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I've just checked the solutions of an exercise that asks me to determine the Kasus of two articles. Here it is:

  • Der Maler zeichnet ein Bild auf [...] Straße.
  • Die Kinder laufen so schnell wie möglich über [...] Platz.

To answer questions like these I usually ask myself: "Wo oder wohin?", so I filled the gaps as it follows:

  • Der Maler zeichnet ein Bild auf der Straße.
  • Die Kinder laufen so schnell wie möglich über dem Platz.

and that is because the question that makes sense to me is "Wo?" in both cases, then I think I must use Dativ.

However the solutions provided by the book suggest to use the Akkusativ:

  • Der Maler zeichnet ein Bild auf die Straße.
  • Die Kinder laufen so schnell wie möglich über die Platz.

Can anyone tell me then where I'm wrong?

Thank you, really, in advance.

  • 3
    Your book is not good at all. Platz is masculine so über die Platz is not even possible. – Eller Aug 1 '17 at 8:07
10

To start with your first example, both of the following are correct; but they mean different things.

(i) Der Maler zeichnet ein Bild auf der Straße.
(ii) Der Maler zeichnet ein Bild auf die Straße.

The first sentence means that the painter was in the street when he drew the picture. The second means that he drew the picture onto the street. (So, he had some chalk and got down on his knees and drew something onto the asphalt).

Thus, ‘auf’ can take Dat or Acc, but the meaning changes. Roughly, the difference is this: with Dat, ‘auf’ answers the question where? and describes where something or someone is currently located. With Acc, ‘auf’ answers the question into/onto where?. If you look up auf in the Duden, you’ll find more details. Here’s another example that may help tease out the difference:

(iii) Er sitzt auf der Mauer. [He is sitting on the wall.]
(iv) Er klettert auf die Mauer. [He is climbing onto the wall.]

Turning to your second example, the situation is much the same: ‘über’ can take Dat or Acc, depending on what you want to express. (See here for details.) In particular, ‘über dem Platz’ means ‘above the square’, whereas ‘über den Platz’ means ‘across the square. Thus, while your ‘Die Kinder laufen so schnell wie möglich über dem Platz.’ is grammatically possible, it makes less sense than ‘Die Kinder laufen so schnell wie möglich über den Platz.’ As was already pointed out in the comments, the answer the book suggests (‘Die Kinder laufen so schnell wie möglich über die Platz.’) is decidedly false!

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