What are measurement phrases?
In this post, we’ll be talking about measurement phrases. There is a wide variety of phrases and maybe also some confusion regarding the use of the right case. Not to worry, though. I will guide you through it all, step by step. Let’s not wait any longer. Strap on your solar boots and turbine top hat, it’s time to explore the topic!
First of all… What do a glass of wine, a handful of cookies and a bucket of ice cream have in common? Yes, they all belong to a cozy evening on the sofa. And they also include measurement phrases. A measurement phrase is a special kind of noun phrase that determines the size, quantity or capacity of something.
There are different ways to use measurement phrases: by using cases, the preposition “von” or Appositions. Did I hear a request to review these three topics? Ok, let’s go!
After a long day a small glass of wine.
Appositions - a short review
We talk about Appositions when we have a noun phrase that is immediately followed by another noun phrase. This second noun phrase defines the first one and is in so-called Apposition. You can see some examples here.
- Mein Bruder, der Lehrer. (My brother, the teacher.)
- München, die Hauptstadt Bayerns. (Munich, the capital of Bavaria.)
- Bello, der Hund meines Nachbarn. (Bello, my neighbor’s dog.)
We basically use Appositions when we want to offer more information about the noun.
There are some points which are helpful to remember when you use Appositions.
- Appositions always stand right after the noun they refer to.
Das ist Mini, der Hund meines Nachbarn. (This is Mini, my neighbor's dog.)
- Appositions are always between two commas.
Mini, der Hund meines Nachbarn, hat schwarzes Fell. (Mini, my neighbor's dog, has black fur.)
- Appositions have the same case as the noun before.
Ich gehe mit meinem Nachbarn, dem Besitzer von Mini, spazieren. (I'm going out for a walk with my neighbor, Mini's owner.)
- You can use more than one Apposition in a sentence
Mini, der Hund meines Nachbarn, ein kleiner Terrier, ist sehr nett. (Mini, my neighbor's dog, a little Terrier, is really nice.)
There are some sneaky exceptions when you use Appositions, but have no fear, they’re very easy to master. For the details jump over here.
The Genitive case - a short review
The Genitive case is mainly used in the written language but can also be found in the spoken language. Like all of the cases, the Genitive case has a function, such as:
To express possession
- Der Hund meines Nachbarn (My neighbor’s dog / The dog of my neighbor)
- Die Tasche meiner Mutter (My mother’s bag / The bag of my mother)
- Das Auto meines Bruders (My brother’s car / The car of my brother)
To be used as a partitive
- Ein Teil meiner Arbeit (A part of my job)
- Die Hälfte des Kuchens (Half of the cake)
For the subject of a verbal noun
- Die Abfahrt des Zuges (The departure of the train)
- Die Reinigung der Wohnung (The cleaning of the apartment)
In this video, Anja gives us all the most important points about the Genitive case. Enjoy!
Noun phrases after a measurement noun
When we use a noun of measurement combined with another noun, it’s very common that the noun is used in the same case. In fact, we can even say that our noun phrases are in Apposition.
Let’s look at the example to clarify:
- Eine Flasche Wein (A bottle of wine)
- Sie trinkt eine Tasse heißen Kakao. (She drinks a cup of hot cocoa.)
- Mit einer Tasse heißem Kaffee (With a cup of hot coffee)
Now before you grab your bottle of wine and sit back to relax, let’s move on to the next section of measurement phrases.
The Genitive case in measurement phrases
Sometimes, when we use measurement phrases in German, we also use the Genitive case.
While the masculine and neutral singular is restricted to formal writing, it’s common in normal speech when using the plural.
The structure of the measurement phrase is like this:
noun measurement + adjective + noun
Let’s take a look at some examples:
- Eine Flasche französischen Weins (a bottle of french wine)
- Drei Jahre wertvoller Lebenszeit (three years of precious lifetime)
- Zwei Stunden absoluten Wahnsinns (Two hours of total madness)
This is a picture of my kind of Christmas tree 🙂
Measurement words for vague quantities
A bunch of, an amount, a range,... There are some words that only describe vague amounts. Their use also varies depending on whether the noun after the measurement phrase has an adjective or not. The words we’re talking about are, for instance:
- die Anzahl (the number / quantity)
- die Gruppe (the group)
- der Haufen (the bunch)
- die Schar (the multitude)
- die Reihe (the range)
- die Sorte (the type)
When the noun after our measurement phrase comes with an adjective or it’s an adjective which is used as a noun, then we put our noun in the Genitive case. This is in regards to the written language. But it’s not wrong to also use a phrase with the preposition “von”. In fact, in the spoken language you’ll almost always find it like that.
- Eine Anzahl interessanter Diskussionen (A number of interesting discussions)
- Ein Haufen wertvoller Gegenstände (A bunch of precious items)
- Eine Menge schwieriger Hausaufgaben (A load of difficult homework)
It’s also possible to use just single nouns without adjectives after the measurement phrases. In these cases, it’s normal to use the preposition “von” in the phrase. However, it’s also possible and also common to use just a simple Apposition in that situation.
- Eine Art (von) Ausstellung (A sort of exhibition)
- Eine Anzahl (von) Touristen (A number of tourists)
- Eine Menge (von) Komplimenten (A bunch of compliments)
Check out this video here for some useful tips about the Genitive case!
Nouns of number
Alrighty, that was a nice little break. Now let’s get back to the exploration. We’ve got thousands of more things to learn! Just kidding, but we are going to talk about nouns of number. When we use them in the plural and we don’t use a numeral before that, then we can use a phrase with the preposition “von”.
Our nouns of number in this case followed with examples are:
- das Dutzend (the dozen) - Dutzende von Fragen (dozens of questions)
- das Tausend (the thousand) - Tausende von Fans (thousands of fans)
- die Million (the million) - Millionen von Menschen (millions of people)
- die Milliarde (the billion) - Milliarden von Schulden (billions of debts)
And now comes the fun part! When we use these nouns of number and add an adjective afterwards, we are free to decide how we want to use them. This means we can either continue with a phrase with the preposition “von”, a phrase in the Genitive, or a phrase in Apposition. Let’s look at some examples to make it more visual for you.
- Dutzende von interessanten Fragen (Dozens of interesting questions)
- Dutzende interessanter Fragen
- Dutzende interessante Fragen
- Tausende von ungeduldigen Fans (Thousands of impatient fans)
- Tausende ungeduldiger Fans
- Tausende ungeduldige Fans
- Millionen von glücklichen Menschen (Millions of happy people)
- Millionen glücklicher Menschen
- Millionen glückliche Menschen
- Milliarden von angehäuften Schulde (Billions of accumulated debts)
- Milliarden angehäufter Schulden
- Milliarden angehäufte Schulden