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Generally, my understanding of the use of dative and accusative is a bit opaque. I am getting better at deciphering which prepositions call for which case. I have also seen that motion is another indicator. If I am not clear, however, is there a resource which I can use to look up a particular word? (I use dict.cc a lot and I don't think it specifies.) Usually I Google "German dative verbs" and use CTRL+F to search for the verb, then assume that if it's not found, it's accusative.

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dict.leo.org/ende/index_de.html#/… dictionaries do indicate it usually. (jmdn is acc, jmdm is dat) –  Emanuel May 21 at 13:59
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Also mein-deutschbuch.de is a good resource to look up this kind of thing. –  konkret May 21 at 14:05
    
@Emanuel Ah, I didn't know that jmdn/m was the indicator. Thanks. –  MrUser May 21 at 14:13
    
It is not only about the verb. Sometimes accusative indicates motion and dative statics. For example Ich lege das Buch auf den Tisch aber Das Buch liegt auf dem Tisch. Poor you native English speakers, we Poles do have declination (7 cases, 3 more than in German!); we also have the genders of nouns like die, der, das, therefore it is easier for us to understand it. Often you also have to learn the government of the verb like denken an, denken über, warten auf or sich wehren gegen. –  Jagger May 21 at 19:16

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Half of the answer has been given (jdm [or jmdm] Vs. jdn[or jmdn]).

Here two other points to consider.

  • First, the answer is a little grammar as well. Not all verbs have a fixed case; for instance waschen:

    Ich wasche etwas Akk..

    but

    Ich wasche mir Dat. die Hände.

    So you might have to do the analysis by yourself.

  • Second, etw and sich are also an indicators of dative and accusative. You might also find in dictionaries then

    verb + etw.Akk.

    or

    sichDat. verb

By the way, don't neglect genitive-objects ;) Not the best way to perform the search, but this one gives you lot of them. Their register is usually gehoben.

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dict.cc uses jdn to indicate accusative (for example, see dict.cc on "lehren") and jdmfor dative (see dict.cc on "ausweichen", e.g.). But the indicator may be missing, cf. dict.cc on "verzeihen". Often, the example sentences are giving a hint which grammatical case to use. There's also an explanation of the abbreviations used (but this tells only that jdn means "jemanden", but doesn't explain why those indicators are added to the verbs).

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Rule of thumb: n vs m is Akkusativ vs Dativ, that is "jemande(n/m)" is the Akkusativ/Dativ form of "jemand". It's added just like sb. and sth. in English. –  Raphael May 21 at 16:25

You can also look up the verb in the free Pons online dictionary. (Pons is one of the better known publishers of dictionaries in Germany). It will list many (but not all) verb patterns, with "jdn/jdm" or "Akk./Dat." etc. for the cases. I recommend learning the patterns and the associated meaninings instead of just the verb (in the same way English students have to learn "to put up with s.th." instead of just "put", you learn "sich (Akk) mit jdm/etw abfinden" instead of "abfinden").

For prepositions that don't belong to a specific verb pattern, mein-deutschbuch has some good lists.

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