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  1. We usually say (ein)tausendeins (1001) when these are only numbers. And almost everyone says that we don't put a conjunction und between thousands/hundreds and units (1001 or 101), only between tens and units, like in neunundneunzig (99).

So, if it's the rule, what happens when these numbers are part of a more complex sentence?

For example:

I have one thousand and one books

DeepL translated it to:

Ich habe eintausendundein Bücher

Should we say ich habe eintausendein Bücher instead?

Other examples:

Today it's one hundred and one degrees

DeepL translation:

Heute sind es einhundertundein Grad.

  1. Why do the Germans read "101 Dalmatiner" as einhunderteins Dalmatiner?

Do this happen because we have numbers as digits instead of words (in form of articles) in the sentence or is just a special case for some reason?

1 Answer 1

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There are actually three answers to your question:

  1. If you use the number "1001" as a literal number you are correct and the numbers should be written out and be spoken like you say. For instance: my library: 998 books, your library: 1001 books.

Ich habe neunhundertachtundneunzig Bücher, Du hast (ein-)tausendeines.

  1. If a number has a number of consecutive zeroes so that very different powers of ten are spoken adjacent to each other it is allowed and not unusual to add an "und" to make pronounciation of the number more fluent. Compare:

101: "hunderteins"
1000001: "eine Million und eins".

This happens the more regularly the more adjacent zeroes there are. "Eine Millioneins" for the above would not be wrong but rather unusual *). "Tausendundeins" (instead of "tausendeins") is a border case.

  1. There is a fixed phrase about "tausend und ein [Ding]", which means about all sorts of and at the same way puts the thing(s) talked about in an implied negative light. Here is an example:

Er brachte tausend und eine Ausrede vor.

That means he made many/all sorts of excuses and - this is implied - they all weren't that convincing. Also:

Er versuchte sich in tausend und einem Beruf.

He tried a lot (not literally 1001) of various professions (but - impliedly - wasn't all that successful in any of them).

I suppose the origin of this phrase is the collection of stories of Persian (maybe Arabian or even Indian) origin ("hazār-u yak šab"), which is in German known under various titles: "Tausend und eine Nacht", "Märchen aus den tausend Nächten und der einen Nacht", etc.. In English one common title is "One Thousand and One Night".

Basically, a girl (Scheherazade) is threatened by the King to be executed after having spent the night with him, so she tells him a story and ends it with some cliffhanger. The king wants to know how the story ends and spares her life, so the next day she finishes the story and starts a new one, again ending in a cliffhanger. So the king postpones her execution again and so on. After three years she has born him three children and he lifts the threat of execution.


*) Note that if one counts out, the "und" is usually not spoken:

neunhundertneunundneunzigtausend-neunhundertneunundneunzig
eine Million
eine Million eins
...

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  • Just so you know, even we Americans have heard of One Thousand and One Nights, from Disney if nothing else. Before Disney, the American artist Maxfield Parrish illustrated an edition. Some of us have also heard of The Decameron, Aesop's Fables, and yes, even Grimms' Fairy Tales.
    – RDBury
    Oct 3, 2023 at 9:49
  • I haven't doubted that americans know the book, although the Disney version and the real one hvae about as much in common as "Donald" and a real duck. The book was issued with many different names in German (and I suppose in English as well) and the first translator in Europe (Antoine Galland, 1704-1708) did a grave disservice to the stories by - instead of translating - "purifying" them and also adding some unrelated stories not found in the original. The first more or less correct translation was done by Richard Francis Burton (1885-1888): "The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night".
    – bakunin
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:46
  • Ich halte "tausendeins" für verbreiteter, als "tausendeines". Oct 3, 2023 at 20:02
  • @userunknown: als Zahlwort, ja, aber auf die Frage "wieviele Bücher hast du" ist die Antwort nicht "tausendeins", sondern "tausendeines, wenn man "Bücher" wegläßt oder "tausendein Bücher".
    – bakunin
    Oct 3, 2023 at 22:01
  • Yes, my understanding is that a large part of it is the work of it's legion of "translators", first Persian to Arabic, then Arabic to various European languages, with many of the translators adding or omitting stories according to their own preference. Anyway, I hope you don't take my previous comment the wrong way; I just wanted to point out that you were "Europlaining" the plot a bit, and to poke a bit of fun at my fellow Americans at the same time because, goodness knows, we do bring it on ourselves sometimes.
    – RDBury
    Oct 4, 2023 at 11:06

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