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I've been trying to figure out why "klein" is declined as "kleinere" given that it is modifying the plural masculine noun "Eingriffe". The best I can come up with is that it comes under the rules governing "Komparativ - starke Flexion (ohne Artikel)" as given in LEO. I'd appreciate it if someone could explain this to me or direct me to an appropriate article. I don't see anything "comparative" in the sentence, unless it's implied that a minor medical procedure can only have any meaning if there is such a thing as a major medical procedure with which to compare it. And I assume there is no article because the only "ein" in the sentence refers to "ein paar" and not to anything else.

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Ich hatte ein Paar kleinere Eingriffe.

Firstly, "paar" instead of "Paar" should be used, because Eingriffe does not come in pairs.

  1. Ein Paar.
    Ein = Article. Paar = noun. (A pair of)
    [Ein Paar] is in apposition to [Eingriffe]. So you're right about [Eingriffe] not having its own article.
  2. Ein paar.
    Ein paar = Article. (Some, a couple, a few)

Ein paar is an article made up of two words, just as ein bisschen and ein wenig are. These are not inflected like usual articles. They belong to the non-inflected group of indefinite articles. (Technically they are inflected but the inflection does not show. They follow the inflection of nouns).


Why is comparative used?

Short answer: A normal value is compared to.

It's called absoluter Komparativ, where a not-mentioned reference of a "normal" value is "implicitly" compared to.
So your medical procedure is smaller than the usual procedure.
What exactly "normal" is can be very subjective, just as well as there is not one specific age someone starts being called "old" - is it 50? Children might say yes, that's already old. For others, it's retirement age. And so on.

Ich ging in eine größere Stadt.
Ich machte einen längeren Spaziergang.
Er ist ein älterer Herr.

Duden 4 Nr. 405.v


One off-topic reason to use absolute comparative can be politeness:

Er war ein alter Herr. (less polite)
Er war ein älterer Herr. (more polite)
Er war ein bisschen dick. (less polite)
Er war ein bisschen dicker. (more polite)

This is because the absolute comparative is between normal and the extreme values.

Jung - Jünger - ... - Älter - Alt

RDBury added: You occasionally see this kind of thing in English, for example "He's an older gentleman." Just as in German this is a bit softer than "He's an old gentleman." German seems to use it much more often though; English seems to prefer "-ish": "I've had a couple of smallish medical procedures."

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  • "Why it feels more polite? I have no clue." - I think you have skipped the other boundary. "Kleiner" is smaller than "normal", yes, but it's also not as small as "klein". Likewise, "ein älterer Herr" is just "älter", not "alt". And if he was "dicker" (in particular just "ein bisschen dicker"), he was just that, not really "dick". Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 19:27
  • You occasionally see this kind of thing in English, for example "He's an older gentleman." Just as in German this is a bit softer than "He's an old gentleman." German seems to use it much more often though; English seems to prefer "-ish": "I've had a couple of smallish medical procedures."
    – RDBury
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 19:51
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    @Erithreus: Don't answer questions, which haven't been risen. Instead correct the question, if you find a flaw in them and answer what was asked for. Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 3:53
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    @userunknown I will leave the answer as is. Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 4:09
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    @bakunin The spelling of paar does not belong into the context of the question: why comparative? People coming here looking for that topic will have to skip through a paragraph that's irrelevant to that.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 8:20

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