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German articles- dilemma

  Tags: Grammar | German
 Language Learning Forum : Questions About Your Target Languages Post Reply
19 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
mirab3lla
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 Message 1 of 19
31 May 2010 at 12:17pm | IP Logged 
I can't really understand why Germans sometimes put a definite article (die, der) in front of a proper name (eg.: die Julia). Is it used to emphasize the name or is the case or..I just don't know. Help would be urgently required, bitte!
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LangOfChildren
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 Message 2 of 19
31 May 2010 at 12:34pm | IP Logged 
I understand you.

Putting definite articles before names like Julia is one of the things I really can't
stand seeing others do.
The thing is, this is usually done when speaking to children as it has some sort of
diminutive to it, but if you ask me, it sounds totally stupid when grown-ups use it in
their usual everyday conversations.
I had the impression that this was only done in the southern parts of Germany, but now
it is slowly taking over the whole country.

Please, do not put definite articles in front of such names. It is not necessary.
It has no grammatical relevance nor does it help conveying anything else.

As I said, it has to do with where you grew up. For some it is normal but my personal
oppinion is that it sounds dumb.

Hope this helps.

Edited by LangOfChildren on 31 May 2010 at 1:08pm

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OlafP
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 Message 3 of 19
31 May 2010 at 12:40pm | IP Logged 
That is a quirk of spoken language. It doesn't really mean anything, and whether you use an article or not - the meaning and stress are the same. I think it is something regional. You will sound more educated if you don't use these articles.

There is one exception, though. An article in front of the surname is often used with celebrities of the highest rank. I don't mean pop stars or any kind of starlets, but people who are thought to have achieved something extraordinary in their art, like "die Dietrich" (Marlene Dietrich), "die Garbo" (Greta Garbo) and so on. Usually it is used for actors, maybe occasionally for artists in general like "der Dalí".


edit: typo

Edited by OlafP on 31 May 2010 at 12:49pm

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mirab3lla
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 Message 4 of 19
31 May 2010 at 12:51pm | IP Logged 
Thank you very much!
This question has been haunting me for some time, and last night, while I was watching the German version of "Desperate Housewives", I heard another article put in front of a name (die Bree) and I thought that I can't take it anymore, I have to ask why it is so! I'm relieved now.
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Iversen
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 Message 5 of 19
31 May 2010 at 1:12pm | IP Logged 
Those articles followed by first names are part and parcel of modern German colloquial language - also in writing - so you can't just ignore the usage. You can choose not to do it yourself, but it is so common that it can't be considered an error. And personally I think it is relatively harmless, - more harmless than the use of nicknames which would be the obvious alternative.

The use of definite article plus family name for celebrities is quite another case, and personally I find this phenomenon much more annoying because it shows a snobbish and deferential attitude which I don't want to share.

Edited by Iversen on 31 May 2010 at 1:21pm

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Declan1991
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 Message 6 of 19
31 May 2010 at 2:32pm | IP Logged 
It also seems to happen in genitive constructions, for example, Das Leben des Brian, while he is never referred to as der Brian throughout the film.

Edited by Declan1991 on 31 May 2010 at 2:33pm

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OlafP
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Germany
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 Message 7 of 19
31 May 2010 at 2:58pm | IP Logged 
Declan1991 wrote:
Das Leben des Brian


This is a good example, because this title bears a connotation which may escape non-native speakers. A direct translation of the original name of the film would be: "Das Leben von Brian". From a grammatical point of view this is correct, but it sounds a bit strange. If it was a serious film the title should be "Brians Leben". But it is a comedy, and the German name indicates that to some extent. Normally you don't use articles with names, so in this case it sounds like "Brian" is not a name but a person's title, which would require an article. In the context of this particular film this would mean some kind of religious title.
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masmavi
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 Message 8 of 19
01 June 2010 at 7:02am | IP Logged 
In the South it is required, but I think even people as far North as Cologne or Saxony use it. Virtually everybody speaks that way, if you don't you sound unnatural and snobbish. Even most Northern German people that move South start to speak that way after some time. But nobody uses it in writing of course, it is a only a thing of the spoken language.


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