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I read this sentence in a book I'm using for exercises:

Jener Mann war kein Dieb, und man setze ihn daher in Freiheit; sofort gab man seiner Frau die frohe Kunde seiner Unschuld.

I don't understand the case used in the bold part. Since the subject of the second phrase should be "man", I would have expected a dative instead of a nominative (so, I'd have written "seinem Frau"), because I translate as:

That man was not a thief and thus he was released; the news about his innocence was given (impersonal) to his wife.

What am I missing?

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seinem Frau would mean that his wife is a man. seinem indicates that the object is male (what can absolutly never happen here) – Postback Jul 16 '13 at 7:54
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Seems you just jot a bit confused and were on the right track...

The subject of the second phrase is indeed "man" (impersonal). But the object is "his wife" and it is here that a dative is to be expected.

And that is just what's there:

Nom.: seine Frau
Gen.: seiner Frau
Dat.: seiner Frau
Akk.: seine Frau

On a sidenote: The passage you quoted sounds like rather old and quaint German, probably from a fairytale. While the grammar is correct, this is not really the language spoken here anymore. Expressions like "frohe Kunde geben" and "in Freiheit setzen" are definitely obsolete.

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Thanks, that was pretty stupid indeed. Sometimes I get confused by this simple fact that German possessive adjectives depend on both the gender of the possessed noun and on that of the possessor! As for the old-fashioned thing, I guess that's because this book is rather old. – martina Jul 16 '13 at 9:04

It is dative case.

Possessive pronouns (and articles) take an -m as a dative ending when the word they refer to is masculine or neuter.

Would you like to venture a guess about the grammatical gender of "Frau"? ;) can give you an overview over German word forms.

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I'd like to take a guess... um, um, ... it's female, isn't it? – Em1 Jul 16 '13 at 8:33

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