I have written the following sentence.

The author construes the citation to indicate an "allgemein" (universal) title which would differ from a "besondere(s)" (specific) title. ...

My question is, ought I decline those adjectives in quotes within an English sentence? In German I would decline it, of course. In this example, the forms of the original German adjectives were both accusative, allgemeinen Titel/besonderen Titel. Should I quote the adjectivs undeclined: allgemein/besondere(s). Or should I abide the quotation marks and give the accusatives exactly as they appeared in the quoted text?

  • There are many language which are more highly inflected than English (some even more than German), so I'm not sure this question belongs here since it isn't really specific to German. The Chicago Manual of Style lists some rules about quoting foreign languages, for example when to use italics, but I didn't see anything about inflections. I'm thinking either migrate the question to English SE, or ask your editor, or do whatever you think is best.
    – RDBury
    Commented Apr 23 at 22:32
  • Thanks, RD, that is a useful idea, to consult the style manuals on quoting foreign languages generally.
    – Ben Weaver
    Commented Apr 25 at 11:19
  • You are right about declined languages and you give me an idea. I work a lot with Classics, and with, say, a Greek equivalent of this combination of words, I would quote both the adjective in question + the noun it modifies, perhaps putting it in parentheses to fence it off from the surrounding English syntax.
    – Ben Weaver
    Commented Apr 25 at 11:29

1 Answer 1


The common way to add (necessary) inflections to a quote is to put the added parts in square brackets. For instance, a (hypothetical) quote:

Die rote Farbe ist die schönste. (X.Y.Maier)

And the responding quote would be:

Maier spricht von der "rote[n] Farbe", welche "die schönste" sei.

This way it is clear that the added "n" is necessary for grammatical reasons but not part of the original from which the quote is taken.

  • Thank you, Mr Bakunin, this is very useful. So, in my particular case, in which I have to replace a letter of the quoted text, maybe I ought to write: "..to indicate an allgemeine[r] Titel" (universal title) which would differ from a "besondere[r] Titel" (specific title).
    – Ben Weaver
    Commented Apr 25 at 11:23
  • Or else, per my comment above, I could invert the order of languages: "...to indicate a "universal title" (besondere[r] Titel)..."
    – Ben Weaver
    Commented Apr 25 at 11:32

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