object of the genitive infinitive

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by Gavril, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    My understanding is that the infinitive in present-day German has two inflected forms: nominative/accusative/dative (e.g., klettern "to climb"), and the genitive (Kletterns "of climbing").

    When you want to express the object of the genitive infinitive, does this object normally appear in the same case as the object of the corresponding finite verb form, or is it more common to use a different form such as the genitive?

    For example, if you want to say "the difficulty of climbing this mountain", would it normally be

    1) die Schwierigkeit des Kletterns dieses Berges

    2) die Schwierigkeit des Kletterns diesen Berg

    3) other?

  2. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The example is bad because klettern, contrary to English to climb, cannot be used as a transitive verb.

    Infinitive clauses with a direct object retain the accusative only with the zu-infinitive, derived from the old Germanic dative infinitive: Er liebte es, deutsche Bücher zu lesen (he loved to read German books).

    For use as a noun phrase, the object is replaced by a genitive (or von+dative as replacement in some contexts). This is independent of the case of the noun phrase:
    Nominative: Das Lesen deutscher Bücher ist seine Lieblingsbeschäftigung (the reading of German books is his favourite occupation).
    Accusative: Er liebt das Lesen deutscher Bücher (he loves the reading of German books).
    Genitive: Er ist des Lesen deutscher Bücher mächtig (he is able to read of German books; einer Sache mächtig sein mean to be able to do something and takes a genitive object).
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2013
  3. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I was misled by Google Translate: according to them, a sentence like "I climbed the hill" is translated Ich kletterte den Hügel.

    I'm looking for an example where the verb of a transitive sentence becomes an infinitive.

    Could you say, for example, Die Faszination des Lesens der Zeitung/die Zeitung "The fascination of reading the newspaper"? If so, would it be more common to use the genitive of Zeitung or the accusative?

    EDIT: You updated your post with an answer to this question just as I was submitting it. Thanks.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2013
  4. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Hi, Gavril,
    I think you mixed up verbs and nouns here:

    Infinitive and conjugation is a concept of verbs and inflection (Deklination) refers to nouns.

    We have now four inflected forms. (They are all singular, I do not find a plural here.)
    das Klettern - Das Klettern macht Spaß.
    des Kletterns - der Sinn des Kletterns
    dem Klettern - Beim Klettern geschehen Unfälle.
    das Klettern - Auf das Klettern will ich nicht verzichten.

    You can transfer an infinitive to a noun. Tis is indicated by uppercase spelling.
    So "klettern" is "to climb" but the noun is "das Klettern".

    You can correct your sentence in two ways:

    1) die Schwierigkeit des Erkletterns dieses Berges. - of climbing
    to climb -> erklettern -> das Erklettern

    2) die Schwierigkeit des Kletterns auf diesen Berg.
    to climb -> klettern -> das Klettern

    Both are not the best style. I'd prefer verbs here:

    Die Schwierigkeit, den Berg zu erklettern ... - to climb
    Die Schwierigkeit, auf den Berg zu klettern ...

    The English form "climbing", "reading" etc. can be translated as noun or as infinitive.

    In your case we get: Die Faszination des Lesens der Zeitung (genitive)/die Zeitung zu lesen (accussative) (as Bernd explained more detailed)
    The second one shifts the meaning a little bit but sounds more naturally.

    But usually I would use here: Die Faszination beim Lesen (Dativ) der Zeitung/die Zeitung
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2013

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