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Den Kindern hat der Besuch im Planetarium Spaß gemacht. (The children enjoyed going to the planetarium.)

Why is it "den Kindern hat der Besuch", instead of "die Kinder haben den Besuch"?

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Dative case. "To the children... it was fun". If you try a word for word translation, the places where you "just have to" insert a "to" in English, is a very good indicator that it's probably the dative case in German. –  vlad-ardelean Oct 24 '13 at 11:32
Üblicher wäre: der Besuch im Planetarium, besser wäre auch der Besuch des Planetariums. –  user unknown Oct 24 '13 at 12:37
What you should be able to figure out for yourself: “den Kindern” is dative, “der Besuch̦” is nominative, and the case of “Spaß” we cannot tell without looking at the whole sentence. From this you should be able to deduce that “der Besuch” is the subject, while “den Kindern” is an object. –  Carsten S Oct 25 '13 at 13:56

6 Answers 6

a) Den Kindern hat der Besuch im Planetarium Spaß gemacht.
b) Der Besuch im Planetarium hat den Kindern Spaß gemacht.
c) Spaß hat den Kindern der Besuch im Planetarium gemacht.

'Den Kindern' is in the dative case because, in the German sentence construction, 'the children' is the indirect object (a.k.a. dative object) of the verb 'Spaß machen'. The subject in the sentence is 'der Besuch', which therefore is in the nominative case.

(Why the preposition 'im' (in dem)? Because in German, 'der Besuch' is in a location, not 'to/into somewhere'. It would be different for a 'trip to the planetarium': der Ausflug ins Planetarium.)

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Rather than word order the grammatical case determines the subject or objcect of a sentence. Note the difference in meaning after we changed cases in the given example:

Den Kindern (O) hat das Planetarium (S) Spaß gemacht.
Die Kinder (S) haben im Planetarium (O) Spaß gemacht.

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How would be the actual translation? The visit to the planetarium made fun for the children. –  libuz Oct 24 '13 at 18:49
The first sentence means The kids had fun at the planetarium. The second sentence means The kids joked at the planetarium. –  Thorsten Dittmar Oct 25 '13 at 11:20

Because "der Besuch" is the subject, which "hat Spaß gemacht", to "den Kindern", hence the dative case.

Perhaps it's clearer if you rewrite it like this:

Der Besuch im Planetarium hat den Kindern Spaß gemacht

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Much mentioned, Subject of the Sentence is "der Besuch", thus "den Kindern" is Dative object. If you want to have "Die Kinder" as Subject (and roughly pertain the meaning), you need to change the sentence to:

Die Kinder (S) haben den Besuch(O) im Planetarium genossen.

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I see many answers stating that den Kindern is the object and der Besuch is the subject, but that might seem confusing to English speakers when translating. I would suggest the following English version of the sentence:

The children enjoyed their visit to the planetarium.

Which has almost the same structure — most notably, the positions of the children and the visit are identical.

But this English sentence uses a totally different verb than the German example sentence. to enjoy something is a ‘passivistic’ verb (I’m not sure what a proper name would be), namely that the object (the planetarium) is doing something to you (making you happy). Compare to a sentence with an ‘activistic’ verb:

The children threw stones at the planetarium.

Where the subject of the sentence is actually performing the action.

I’m not sure of the grammatical categories, but I can imagine the children to have different ones in the two sentences, because one is ‘activistic’ and the other isn’t.

The German sentence, on the other hand, contains an ‘activistic’ verb to express the same thought:

Den Kindern hat der Besuch im Planetarium Spaß gemacht.

The actual sentence structure is a lot closer to the throwing stones example above, because it is, in fact the visit that is ‘activistically’ doing something to the children, namely giving them enjoyment. This is reflected in the sentence’s grammar, which gives the visit to the planetarium the subject role and thus the nominative case, while the children are given an object rule and a dative case.

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Totally redundant reply: It's Dativ ("Wemfall"). Wem hat der Besuch Spaß gemacht? Den Kindern.

You can't start with ""die Kinder haben den Besuch...", because the case is wrong. If you correct this problem, you end up with something like

Die Kinder haben am Besuch des Planetariums Spaß gehabt.

Or you could use a different translation for "enjoy":

Die Kinder haben den Besuch des Planetariums genossen.

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