Take the 2-minute tour ×
German Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm starting to learn German and I'm confused with usage of those two. Should I use accusative or dative in the following?

In dem Kino sitzen Bürger. – dative

or

In das Kino sitzen Bürger. – accusative

That is, is Kino an indirect object (dative, im Kino) or a direct object (accusative, ins Kino)?

share|improve this question
    
Neither is accusative. I mean, your last sentence is wrong if you think you're using accusative. Kino is neuter. –  c.p. Jun 10 at 20:33
1  
"in den Kinos" is Dative plural. "in dem Kinos" is wrong. You should not worry about the cases for now and focus on vocabulary and sentence structure. This case stuff is not a good starting point. Get back to it once you're a little more comfy with German –  Emanuel Jun 10 at 20:38
    
well our teacher is not teaching well, i guess. But i need this for the test. –  tiwy Jun 10 at 20:47
    
I find this a strange use of the word "Bürger". I would rather think of the words "Menschen" oder "Zuschauer". –  stevenvh Jun 11 at 9:09
1  
I clarified the question by asking whether Kino is the direct or indirect object, and wonder if the question can be reopened in its current form. –  Tom Au Jun 16 at 22:46

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In your example, the grammatical case of the noun „Kino“ depends on the preposition „in“. The difficulty here is that „in“ may require dative or accusative, depending on the sense of the sentence:

  • If „in“ indicates a direction/movement, you'll have to use accusative:

    Wir gehen in das Kino“ (or, commonly, „ins Kino“ - merging „in“ and „das“).
    Wir setzen uns in den Sessel“ (i.e. we are going to sit in the chair).

  • If „in“ indicates a localisation/static situation, you'll need the dative:

    Wir sitzen in dem Kino.“ (same here - in spoken language, you would use „im Kino“, merging „in“ and „dem“).
    Wir sitzen in dem Sessel

So, you will have to start with the verb. In my examples, „gehen“ describes a movement, and „sitzen“ a "static" situation. So, in your example, you would have to use dative:

Die Bürger sitzen im [in dem] Kino“ or „Im Kino sitzen Bürger“.

share|improve this answer
    
"Wir sitzen in den Sessel" is wrong. "Sitzen" is always a localisation; the movement would be "wir setzen uns in den Sessel". –  celtschk Jun 20 at 8:12

I think what confuses you here is seeing the dative case as simply meaning indirect object.

In Proto-Indo-European (PIE, the theoretical language which all European languages evolved from) there were eight cases, including the four which remain in modern German; one of the others was the locative case, used for marking the location where something takes place. Very early on in the development of the Germanic languages out of PIE, the locative case was effectively merged with the dative case, meaning the dative case took on some of the locative case's functions.

In Slavic languages like Russian and Polish, which also evolved out of PIE, the locative case (or equivalent) still exists independently of the dative case, and is used in contrast with the accusative in constructions similar to the examples given in German to distinguish action in a place from action towards a place:

Russian – Polish – Meaning:
Я иду в парк. – Ja idę w park. – I walk to the park. (парк/park is in the accusative case)
Я иду в парке. – Ja idę w parku. – I walk in the park. (парке/parku is in the locative case*)

(* парке is actually in the "prepositional" case, which is the Russian equivalent of the locative)

In German, expressions are formed with exactly the same structure, but because the locative no longer exists, the dative is used instead:

German – Meaning:
Ich gehe in den Park. – I walk to the park. (den Park is in the accusative case)
Ich gehe in dem Park. – I walk in the park. (dem Park is in the dative case)

The dative case is not being used to indicate an indirect object here; it is merely filling in for the now deceased locative case. As the sentence in your question is concerned with the location of the action (sitting) rather than the target/direction, you would use the dative, which performs the function of the locative after the preposition in:

In dem Kino sitzen Bürger.


Remember: Linguistics attempts to generalise about languages, and defines categories that are roughly equivalent across different languages; but every language has evolved its own unique conventions and idioms, which don’t always exactly match up with those of other languages or general linguistic categories. An understanding of general linguistic concepts is certainly very helpful when learning languages, but one should remember that every language is different and expect to encounter idiosyncratic structures or usages or expressions which seem erroneous when compared to generalised definitions of concepts. Every language has its own whimsical little rules that aren’t always straightforward to analyse, and just have to be learned.

share|improve this answer

You also mix up singular and plural. If we are talking about one cinema (singular), then we have:

Dativ: dem Kino
Akkusativ: das Kino

(Keep in mind, that German "Dativ" is not exactly the same as English "dative". Same is true for German "Akkusativ" and English "accusative". This might be one of the reasons why you have problems. So I prefer to use the German terms here.)

Plural (two or more cinemas):

Dativ: den Kinos
Akkusativ: die Kinos

If you use a verb that expresses the fact that you are located an a certain place like »stehen«, »sitzen«, »liegen«, then you use Dativ. If the verb expresses towards a target like "gehen", "fahren", "laufen" then you use a preposition followed by the Akkusativ.

Examples

stay where you are:

Singular:

In dem Kino stehen Bürger. (Citizens are standing in the cinema.)
In dem Kino sitzen Bürger. (Citizens are sitting in the cinema.)
In dem Kino liegen Bürger. (Citizens are laying in the cinema.)

Plural:

In den Kinos stehen Bürger. (Citizens are standing in the cinemas.)
In den Kinos sitzen Bürger. (Citizens are sitting in the cinemas.)
In den Kinos liegen Bürger. (Citizens are laying in the cinemas.)

move:

Singular:

In das Kino gehen Bürger. (Citizens are walking into the cinema.)
In das Kino fahren Bürger. (Citizens are driving into the cinema.)
In das Kino laufen Bürger. (Citizens are running into the cinema.)

Plural:

In die Kinos gehen Bürger. (Citizens are walking into the cinemas.)
In die Kinos fahren Bürger. (Citizens are driving into the cinemas.)
In die Kinos laufen Bürger. (Citizens are running into the cinemas.)

share|improve this answer

In this context, Kino is an in direct object. Therefore you use the dative, "Im Kino sitzen Bürger." ("In dem" contracts to Im.) The operative construction is "location."

The direct object construction would be Die Bürger gehen ins (in das) Kino. That's what you use with a verb of motion, such as "gehen," for a construction using direction.

share|improve this answer

To answer your question: Sitzen always requires dative.

sich auf den Tisch setzen

means to sit on the table, indeed, but setzen here is no synonym for sitzen. It's more closely related to draufsetzen/hinsetzen and could be roughly translated with put/set. That's because sitzen is static and setzen is active.

A close miss would be

Zeit (ab)sitzen

for doing time in prison. Although I would consider leaving out the ab- incorrect.

In dem Kino sitzen Bürger.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.