As I was looking up the word entnehmen in the LEO's dictionary, a seeming inconsistency in the use of cases has caught my eye. Specifically,

etw.Akk. etw.Dat. entnehmen = to take sth. from sth.

etw.Akk. etw.Dat. entnehmen = to gather sth. from sth.

etw.Dat. etw.Akk. entnehmen = to learn sth. from sth.

If the last line above is not in error, what's the difference between "to gather sth. from sth." and "to learn sth. from sth."?

  • 3
    Examples (1/2) and (3) have simply shifted object order. Bad idea for a dictionary, because this common practice in German tends to confuse readers. etw. Akk etw.Dat. entnehmen would mean the exact same thing.
    – tofro
    Aug 21 '16 at 8:36
  • 1
    Easy solution: Use dict.cc instead : )
    – c.p.
    Aug 21 '16 at 8:38
  • 1
    However, dict.cc doesn't have an entry "etw. etw. entnehmen". Aug 21 '16 at 8:42
  • 2
    LEO has a lively user forum where you can discuss entries and translations. If I remember correctly, there are skilled translators among the users.
    – user22484
    Aug 21 '16 at 11:23

In addition to the above answers, I'd like to mention that the given translations don't reflect common use with appropriate nuance.

First of all, a more precise translation would be "to take (smth.) out of", as in "taking chocolates out of a box", but not as in "taking chocolates from a plate".
"Entnehmen" is used when [something] is taken from inside {something else}.
"To take (smth) from" is a correct translation for "(etwas) entnehmen", but "entnehmen" is not always a correct translation for "to take (smth) from".

"Entnehmen Sie die [Schraube A23] der {Packung B7}..."
"Nehmen Sie die [Brille] von ihrer {Nase}." is applicable, but...
"Entnehmen Sie die [Brille] ihrer {Nase}." implies very big nostrils.

"Learning" too is a bit imprecise, as for information "entnehmen" is specifically used for deriving information from other non-same information.

"Ich entnehme {ihrer Aussage}, dass [Sie das Opfer gut kannten]."
Tr.: "I gather/take from {your statement} that [you knew the victim well]."
"Entnehmen" won't be used in a translation of "to learn [programming] from a {book}".

In the case of physical objects, "Entnehmen" is actually not that commonly used in connection with both objects. Most of the time it is used with the taken object, which is implied to be taken out of something else by the use of "entnehmen".

"Da müssen wir eine [Probe] entnehmen."
"Entnehmen Sie die [Nudeln] (und geben Sie sie in kochendes Wasser)."

For information however, it is common to specify both the taken information and the information that contained it.

Example: "[Manche Details] muss man dem {Kontext} entnehmen"

The entry is imprecise to a fault.
The way the order of objects is shown is only the tip of the iceberg.
I prefer dict.cc because it keeps track of many uses and provides examples.


The “from sth” always corresponds to the dative object, so there is no real inconsistency. The order of the German objects is more or less arbitrary. An inconsistency in presentation is probably due to the crowd sourced nature of LEO.

  • I don't even see the need for that extra entry in LEO. Whether the difference between picking something physical from a physical container (like a cookie from a jar) or picking something metaphorical from a metaphorical container (like knowledge from a book) really deserves an entry of its own, is at least disputable.
    – tofro
    Aug 21 '16 at 8:40
  • @tofro: metaphors don't always translate well, and I've used Leo in multiple occasions to figure out what the author actually meant.
    – Gerhard
    Aug 21 '16 at 9:40

entnehmen = take an object out of a container

Walter wirft eine Münze in den Automaten, drückt einen Knopf und beobachtet dann, dass die gewählte Flasche in den Ausgabebehälter fällt. Dann entnimmt Walter die Flasche.

Walter tosses a coin into the machine, presses a button and then observes that the chosen bottle falls into the output tray. Then Walter takes the bottle.

Here »die Flasche« (the bottle) is an accusative object. (Wen oder was entnimmt Walter?) This is the thing that is taken.

But you could also tell from where the object has been taken:

... Dann entnimmt Walter die Flasche dem Ausgabebehälter.
... Dann entnimmt Walter dem Ausgabebehälter die Flasche.

... Then Walter takes the bottle from the output tray.

Here »dem Ausgabebehälter« ((from) the output tray) is a dative object. (Wem entnimmt Walter etwas?) This is the container from which something has been taken.

As you see, the sequence of objects is variable in German, but the version with accusative object followed by dative object is more common. It depends on the context which one sounds better.

entnehmen = learn (take sense/meaning out of a statement)

Tochter: »Ich habe mein Auto in der Göthestraße abgestellt.«
Vater: »Ich entnehme deiner Aussage eine wichtige Neuigkeit: Du hast ein Auto! Seit wann?«

Daughter: »I parked my car at Göthestraße.«
Father: »I learn important news from your statement: You have a car! Since when?«

Here again, you take something out of something else. But the thing you take now is nothing physical that you can touch or see with your eyes. It is sense, news or a meaning. And the container, from which you extract this sense is a statement.

