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Please have a look at the following sentences:

Lustlos suchte ich der Oma ihre Brille.

and

Lustlos gab ich der Oma ihre Brille.

Is der Oma dative case and ihre Brille accusative case in both sentences - or are there differences?

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Both are dative –  Sam Apr 7 at 19:16
    
@Sam: Both what? There are four references. –  vonjd Apr 7 at 19:22
    
"der Oma" in the first sentence and in the second sentence + "ihre Brille" in the first and second sentence = 4 –  vonjd Apr 7 at 19:27
    
..and what case is "ihre Brille"? Both accusative? –  vonjd Apr 7 at 19:28
    
@vonjd indeed, both are in accusative. Which "differences" are you referring to? Differences between sentences having the same verb? I mean, I was trying to write an answer, which I now delated. But I don't think you mean a difference between those sentences? they have a different verb, which by no means bears the same meaning. –  c.p. Apr 7 at 19:30
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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

[der Oma ihre Brille] is the accusative argument of suchte as a whole. Internal it is composed out of the optional der Oma ihre-adjunct and the phrase's head Brille.

Der Oma ihre however is a non-standard expression to encode possessive; the stilistically more appropiate way is to use genitive:

Lustlos suchte ich [[Omas] Brille]

The possessive as in your example, however is indeed a dative constuction.

In your second example, der Oma ihre do not form a single phrase.

Lustlos gab ich [der Oma] [ihre Brille].

In this sentence ihre Brille is one argument of the verb geben and der Oma is another argument. The ihre in this example belongs to accusative argument of the predicate geben. Internally it is constructed out of the head Brille and the adjunct ihre which specifies Brille. You can test this by substituting the ihre:

Lustlos gab ich der Oma seine Brille.

This sentence is completely grammatical, although is has a completely different meaning: It cannot be the glasses of Oma but the glasses of another (probably male) reference person that is not directly named in this very sentence.

This test will fail with your other example:

*Lustlos suchte ich der Oma seine Brille

You can try another test by substituing der Oma ihre by the article die:

Lustlos suchte ich die Brille

*Lustlos gab ich die Brille

You see that there are two completely different syntactic structures behind both sentences, therefore they are not the same case, strictly spoken.

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Why would that test fail? Z.B. Oma machte ihre Brille kaputt. Da waren nur die Brille Opas, der so kurzsichtiger als Oma ist. Lustlos suchte ich der Oma seine Brille. You mean with suchen is no longer grammatical? (But your answer is far better than mine :)) –  c.p. Apr 8 at 18:11
    
It is like the second test in my example: you gain a completely different meaning that has nothing to do with the initial intention. I think, the crucial point is that “case” is a syntactical category rather than a semantical one. –  Lupino Apr 8 at 18:15
    
+1: Wow, I am impressed! –  vonjd Apr 8 at 19:06
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You are right. Both der Oma are in dative case; both ihre Brille in accusative.

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