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I've noticed the most common preposition used with achten is auf. However today I found a sentence that uses the preposition bei:

Wenn die Neuronen nicht funktionieren, ist es schwer zu lügen. Das wurde z.B. bei autistischen Kindern beobachtet.

Is it grammatically possible to use auf in this sentence. If not, why? Is perhaps the meaning of bei in this sentence among?

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Are you asking about "achten" or "beobachten"... title says one thing, the first sentence another, the example one again. –  Emanuel Jan 31 at 19:36
    
I'm asking about beobachten. I used the achten+auf just to know if it is the same with beobachten since both of these have the "main verb" achten. –  Alejandro V. Feb 1 at 12:54
    
the prepositions vary from prefix to prefix. There are no paralels there. –  Emanuel Feb 1 at 19:03
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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The verb beobachten doesn't really take a preposition, so using a preposition like auf would be incorrect. It's always

jmdn./etw. beobachten

In this case the bei preposition doesn't have too much to do with the verb. This usage of bei can be seen with all kinds of verbs. Among could be a good translation. I'd say a fair translation, for this specific usage of bei, would be:

In the case of autistic children

You could use this bei in call kinds of situations and it's very useful. A good example would be a simple exchange among friends:

-Alles klar?

-Ja, bei dir?

Also, like Sandra mentioned, there's a tiny mistake in the original statement. It should be beobachtet, since that's the proper conjugation for the passive voice

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To elaborate, the object of beobachten here is Das. Instead of bei Kindern other additions are thinkable, e.g. im Rahmen einer Studie or schon im letzten Jahrhundert. –  Hagen von Eitzen Jan 31 at 21:49
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The words "beobachten" und "achten" have slightly different meanings and therefore use different prepositions

auf etwas achten = to pay attention to sth.
bei jemandem beobachten = to monitor, to keep an eye on

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Well, clinch made a point saying that bei has not much to do with the verb. That's true, as you can say "bei jemandem auf etwas achten". –  Em1 Jan 31 at 7:40
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Achten auf: To pay attention TO.

Beobachten: To observe (no preposition).

Das wurde bei autistischen Kindern beobachtet. That was BY the autistic children observed. (By refers to the children, and not to beobachten.)

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The verb beobachten is transitive (etw. beobachten). For an example consider your question. There it means to observe.

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It is ambitransitive... that is,it can be used without object, too. –  Emanuel Jan 31 at 19:38
    
@Emanuel, ok, I was not aware of that distinction. –  Carsten Schultz Jan 31 at 21:47
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