As before, the thing that is taken (the sense) is an accusative object: »Der Vater entnimmt wen oder was der Aussage der Tochter? - Er entnimmt eine wichtige Neuigkeit.

But very often you don't say that you learn sense/news/meaning. Very often you explicitly tell what this sense is, and when you do this, you normally put this sense into a relative clause:

Zeuge: »Nach dem Knall habe ich mich umgedreht, und gesehen, dass beide in entgegengesetzte Richtungen davonrannten und dass die Pistole über den Asphalt schlitterte.«
Polizist: »Ihrer Aussage entnehme ich, dass Sie gar nicht gesehen haben, wer wirklich geschossen hat
Zeuge: »Ja, das stimmt.«

witness: »I turned around after I heard the bang, and saw that both of them were running away in opposite directions, and that the gun was sliding over the asphalt.«
police officer: »I learn from your statement, that you didn't really see who fired the gun
witness: »Yes, you're right.«

What is described in the relative clause (»dass Sie gar nicht gesehen haben, wer wirklich geschossen hat« = »that you didn't really see who fired the gun«) is the sense/news that was taken from the statement, so you don't have an accusative object anymore in this sentence.

But you still have the dative object that is the container from which you did take the sense.

In the father-daughter-example it was »deiner Aussage« ((from) your statement):

Ich entnehme deiner Aussage eine wichtige Neuigkeit.
I learn important news from your statement.

Proof that it is dative by asking about it: Wem entnehme ich eine wichtige Neuigkeit? - Ich entnehme sie deiner Aussage.

You also have this dative-object that is the container from which you learned something in the policeman-example:

Ihrer Aussage entnehme ich, dass Sie gar nicht gesehen haben, wer geschossen hat.
I learn from your statement, that you didn't really watch who fired the gun.


For both meanings ("take a physical object out of an container" as well as "learn from something") you have two objects:

  • The accusative object tells you what has been taken (a bottle, sense, news). This object is very often replaced by a relative clause when you use "entnehmen" in the meaning of "learn".
  • The dative object tells you the container from which something was taken. In the meaning of learning, this container is the statement from which you learn something (but not the new idea itself that you did learn). In some cases this dative object can be omitted if you take a physical object, and you already know from the context from where you did take something.
  • Schön erklärt und formatiert, aber leider einige Fehler im Englischen. <br>"Saying" (nomen) bedeutet "Redewendung", vielleicht ersetzen Sie "from your saying" mit "from what you're saying" oder "from what you said". <br> In der englischen Übersetzung der Zeugenaussageszene: "around" statt "round", "nicht gesehen haben" ist "did not see", nicht "did not watch". Außerdem totales Chaos bei den Zeiten. Sorry...
    – Estharon
    Aug 22 '16 at 12:47
  • 1
    @just_passing_by: Ich weis, dass mein English nicht besonders ist. Daher beantworte ich lieber Fragen auf Deutsch und hoffe, dass sich jemand findet, der gut Englisch kann und sich die Mühe macht, meine Fehler auszubessern. Das hier ist ja auch kein Englisch-Forum :) Aug 22 '16 at 15:18
  • 1
    @ Hubert Schöllnast Haha, da bekenne ich mich schuldig. Nicht nur hatte ich übersehen, dass man auch die Beiträge anderer editieren kann, mir war auch schon in meinem Kommentar nicht danach, mühsam ins Detail zu gehen. Habe jetzt mal, sozusagen als Kompensation für den Irrtum und meine Bequemlichkeit, einen edit abgeschickt, der die gröberen Schnitzer ausbügeln sollte.
    – Estharon
    Aug 22 '16 at 17:16
  • @just_passing_by: Vielen Dank! Aug 22 '16 at 18:08
  • Ihr beiden, so sollet sein.
    – Carsten S
    Aug 22 '16 at 20:51

The dictionary entry is correct, but it is confusing. However, it corresponds to word order you'd usually use:

Ich entnehme die Münze dem Geldbeutel
I take {accusative object} from {dative object}

This is for the meaning take/gather.

For the meaning learn, the word order is usually a bit different:

Einem Eintrag bei leo.org habe ich die verschiedenen Bedeutungen von entnehmen entnommen.
I learn from {dative object} {accusative object}

So the dictionary entry corresponds to that word order. Of course, the word order is not fixed...

Die verschiedenen Bedeutungen von entnehmen habe ich einem Eintrag bei leo.org entnommen.

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