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So today I was watching Deutschlandlabor | Folge 02: Mode. It is good so far, but I came across a couple of grammatically confusing sentences such as:

— Wie wichtig ist dir Mode?
— Den meisten Deutschen ist Mode sehr wichtig.

So why did they say dir in the first one, and why den in the second? It is obviously in dative, but why?

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    Who said it to whom?
    – Em1
    Aug 24 '16 at 6:00
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First sentence:

wie = how (interrogative adverb, asks for a grade-property of wichtig)
wichtig = important (adjective, describes a property of the predicate)
ist = is (verb = predicate)
dir = to you (personal pronoun = dative object)
Mode = Fashion (noun = subject in nominative case)
? = ? (question mark)

In English you have a different word order than in German, so you translate this sentence as:

How important is fashion to you?


Second sentence:

den meisten Deutschen = to most Germans (dative object)
ist = is (verb = predicate)
Mode = Fashion (noun = subject in nominative case)
sehr = very (grade particle, describes the grade of »wichtig«)
wichtig = important (adjective, describes a property of the predicate)
. = . (full stop)

Parts of the dative object:
den = the (article; dative, plural)
meisten = most (adjective; dative, plural, superlative of »viel«)
Deutschen = Germans (noun; dative, plural)

Again you have a different word order in english:

Fashion is very important to most Germans.


Two things are worth to be mentioned:

»dir« vs. »den Deutschen«

What might confuse you, is the dative object that in the question is »dir« (second person singular) while it is »den meisten Deutschen« (third person plural) in the answer. This in fact is a mismatch. The person to who the question was targeted was asked about his or her personal mind. But like people often are: He/she did not give an exact answer to the question. Maybe this person didn't want to tell about himself or herself, and instead he/she reported about most Germans.

German word order:

The standard word order (better: order of parts of speech) is like in english:

{subject} - {predicate} - {object(s)}
{Mode}subject {ist}predicate {den meisten Deutschen}dative object {sehr wichtig}description of predicate.

»Description of predicate« is not an official grammar term. I believe there are more than one ways to interpret this part of speech (as part of the predicate, or as an object), but this was not your question. (Maybe you can reed more about it in the comments.)

In German you don't identify the logical function of a part of speech by its position within a sentence. You identify it by its grammatical case. (Well, in most cases. It can be more complicated sometimes.) But the fact, that we identify parts of speech by their grammatical case gives us the freedom, to rearrange parts of speech. So this also is a valid word order in German:

{object} - {predicate} - {subject and other objects}
{Den meisten Deutschen}dative object {ist}predicate {Mode}subject {sehr wichtig}description of predicate.

There is just one hard rule:

The second part of speech within a statement must be occupied by the predicate.

But there is no rule for position 1. There very often is the subject, but you can also find any other parts of speech there.

Also this is allowed:

{Sehr wichtig}description of predicate {ist}predicate {den meisten Deutschen}dative object {Mode}subject.
{Sehr wichtig}description of predicate {ist}predicate {Mode}subject {den meisten Deutschen}dative object.

The last one is not very good style, but you can use it if you have a context that gives you a reason for this word order. Normally you use a non-standard word order to put the focus of expression on a certain part of speech. You put this part of speech on position 1 or sometimes also to the end of the sentence.

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An English translation would be:

How important is fashion to you?

And indeed to + object often corresponds to a dative object in German, so this should not be surprising. Apart from this, you will just have to learn the combination wichtig + Dativobjekt.

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  • can you give me an example plz !!
    – ilyesky
    Aug 23 '16 at 22:51
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A dative complement can appear with many constructions to express the "inner emotional participation" of the referent in the relation that the sentence expresses - more about this here. This construction is the same in both your example sentences.

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