Joachim Gauck ist der Präsident.

So who/what is the subject and who/what is the object in this sentence?


There is no 'object'. The subject is 'Joachim Gauck' and the predicate is 'president'.

  • 7
    i suppose your answer is estimated wrong, since most people identify "predicate" with "verb". So they think since „Präsident“ isn't a verb, it must be wrong saying it's the predicate. IMHO it's a matter of terminology and accuracy. The essential part of the predicate is a finite verb, so „Präsident“ isn't the predicate on it's own. But IMHO one can say „Präsident“ is part of the predicate, or more precisely: it's a „Prädikativ“.
    – tohuwawohu
    Dec 31 '14 at 22:10
  • 7
    @tohuwawohu: However, this wouldn’t have happened, if the answer had contained some explanations and not just a result.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 1 '15 at 0:11
  • 1
    In English, the predicate can be an adjective or a noun, but not a verb (as far as I know). The point was that there is no 'object'.
    – Ornello
    Jan 1 '15 at 0:17
  • 1
    @Wrzlprmft: completely d'accord. Omello: This is why the question was initially flagged as off-topic - examples in english may lead people to apply english grammar rules in answering it. Anyway: Happy new year all of you! :-)
    – tohuwawohu
    Jan 1 '15 at 9:18
  • 2
    Apparently, There are two competing notions of the predicate in theories of grammar.. Here is an example where it includes the copula: "George is a boy." Also, see here, a simple predicate consists of only a verb, verb string, or compound verb. Imo, a good explanation might be that is is the linking verb/copula, and the president is the predicate nominative.
    – blutorange
    Jan 1 '15 at 9:40

There is no right answer. German allows both interpretations (although in this case SVP seems much more likely).

Allow me to elaborate. German allows you to topicalize (put in the front) other things than the subject:

Wir sind noch nicht abgestiegen.

Abgestiegen sind wir noch lange nicht.

Das Wetter ist nicht immer so schlecht.

So schlecht ist das Wetter nicht immer.

This produces no difference in meaning, but a different emphasis. And it works even for nominal predicates:

Manuel Neuer ist der Keeper.

Der Keeper ist Manuel Neuer.

In both sentences, 'Neuer' is obviously the subject, since 'Keeper' is a role (position) to be played, and Manuel Neuer is the guy who plays it.

Likewise, Präsident is a role that exactly one German must fill, and Gauck is the one who currently fills it. But it's possible to imagine a scenario where the opposite is true.

Imagine a 12-grade class playing "model democracy", and all students have to play the part of our current politicians: Merkel, Gabriel, Gauck etc. Further assume that the class already has a 'Präsident' and he is commonly referred to by that name (this is unrealistic, the common term is 'Sprecher', but hey, we're assuming!). Then when the question rises how the roles have been allocated, someone might very well say

Joachim Gauck ist der Präsident.

meaning that it's this guy who will be playing Mr Gauck, and in that interpretation 'Präsident' would definitely be the subject.

  • 1
    Interesting point, and +1 for that, it's a good answer, although it's unfortunate now that the other answer has been accepted already we might never know if this is actually what the question had been asking about...
    – blutorange
    Jan 1 '15 at 9:55
  • 2
    Nice point. What would you do with "Der Gärtner ist der Täter" though?
    – Emanuel
    Jan 2 '15 at 20:04
  • Just as the original example: ambiguous but heavily biased towards being SVP. A scenario where 'Gärtner' is a role to be played and someone having a pre-existing handle of 'Täter' seems pretty far-fetched. Jan 3 '15 at 10:32

In this precise case, there is "no object".
There is an additional "subject".
This is called the Gleichsetzungsnominativ.
Meaning your object equals a subject.

Joachim Gauck ist der Präsident.

Joachim Gauck = Präsident

==> Gleichsetzung


Depends on the question.

  1. Wer ist Gauck? Answer: Gauck ist der Präsident. (Who is what?)

  2. Wer ist der Präsident? Answer: Der Präsident ist Gauck. (The president is who?)

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