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I have been told that the dative object always comes before the accusative but I have just found 2 sentences that don't follow this rule.

Sie gibt ihrem Mann einen Kuss auf die Glatze. Why not Sie gibt ihrem Mann auf die Glatze einen Kuss.(dative comes first, right?)


ich überzeugte meine Freundin von der Wahrheit. Why not Ich überzeugte von der Wahrheit meine Freundin?

Could someone please give me an explaination for this? Thanks for your help in advance

  • 1
    These are prepositional constructs. The rule applies only to nominal objects. – Kilian Foth Apr 8 '17 at 9:51
  • Small remark: I am not sure, "dative object" is a correct terminology, as far I know, object is always in accusative, if it is not, then it is not an object. In some languages the accusative is named even like "objective case" or similar. – peterh Apr 8 '17 at 20:40
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There are indeed exceptions to that rule, but neither of your sentences fall into that category.

The rule doesn't apply to prepositional phrases, only to objects (direct and indirect) of the verb. Prepositional phrases follow different word order rules, depending on what they describe (e.g. in the order of time-manner-place). The rule really should be stated as "indirect objects come before direct objects".

Your first sentence, for example, really does follow the rule because the indirect object (ihrem Mann) comes before the direct object (einen Kuss). The position of the phrase auf die Glatze isn't handled by the rule you describe because it is a prepositional phrase.

Your second sentence has no indirect object at all, just a direct object (meine Freundin). Von der Wahrheit is neither a direct object nor indirect object.


I mentioned at the beginning that there were exceptions. That is when the direct object is a pronoun:

Er gibt mir das Handy.
Er gibt es mir.

You might also say it's an exception when you bring the direct object to the front for emphasis:

Das Handy gibt er mir.

  • Thank you for the answer, but where is the position of the prepositional phrase(ex: von der Wahrheit) relative to the object(not pronoun)? – Martin Gwynn Apr 8 '17 at 12:39
  • @Peterwayne Elements of time should come before manner, which should come before place (time-manner-place). Besides that I don't think it matters too much. – Blavius Apr 8 '17 at 20:24
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The rules are the following:

  1. Pronouns come earlier as the non-pronouns.
  2. In the case of pronouns, the accusative comes before the dativ.
  3. In the case of non-pronouns, the dativ comes before the accusative.

Thus, the priority order is this:

  1. Pronoun in accusative
  2. Pronoun in dative
  3. Non-pronoun in dative
  4. Non-pronoun in accusative

Some example sentences:

  • Ich gebe dir den Apfel.
  • Ich gebe ihn ihm.
  • Ich gebe der Katze den Apfel.

These are not very strong rules, native speakers will understand it in any order.

The position of the verb and the subject is much more important.


Extensions:

  • Prepositions don't change anything ("Ich stelle ihn auf den Tisch").
  • This is only the standard order with no special emphasis. "Ich gebe den Apfel dir" is also correct and puts additional emphasis on dir. (Thanks @Janka)
  • Where would the prepositional phrase be in the priority list? – Martin Gwynn Apr 8 '17 at 12:48
  • @Peterwayne It doesn't matter, only the case matters (Ich stelle ihn auf den Tisch). – peterh Apr 8 '17 at 12:53
  • Don't forget this is only the standard order with no special emphasis. Ich gebe den Apfel dir is also correct and puts additional emphasis on dir. – Janka Apr 8 '17 at 20:27
  • @Janka Thanks, I inserted it into the post. – peterh Apr 8 '17 at 20:37

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