den Kopf in ein Buch versenken +++ {accusative}

sich in ihre Arbeit versenken +++ {accusative}

On the other hand:

das Schwert im Meer versenken +++ {dative}

Although these three examples share the same construction and the movement/action of sinking/throwing X into Y is implied, the last one alone requires the dative case for some reason.

I wonder why?

1 Answer 1


Versenken has two meanings.

One meaning is "to put away by sinking" and asks for a location. It goes only with dative.

Der Sturm versenkte die Flotte im Hafen.

The storm sunk the fleet in the harbour.

Mit diesem Eigentor hat der HSV sich selbst im Tabellenkeller versenkt.

By that own goal the HSV had sunk itself at the bottom of the league.

The other meaning is "to dive in/into" and that one can go both with a location or a direction.

Er versenkte den Kopf in einem Buch.

Er versenkte den Kopf in ein Buch.

You can use either of these. The accusative case puts more emphasis on the action.

  • I consider it at least questionable whether these are two meanings. I am indeed having a hard time imagining an accusative example in the first described case, but I think that is mainly due to the issue that whatever the ships are sinking in is larger than the ships, therefore there is no movement into a new location. Try the not too straightforward "Der Sturm versenkte die Flotte in den bereits bestehenden Schiffsfriedhof auf dem Grund des Hafens.", and you will notice that I have used accusative along with the first alleged meaning. Come to think of it, your second example that ... Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 20:21
  • ... "goes only with dative" actually uses "sich selbst" as an accusative object. Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 20:22
  • @O.R.Mapper: No, "versenkte die Flotte in den" is wrong. It's always in dem. Neither is the accusative object asked in my second example but the accusative usage of the prepositional object introduced by in.
    – Janka
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 21:13
  • But "versenkte die Flotte im Schiffsfriedhof" makes no sense. The fleet only enters the ship graveyard upon sinking to the ground. Thus, it must be "versenkte die Flotte in den Schiffsfriedhof". Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 21:17
  • I know nobody, really no one but you, who ever uses versenken in that sense with a direction.
    – Janka
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 21:19

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