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I'm working on cases in the book German Quickly by April Wilson. You are asked to translate the following sentence indicating the case of each noun:

Fräulein Meier schenkt der Briefträger eine rote Rose.

What I don’t understand is that Briefträger is a masculine word, so surely (assuming dative case) the sentence should either read:

Fräulein Meier schenkt dem Briefträger eine rote Rose.

Or plural:

Fräulein Meier schenkt den Briefträgern eine rote Rose.

Which would then translate to:

Miss Meier gives a red rose to the postman/men

Am I misunderstanding, or is this a typo in the book?

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    I find it amazing that Fräulein is used in the examples. – Wrzlprmft Feb 22 '15 at 0:19
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    @Wrzlprmft: “Most of the exercise sentences consist either of proverbs or of a running saga of two major characters — Fräulein Meier and a mailman. [...] (Although a German woman of Fräulein Meier's age living in Germany today would be called Frau Meier instead, I have retained the old-fashioned term Fräulein to highlight the slightly Victorian nature of her romance with the mailman.)” – Carsten S Feb 22 '15 at 14:15
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You have made some correct observations but have come to the wrong conclusion. As you point out, “der Briefträger” is not in the dative case, and it would have to be if it was the object of the sentence. It is not, it is indeed the subject and in the nominative case. So “Fräulein Meier” must be the object and be in the dative case. And it is, you just couldn't tell when you started reading the sentence, because the nominative, accusative and dative forms are all the same for a name.

So Fräulein Meier receives the rose, she does not give it. Because of the cases, German has to rely less on word order than English does.

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    Ich nehme an, daß aus dem (unbekannten) Zusammenhang hervorgeht, daß Fräulein Meier betont ist als Gegensatz. Beispiel: Der Briefträger schenkt Herrn Müller ein Stück Wurst. Fräulein Meier (hingegen) schenkt der Briefträger eine Rose. – Karl Feb 22 '15 at 8:12
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In normal word order the sentence would be:

  • Der Briefträger schenkt Fräulein Meier eine Rose.

Fräulein Meier is dative. In the text book the dative is placed at the front, though you don't see why. The sentence should be given in a longer context so that the fronting of the dative becomes understandable.

Only by checking the sentence structure you can figure out that Fräulein Meier must be a dative because der Briefträger is clearly a nominative and the subject.

A context where the fronting of the dative-object is better understandable would be:

  • Der Mutter schenkte der Briefträger eine Schachtel Pralinen, Fräulein Meier aber schenkte er eine Rose.

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