# Case confusion nominative-accusative

In this sentence (from Beethoven's Choral Fantasy), I do not understand why "Menschen" appears to be in the accusative case:

Wenn sich Lieb und Kraft vermählen, lohnt den Menschen Göttergunst.

Why not "Lohnt der Mensch Göttergunst" or "Lohnen die Menschen Göttergunst"?

• In case you're a non-native speaker: this construction sounds very archaic to contemporary speakers. – jona Aug 5 '14 at 9:43
• There are some 19th-century scores at IMSLP, and they don’t all have the same pronoun. In the Breitkopf & Härtel edition of the full score, it’s “lohnt dem Menschen Göttergunst.” It’s “den” in the Hart Novello vocal score. So it might be dative singular. – Steve Kass Feb 26 '15 at 6:15

...lohnt den Menschen(=Dativ) Göttergunst(=Nominativ).

This phrase does not contain an Akkusativ of "Menschen" but a Dativ, as can be seen, e.g., in the corresponding Wiktionary article. So the verb in question is "jemandem(=Dat.) lohnen". The Duden entry for "lohnen" has the following explanations:

1a: in ideeller oder materieller Hinsicht von Nutzen sein (i.e. to be useful)

1b: aufzuwendende Mühe oder Kosten rechtfertigen (i.e. to be worth the effort)

2: eine gute Tat, ein gutes Verhalten [mit etwas Gutem] vergelten (i.e. to reward for something)

There are some grammatical notes in the Duden entry:

For 1a the structure is "etwas(=Nominativ) lohnt sich(=reflexive pronoun)".

For 1b the structure is "etwas(=Nominativ) lohnt eine(r) Sache(=Genitiv or Akkusativ)."

For 2 the structure is "etwas(=Nominativ) lohnt jemandem(=Dativ) etwas(=Akkusativ)."

The first option (1a) cannot be meant in your example because, according to the Duden entry, it should be used with "sich" which is not present in your phrase.

The second option (1b) is not a possibility for your sentence because there is neither an Akkusativ nor a Genitiv.

The third option (2) fits your phrase, although there is no Akkusativ:

If love and strength combine, then the gods' favour(=Nominativ) will reward the human beings(=Dativ).

EDIT: I have just realised that "den Menschen" is both Akkusativ Singular and Dativ Plural. In my opinion the Akkusativ Singular interpretation is not possible because in each meaning (1a, 1b, 2) the person for whom the Göttergunst is useful/worth the effort/rewarding must be in Dativ case. So only the Dativ Plural interpretation is possible.

• Actually, formally you could make (1b) work by assuming "Göttergunst" to be the nominative, that is, interpreted as (1b) it would be a valid reordering of "[die] Göttergunst lohnt den Menschen". That interpretation would make sense in a context of human sacrifice in old religions which had that (stating that, according to the speaker, getting the gods' favour is worth the [sacrificed] human). For the specific case, that interpretation is however clearly ruled out by the context. – celtschk Aug 4 '14 at 8:27
• I think your interpretation is wrong. The example is from Beethoven's time, so you cannot apply what the conteporary Duden has to say about the word. Grimm's etymological dictionary makes it clear that "lohnen" was used with accusative, as well. There, you can find an example of Goethe "man sei mit der frau einig geworden, sie gehe täglich so viele stunden hin, werde gut gelohnt". It's very likely that this accusative-lohnen was later given up in favor of "belohnen, entlohnen". Those two would fit this context perfectly though, which is whyI am pretty sure it is an accusative. – Emanuel Aug 4 '14 at 11:32

This is a pretty complex sentence.

The 'es lohnt [den Menschen]' is in fact 'es wird [den Menschen] in Aussicht gestellt' It's something they can recieve (as a reward == 'Lohn' in german).

The content sentence is like 'Sie koennen Goettergunst erreichen, wenn sie Liebe und Kraft vermaehlen.'

It is probably an accusative singular. At Beethovens's time "lohnen" could be used with an accusative object.

"man sei mit der frau einig geworden, sie gehe täglich so viele stunden hin, werde gut gelohnt" Goethe, source

Today we use "belohnen" and "entlohnen" in these cases.