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I wonder how is it possible that we would be able to use this sentence without any preposition or complement while it implies a dative case and we must use a preposition (such as im) or at least a complement (such as Jahr in this case) to complete the meaning!

Wir haben 1999 geheiratet.

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    Don't overthink it. While in + year is becoming more common in German, too (clearly influenced by English and still considered a mistake by many), traditionally a German year does not require a preposition. – Ingmar Jan 5 '17 at 15:35
  • Ok @Ingmar! but it even does not mention the word "jahr", does it occur only for sentences with obvious definition (like this) and only in spoken language? – Armin Jan 5 '17 at 15:42
  • Es kann nur ein Jahr sein. – c.p. Jan 5 '17 at 15:55
  • Ok, @c.p.! so could we use a sentence like this without the word "Jahr" in written language, only because of this fact that the sentence's definition is clear?! – Armin Jan 5 '17 at 15:58
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    If the meaning's ambiguous, you're free to use "Im Jahr 2012" or similar, but it's not strictly required, in both spoken and written language. – Ingmar Jan 5 '17 at 16:47
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Different languages, different grammar.

In English, a year typically does not stand alone. Most notably, if somehing happened in a year, this is rendered by using the preposition in. An alternative is to say ‘in the year …’ or others.

David Bowie died in 2016.

It was in the year 2016 that David Bowie died.

French does something entirely analogous using the preposition en.

David Bowie est mort en 2016.

C’était en l’an 2016 que David Bowie est mort.

Finnish only really uses a construction along the lines of being the year for similar sentences:

David Bowie kuoli vuonna 2016.

And a similar version is known for Latin where the construction is — at least, according to my experience — anno MMXVI. No example sentence because I do not speak Latin.

German, on the other hand, does not need the qualifier in a year except for certain situations in which misunderstandings may occur (although they typically still wouldn’t) — such as years lower than 30. Instead, the year is simply put into the sentence as is, no preposition needed. An extended form of ‘in the year …’ still exists, however.

David Bowie starb 2016.

David Bowie starb im Jahr(e) 2016.

(The dative-e is optional but often heard because using im Jahre gives something a gravitational, historical sound.)

This is just the way German grammar works. For comparison, here is a German translation of the second paragraph just to show how similar the languages work in the background with the exception of the lack of a preposition. The bolded part is identical — note how it uses a preposition and the dative case as expected.

Auf Englisch steht eine Jahreszahl typischerweise nicht alleine. Insbesondere wird, wenn etwas in einem Jahr geschah, dies durch die Präposition in ausgedrückt. Alternativ kann man ‘in the year …’ oder ähnliches sagen.

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Indeed, using a year without preposition is the standard way in German, your example sentence is completely correct. One also sometimes reads in 1999, but I think that this is the English construction creeping into the German language. Alternatively you could also expand it to im Jahr 1999.

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    I am only leaving this here because it mentions that in 1999 can actually be found, even though it sounds wrong to me. – Carsten S Jan 5 '17 at 19:48
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    It is wrong, although unfortunately becoming more common. – Ingmar Jan 6 '17 at 5:53
  • @Ingmar, it is wrong until it is right. – Carsten S Jan 6 '17 at 16:30

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