die", where "our love" is addressed like a separate person who could live and die. Actually i thought to have made that clear above, when i explained that "something is done to 'our love'".

"uns liebe Kinder schenken" means, we are given children and these children are lovely.

Notice there is a BIG difference between "Liebe" (a noun, "love") and "liebe" (an adjective, "lovely". I have said it before and I repeat it here: capitalisation DOES MATTER in German!

  • Hi I added to my question. Could you elbaroate more?
    – Chan Kim
    Dec 11, 2022 at 14:55
  • I have no idea how to "elbaroate" my answer, but as a best effort i added to it.
    – bakunin
    Dec 11, 2022 at 16:41
  • 1
    I don't think uns Liebe Kinder schenken can even be parsed grammatically. There are then three objects and German doesn't do that without a preposition. (Perhaps there are some languages which do, since it's not a mathematical impossibility, but I don't know of any.) With uns liebe Kinder, liebe Kinder is a single object, and in uns’rer Liebe Kinder, uns’rer Liebe is a single object.
    – RDBury
    Dec 11, 2022 at 16:57
  • @RDBury: it is possible to (Die Götter wollen) uns liebe Kinder (ver-)schenken (we are likable children and are intended to be given away) or (Die Götter wollen uns liebe Kinder schenken (they intend to bestow likable children upon us). In both cases the "l" in "liebe" needs to be de-capitalized, which i explicitly mentioned in my answer.
    – bakunin
    Dec 11, 2022 at 18:21
  • 1
    @ChanKim: Actually my answer was there a few minutes before Henning posted his, but anyway: the main upshot is you are helped.
    – bakunin
    Dec 12, 2022 at 18:34

Why is it 'uns'rer Liebe Kinder schenken'?

Because it has ro fit the meter and "uns'rer" happens to be a legitimate pronounciation. The spelling may be considered eye dialect

Eye dialect is the use of deliberately nonstandard spelling for standard pronunciation

In analysis of hisorical linguistics, the diachrony and etymology of pronouns tends to be an arcane art with heaps of uncertainty. Suffice to say that, in comparison with Latin nominative / accusative nos, genitive nostri, nostrum, English us ~ our as well as German uns can be argued to stem from zero-grade with epenthetic vowel that is geminated by a syllabic consonsonant, "*n̥smé", accusative of *wéy (en.WT: *uns). If we look closer at the paradigm, Germanic is supposed to have a 1P.dual pronoun *unk (us two) as well, which is considerable for parents with children, if possibly spelled unc, that should not concern us here (en.WT: *wīz). Andrew Sihler (1995) has argued that Oblique pl. *n̥s- possibly continues earlier **m̥s- (en.WT: *wéy), ie. from first Person *mé, but see Bavarian mir "we" from wir. This is all terribly complicated and chances are that *wéy is a backformation, because genitive preposition *u "at, in" survives in Czech and other Slavic languages (en.WT: *u).

At any rate, it would be wrong to think of "unserer" as formed from uns + -er + -er. That doesn't even make sense and the final r is in any event a vocalic syllable,

  • /ˈʔʊnzɐ/

  • /ˈʔʊnz(ə)ʁə/

  • /ˈʔʊnz(ə)ʁɐ/

It will be argued, no doubt, that undeying r of unser surfaces in this genitive form, but this is easily chalked up to analogy.

  • I'm pretty sure you shouldn't be using the term eye dialect here - That's a vehicle of style in English that is used to denote a specific background. Shortening unserer to unsrer doesn't mean anything.
    – tofro
    Dec 12, 2022 at 8:17
  • Yes, I also find the application of this label problematic, ie. "nonstandard", but the linked article should give a good overview, the cited definition fits very well, and the name is obviously a joke.
    – vectory
    Dec 12, 2022 at 12:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.