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Wappen s(ind) in Deutschland überall zu finden: Bundesländer, Städte und teilweise auch alteingesessene oder adelige Familien verfügen über ein solches Identifikationssymbol, das meist in Form eines Schildes gehalten ist.

Ursprünglich die(nten) Wappen auf Schildern und Helmen von Rittern zur bessern Identifikation in Kampf geschehen

I was doing a Lückentext where the bracketted part was removed, and I was asked to fill in for it. In both cases I filled in the letters which makes the verb conjugated in singular, but it's supposed to be plural.

Could someone explain the logic here?

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    How did you manage to make it singular in the first example?
    – Olafant
    Dec 29, 2023 at 8:29
  • An important part of the question is missing: how did you arrive at the singular assumption? Therefore answers can't address the issue and will in the best case need to be exhaustive, but in worst case miss your point
    – guidot
    Dec 30, 2023 at 9:32

2 Answers 2

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It's not only about number, but also about definiteness:

  • definite: (a specific crest)
    The article is a definite article (der, die, das, des, dem, den) in both numbers

    • singular:

      Das Wappen ist überall zu finden.
      Ursprünglich diente das Wappen zur besseren Identifikation.

    • plural:

      Die Wappen sind überall zu finden.
      Ursprünglich dienten die Wappen zur besseren Identifikation.

  • indefinite: (just any crest)
    The article is an indefinite article in singular (ein, eine, einer, eines, einem, einen) but in plural it's the null-articles which is just a way to say, that there is no article at all.

    • singular:

      Ein Wappen ist überall zu finden.
      Ursprünglich diente ein Wappen zur besseren Identifikation.

    • plural:

      Wappen sind überall zu finden.
      Ursprünglich dienten Wappen zur besseren Identifikation.

This works identical in English. English has only 1 definite article (the) and two indefinite articles (a, an) and the plural form of the indefinite article is also the null-article:

def. sing.: The crest can be found everywhere.
def. plur.: The crests can be found everywhere.
indef. sing.: A crest can be found everywhere.
indef. plur.: Crests can be found everywhere.

So, if there is no article and no other determiner or attribute, then it's plural.


But there is an exception to this rule: Singularetantums. These are nouns of which there is no plural form like der Schnee (snow), die Liebe (love), das Deutsche (German language), die Dunkelheit (darkness) or das Natrium (sodium). Of each of them exists only once, so they are always singular. These words are either used with a definite article, or with the null-article (i.e. no article at all):

Liebe liegt in der Luft.
Love is in the air.

Both words (die Liebe and die Luft) are singularetantums (so are also their English translations), and in German, as well as in English such words are either used with a definite article or without any article. The usage of such words with an indefinite article is extremely rare in both languages (eine Liebe = a love; eine Luft, an air) because singularetantums are always implicitly definite.

Note, that in some situations singularetantums still are used in a plural form (»Der Adler erhob sich in die Lüfte.«), but thats a topic already far beyond your question. Please search for "singularetantum" if you want to know more about it.

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If it were singular, there would be an article missing. It would have to be "diente ein Wappen" or "diente das Wappen". Just like in English, you can't have countable singular nouns without an article in German. The fact that there's no article means that it has to be (indefinite) plural.

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