(a) Das Huhn legt ein Ei auf dem Boden.

(b) Das Huhn legt ein Ei auf den Boden.

Are both versions correct? If so, is there any difference?

5 Answers 5


It depends on the context. Both sound strange at first to me.

If you are talking about a chicken that is sitting on the ground and then you want to express that it lays an egg, you would say "Das Huhn legt ein Ei auf dem Boden". That way it feels as if you would say "Das Huhn ist auf dem Boden und legt ein Ei".

If you want to state that the chicken is laying an egg onto the floor, you say "Das Huhn legt ein Ei auf den Boden". Still, this sounds wrong, because normally "etw. auf den Boden legen" summons a picture of a hand laying something on the ground - at least for me. So at first I picture the chicken not squeezing the egg onto the ground, but taking it and laying it there.

I think it is unusual to explicitly tell where a chicken lays an egg. It has to be on some sort of ground, otherwise it would lay a "Spiegelei". ;)

  • 1
    I agree. I might prefer „Das Huhn legt auf dem Boden ein Ei“. The second one is as „Die Frau gebärt ein Kind ins Bett“. Not actually wrong, but still...
    – Carsten S
    Oct 20, 2014 at 23:38
  • @Carsten S: Well, it is wrong, because it should have been gebiert. ;-)
    – chirlu
    Aug 19, 2015 at 22:00
  • @chirlu, Danke für den Hinweis, ich bin da tatsächlich unsicher, aber völlig falsch war es nicht. de.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/gebären
    – Carsten S
    Aug 19, 2015 at 22:09
  • @Carsten S: Na ja, die starke Konjugation sterbt eben aus (vorerst noch mit Ausnahme des Perfekts). Somit werd es mit fortschreitender Zeit immer richtiger werden. ;-) – Interessant übrigens, daß Wiktionary gebärte als Präteritum nicht aufführt, obwohl Google durchaus Belege findet.
    – chirlu
    Aug 19, 2015 at 22:11

Both are unrealistic and with this I'm seconding j0hj0h: „Both sound strange at first to me.“.

I've never seen a hale authentic hen laying an egg on or onto the (bare) ground. (I agree I've never seen a chicken farm from inside but the animals there are neither hale nor authentic anyway.) Maybe that's why „legt ein Ei auf den Boden“ sounds even stranger intuitively for me as well, imagining a hand holding an egg, too.

More realistic, without the bewilderment of (b) and with different meanings then:

(1) „Das Huhn legt ein Ei im Nest.“

  • either if you want to emphasise where the process of laying an egg is done in general
  • or if you want to express that an egg is laid by the hen currently sitting in the nest

Compare to the plural „[Die] Hühner legen Eier in Nestern.“

(2) „Das Huhn legt ein Ei ins Nest.“

  • if you want to express where an egg is laid to by a hen in general

Compare to the plural „[Die] Hühner legen Eier in Nester.“

Or (1) „Mami! Guck! Das Huhn legt mir ein Ei im Nest!“ vs. (2) „Mami! Guck! Das Huhn legt mir ein Ei ins Nest!“

Using plural often makes such things clearer in general.

(3) Eier legen (when done by hens with their vagina) possibly doesn't make sense for using it with accusative as in (2). Like „Die Kinder spielen Ball in den Kindergarten.“ or „Wir schlafen ins Bett.“

See Akkusativ, Präpositionen: „Die Präpositionen, bei denen entweder Dativ oder Akkusativ stehen kann, sind: in, [...]“. This entweder ... oder ... can be understood as being exclusive (sometimes), as well: just one of it.


Eine einfache Übersetzung (simple translation):

(a) The chicken is producing an egg while being on the floor.

(b) The chicken is putting an egg on the floor.

B sounds a little weird indeed. But they are definitely both correct german.


I consider both as correct, and I'd recommend the usage of one or the other depending on what you want to emphasize, and where you want to guide your audience mentally to prepare for what's coming next.

If you want to focus your audience on the location where the egg can be found, you'd prefer (b), focusing your audience on the further fate of the egg, if you want your audience to mentally stay with the chicken you'd use (a), since the focus stays with the chicken doing something before something else happens to it.

But in fact both are very close, and an audience seeing chicken, egg and ground would be able to follow your intentions, whatever they are.


auf dem Boden (dative) is a where-indication.

auf den Boden (accusative) is a where-to-indication.

So only (b) is correct.

German distinguishes strictly between where and where to. There are languages that don't make this distinction.

  • 6
    Das Huhn, welches auf dem Boden sitzend ein Ei legt, kann m.E. schon auf dem Boden ein Ei legen (und nicht auf der Hühnerleiter).
    – Takkat
    Oct 20, 2014 at 20:12
  • A very unclear sentence that I have to read two times. Without your explanation the sentence sounds faulty, not clear enough. I am sure the poster didn't mean this in (a).
    – rogermue
    Oct 20, 2014 at 20:14
  • Actually, (b) is somewhat funny.
    – Carsten S
    Oct 20, 2014 at 21:03
  • That's exactly the discussion I wanted to have here. I wonder how each of the sentences sounds to you.
    – boaten
    Oct 20, 2014 at 21:13
  • As to me both sentences are a bit curious. As examples for something is at a certain place and to put something at a certain place they are not the optimal thing.
    – rogermue
    Oct 21, 2014 at 1:30

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