The genitive vs. von + dative

The genitive  vs. von + dative to convey English: of + noun 

The genitive is used in written (semi-)formal as well as professional communication. The use of von +dative is common in spoken language, however, used in written communication it tends to affect the register of your text negatively (i.e. it can make you sound uneducated, unprofessional or generally like someone who has Bad!Grammar!…)

As a general rule, in written German use the genitive whenever possible: 


Singular, definite: 

Eine Studie der Universität Glasgow – not: *eine Studie von der Universität Glasgow

die Vorteile unseres neuen Produkts – not: …*von unserem neuen Produkt

Singular, indefinite

auf besonderen Wunsch einer Studierenden – not: *von einer Studierenden

Plural, definite: 

Die Gehälter der Wirtschaftsbosse steigen immer weiter.  – not: *von den Wirtschaftsbossen

Plural, indefinite: 

Die Gehirne zweisprachiger Menschen. – see below

We do use von in written texts as well but only if the noun following von is used without an article, and this means any kind of article, including possessive, negative, demonstrative)


in the Singular: 

die Vorteile von Zweisprachigkeit  

die Definition von Ethik 

die Vorteile von gutem Benehmen

or in the plural: 

die Gehirne von zweisprachigen Menschen 

…technically these are dative case forms but we do not use a dative article as there is no article, you do however, need to add the dative adjectival ending – e.g. die Vorteile von gut-em(!!) Benehmen

Author: KU

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