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I know that one uses the accusative with suchen, e.g.

Ich suche einen Hund.

and of course the dative with nach etwas suchen, e.g.

Ich suche nach einem Hund.

What is the difference between these two expressions?

  • What is your question here? Is it about grammar or the differences in meaning? In the latter case: What did a dictionary yield and how was it unsatisfying? See also this Meta FAQ. – Wrzlprmft Nov 27 '14 at 21:49
8

I think here is a slight difference. Let make it different:

Ich suche eine Frau.

has more the general meaning of looking for something in general, as if you are on online dating and just want to find someone.

This expression:

Ich suche nach einer Frau.

has a slight shift towards the meaning that you are looking for a specific person with which you have somehow lost contact.

For example, both can be used for a detective searching someone, but the second puts a little more emphasis that he is really looking for a specific person.

  • I would argue that this is very limited to this specific context. A Google search for "Ich suche nach einer" will give you numerous examples where it is a general statement. google.de/… ... so ultimately this answer suggests a distinction that, for the most part, doesn't apply. – Emanuel Nov 28 '14 at 13:37
  • 1
    I said that there is a slight difference, not a great one. Many people will not see the fine point. I was trying to point this out, since the question was about this, not about that many maybe don't see a difference. – Karl Nov 28 '14 at 14:44
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    I don't disagree that the difference is there. I just think it cannot and should not be generalized to statements like "Ich suche nach einer/eine WG". The answer as it now can be understood by learners that this is a general pattern. – Emanuel Nov 28 '14 at 17:55
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    Im letzten Satz muss es wohl "searching for someone" heissen. "Searching someone" bedeutet "jemanden durchsuchen". Das macht der Detektiv normalerweise nicht. – PMF Nov 28 '14 at 19:50
  • Ok, my English is not perfect. But here is also search in the meaning as I used it beside the "durchsuchen": <dict.leo.org/#/…> – Karl Nov 29 '14 at 5:03
5

I think for the most part they are synonymous, especially considering that any statement could be rephrased using the noun and then we'd use "nach" regardless.

Ich bin auf der Suche nach...

There are situations where one fits better than the other though and a possible key is the etymology. "Zu suchen" is a cognate to "to seek" and that in itself is a rather strong and determined activity. Much more determined than searching. This determination or goal orientation if you will comes into play in sentences where "suchen" leans toward demanding.

Ich suche Hilfe, Schutz, Verständnis...

The version with "nach" would much more sound like you're actually searching for it as in turning over stones, wondering where help could be hiding. The pure "suchen" is closer to the seeking and thus a better fit in these situations

I seek help, protection, understanding

  • Unfortunately the answer does not answer the question but something else. The question is about "suchen (nach)" with a concrete object with an indefinite article. The answer is about abstract objects without article. In the second case I agree that AFAIK there is no difference saying "Ich suche (nach) Hilfe". In the first case there is --- as I said before --- a slight difference. So this answer doesn't fit here. – Karl Nov 28 '14 at 17:58
2

In most cases it's the same. but as Karl said in his answer, "nach etwas suchen" is sometimes more specific.

I would understand your example "Ich suche einen Hund." that way: You don't have a dog, but you want one, so you are searching for the right dog for you.

But "Ich suche nach einem Hund." could easily be understood that way: You have a dog, but it ran away, so you are searching for it.

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