In Sein und Zeit, there is such a sentence:

Die Interpretation der Zeit als des möglichen Horizontes eines jeden Seinsverständnisses überhaupt ist ihr vorläufiges Ziel. ("ihr" refers to Sein und Zeit)

The des möglichen Horizontes in this sentence seems to be in genitive case. But als will not be used with a genitive case seemingly.

I tried to understand the sentence regardless of the problem of case. In this way, the sentence seems to mean something like: The interpretation of time as the possible horizon of an understanding of being is its goal

But when I compare my understanding with the translation into my native language. I found that I was wrong. Moreover, I don't know how to interpret the überhaupt and jeden in the sentence.

The jeden seems to be not in genitive case, so how can it be used with Seinsverständnisses, a noun seems to be in genitive case?

2 Answers 2


Als is not a preposition -- it is a conjunction. As such, it does not "take a case". The case of the dominated phrase is determined by the syntactic environment.

In your example, als is used in an apposition-like fashion, to add further information to an NP. And so the case inside the als-phrase needs to be the same as in the reference phrase. All of these are possible:

  • Nominative: Die Zeit als der mögliche Horizont ist Seinsverständnis.
  • Genitive: Die Interpretation der Zeit als des möglichen Horizontes ist das Ziel.
  • Dative: Der Zeit als dem möglichen Horizont können wir das Ziel zuschreiben.
  • Accusative: Wir sehen die Zeit als den möglichen Horizont eines jeden Seinsverständnisses.

(I am just reusing your vocabulary -- no preservation of meaning is intended.)

Jeden is just an adjective modifying Seinsverständnisses, and indeed the correctly inflected weak neutrum genitive.

Überhaupt is perhaps difficult to translate. In a philosophical context like yours, it used to mark something as "fundamental", or "concerning the core concept underlying a notion". It behaves mostly like an adverb, but you can also postfix it it a noun phrase. Using it makes you sound more Heideggerian:

Dies geschah und geschieht so wesentlich, daß die Dinge nicht nur nicht mehr als Dinge zugelassen sind, sondern daß die Dinge überhaupt noch nie zu erscheinen vermochten.

Warum ist überhaupt Seiendes und nicht vielmehr Nichts?

  • Thanks a lot! So, in this way, the noun-phrase between "als" and "überhaupt" is in genitive case only because "der Zeit" before it is in genitive case.
    – YangZai
    Mar 6, 2023 at 10:48
  • Still one more question: Can I interpret the "überhaupt" as an adverb decorating the "als"? So the phrase would be understood as "The interpretation of time fundamentally as ...". It seems to quite make sense.
    – YangZai
    Mar 6, 2023 at 10:57
  • By the way, there seem to be a little mistake in your answer. The word in the sentence is "Seinsverständnisses" instead of "Selbstverständnisses".
    – YangZai
    Mar 6, 2023 at 11:03
  • Überhaupt modifies des möglichen Horizontes eines jeden Seinsverständnisses. Mar 7, 2023 at 8:59

This sentence is hardly making any sense in modern German. If the text is old *) chances are it was not originally capitalized and only later edited, perhaps introducing a mistake when this question was written.

als des möglichen Horizontes

is ungrammatical (to me). It's either als Horizont or als Horizont des Möglichen / des Möglichen Horizont (disagreeing with @Phibsgabler), unless the Genitive is commanded by something other than des. However, in older speech, it's possible that things were different, but Grimm (DWB) doesn't mention genitiv nor als des in the respective entry. Also, I cannot find des möglichen as an adverbial phrase (as if of course, per chance).

Under these conditions, I find it diffuclt to judge how it should be read correctly. I have to admit for the sake of agreement, it is tempting to append one -s to many.

*) I have to guess since you have not given a proper reference of authorship

DWB: Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm. Lfg. 2 (1852), Bd. I (1854): https://www.dwds.de/wb/dwb/als

  • To be frank, I have a feeling rather similar to yours, because in my grammar book I cannot find any grammar rule that can be used to parse this sentence. So I have to assume that this sentence is constructed in a way which is uncommon but understandable to native speakers. Moreover, sadly, I copied the sentence from a printed book whose ISBN is 3484701226, and double checked the sentence.
    – YangZai
    Mar 8, 2023 at 4:27

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