I am translating something which in English includes the following:

The plot takes place in and around a small town.

In German I want to say

Die Handlung findet in und um eine Kleinstadt statt.

but I am not sure if this is correct. In takes the dative and um takes the accusative, so it would be um eine Kleinstadt but in einer Kleinstadt.

Is it grammatically correct to ignore the fact that one of the prepositions should take the dative in this case, or do I need to rewrite this phrase to something like in a small town and its surroundings i.e. in einer Kleinstadt und in ihrer Umgebung?

  • 2
    In Ulm, um Ulm und um Ulm herum
    – Lars Beck
    Commented May 8 at 6:57

2 Answers 2


Your translation

Die Handlung findet in und um eine Kleinstadt statt.

isn't strictly grammatically correct but quite common and generally accepted. If that bothers you, you can instead say

Die Handlung findet in einer Kleinstadt und um sie herum statt.


I have once written a lengthy answer for exactly this question here.

Basically you use a rhetorical figure (the "zeugma"), but - similar to Schiller - in a wrong way. You can (aside from satirical/humorous intentions) only combine equal parts and a Dativ and an Akkusativ are exactly not that.

Your suggested alternative, though, is correct, but misses an "und" (perhaps a typo):

in einer Kleinstadt und in ihrer Umgebung

  • 3
    It may be a stylistic error, but if the two forms are the same on the surface, it is still quite common, cross-linguistically, for this type of zeugma to ignore the structural mismatch. Constructions like “in und um Berlin” are easy to find in German, too. (Since we’re on the topic of ellipsis, there’s also “in einer Kleinstadt und ihrer Umgebung”, with elision of the second preposition.) Commented May 9 at 13:10

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