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Sie pflanzt die Küchenkräuter in _____ Garten.

Should "den" or "dem" go into the blank? It is not clear to me whether "planting" counts as moving into the garden (i.e. would use "den") or as static action (i.e. would use "dem").

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1 Answer 1

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Both solutions are correct, but they have different meanings. It depends on what you want to say:

either ...

She is in the garden and there she is planting herbs. Maybe she is planting them into little pots, or into the ground. You don't know into what she is planting them. You know just that she is in the garden while she is doing this:

Sie pflanzt die Küchenkräuter in dem Garten.

This is correct, but better is to put "in" and "dem" together to "im" ("im" = "in dem"):

Sie pflanzt die Küchenkräuter im Garten.

You can ask for this with "wo" (where):

Wo pflanzt sie die Kräuter? - Sie macht das im Garten. = ... in dem Garten.
Where is she planting the herbs? - She is doing this in the garden.

Explanation:

In other languages you would use a case called "ablative" to describe where something is located. But German has no ablative, so the ablative function must be executed by an other case, which in german is called "Dativ" ("dative" in engl). German Dativ gets it ablative function by:

  • in der < Dativobjekt > (if the place where something is located is female)
  • in dem < Dativobjekt > = im < Dativobjekt > (if the location is male or neuter)

... or

You have the information that she is planting the herbs into (not just in) the garden:

Sie pflanzt die Küchenkräuter in den Garten.

You can ask for this with "wohin" (where to):

Wohin pflanzt sie die Kräuter? - Sie pflanzt sie in den Garten.
Where to is she planting the herbs? - She is planting them into the garden.

Explanation:
In other languages you would use a case called "illativ" to describe into where something is moving (or is beeing moved). But German has no illative, so the illative function must be executed by an other case, which in german is called "Akkusativ" ("accusative" in engl). German Akkusativ gets it illative function by:

  • in die < Akkusativobjekt > (if something is moved or is moving into a thing that is female)
  • in das < Akkusativobjekt > (neuter target)
  • in den < Akkusativobjekt > (masculine target)
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Good overview, but I don't think,that both meanings are that strict. You can also ask "Pflanzt sie den Kräuter im Garten oder auf dem Dach?" meaning, where they will rest instead of where she is doing the potting. –  Toscho May 14 at 16:51
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I would actually agree with Hubert that the meaning is that strict but many people do not make the distinction or in other words, just because everybody says it, doesn't make it right. OT: for the example that quoted it must be "Pflanzt sie die Kraueter ..." or Pflanzt sie das Kraut ...". Kraeuter is plural and the singular for it is Kraut. –  Peter Schuetze May 14 at 19:38
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@PeterSchuetze Ich sag's lieber auf Deutsch: Der Satz "Nur weil es jeder sagt muss es nicht richtig sein" ist falsch! Nicht die Regeln bestimmen welcher Sprachgebrauch richtig oder falsch ist, sondern der tatsächliche Gebrauch der Sprache bestimmt welche Regeln gültig und welche ungültig oder überholt sind. Wenn jemand sagt "Ich pflanze Kräuter auf dem Dach" und das wie "... auf das Dach" gemeint ist und auch so verstanden wird, dann ist einerseits die strenge Regel zumindest aufgeweicht und andererseits erfüllt die Sprache uneingeschränkt ihre Funktion Information zu transportieren. –  Hubert Schölnast May 14 at 20:42
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