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Ein Großteil der Nase ist mit einem sogenannten Flimmerepithel ausgekleidet, das die Atemluft v(on) Staub und anderen Partikeln reinigt.

In the question the bracketted part was removed, and we were asked to fill in. I wrote "om" giving vom, but that's wrong. Why do we not need a definite article here?

3 Answers 3

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The main point is that anderen Partikeln is not exactly one item so this is plural. And the dative plural strong ending is -en, not -em:

…, das die Nase vom Staub reinigt.

…, das die Nase von den anderen Partikeln reinigt.

So if you wanted to conflate those two, you had to write:

…, das die Nase vom Staub und von den anderen Partikeln reinigt.

BUT you don't need the definite article on either of those two because it's not a specific dust nor specific particles you are talking about. So the following is also okay:

…, das die Nase von Staub reinigt.

…, das die Nase von anderen Partikeln reinigt.

And those you can conflate even further:

…, das die Nase von Staub und anderen Partikeln reinigt.

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  • What sare strong and weak endings? I see it everywhere but as far as I see it's nothing more than normal adjective endings, no? Aug 27, 2023 at 19:02
  • Makes sense why we don't need definite article, but why not indefinite none as well Aug 27, 2023 at 19:04
  • The strong adjective endings are the same as the endings of the definite articles but for genitive singular masculine and neuter. You use them if there is no article in front. Otherwise you have to use the weak adjective endings which are -e or -en following a complicated scheme.
    – Janka
    Aug 27, 2023 at 19:26
  • Neither Staub nor particles are counted usually. If you said ein Staub then you meant one specific kind of dust rather than a grain of dust.
    – Janka
    Aug 27, 2023 at 19:28
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    "Staub" is a substance noun, so it rarely uses an article whether there's a preposition or not. It's a similar rule to English; you'd say "dust" here, not "the dust".
    – RDBury
    Aug 27, 2023 at 20:45
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You would use "vom Staub" if dust is the topic in your context: For example: "Wenn auf der Fläche Staub ist, dann ist es wichtig, dass man sie zuerst vom Staub befreit".

Your sentence gives the impression that the context is rather about the nose and the functioning of the nose. Then we expect indefinite "von Staub" because it would be "any dust / dust that may be around".

If "vom Staub" were the relevant option, I would tolerate dropping the second "von", even though its form would not be identical to the first occurrence: "vom Staub und (von) anderen Partikeln reinigen".

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  • Could you rephrase the last paragraph? Aug 27, 2023 at 19:50
  • where do you have a problem with it?
    – Alazon
    Aug 27, 2023 at 19:54
  • I wanted to say that the wording of your solution "vom Staub und anderen Partikeln reinigt" is not grammatically wrong as such -- in my feeling. (It just doesn't sound like what you want in the given context).
    – Alazon
    Aug 27, 2023 at 20:04
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Definite articles (in pretty much all languages that have them) mean "you know which one(s) I am talking about".

This is not really the case here. You are not talking about specific dust that the listener already knows about. You are talking about dust in general.

It is not really different from English; in English you would not say "the dust" but just "dust" in the equivalent sentence.

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