I do not understand when to use each case. For example:

Das Foto muss auf die Tür geklebt werden.

Das Foto ist auf der Tür geklebt.

First, I suspected that in the first example, it is all about motion or action (the photo has to be put on the door). The second example is easy, it is the place. However, I am not sure how to detect the real action or movement. For example:

Ich gehe zum Auto/ zum Arzt.

In this case, it is all about action, but still the dative is used.

  • Would't have "Das Foto ist auf die Tür geklebt" been better? Or even better: "Das Foto ist auf die Tür geklebt worden"? – Top Questions Oct 25 '17 at 8:31
  • I am really not sure. For me, dative should symbolize the position (something not moving). So, the photo is on the door, hence dative. But, I really do not know what is right. – blackarrow Oct 25 '17 at 8:33
  • "has to be put on the door" -- it rather has to be stuck to the door, but then this Q evaporates. – user41814 Apr 21 '20 at 14:01

You are talking about verbs with prepositions - In these cases the preposition can over-rule the case the verb normally takes. So, your first action would be: Look up the preposition in the dictionary and check which case(s) it might rule.

"auf", as in your example, you will find:

Präposition mit Dativ und Akkusativ

Next, "auf" is a preposition of locality - These normally rule the accusative, if a motion is involved, and the dative, if a static location is denoted to.

Das Foto muss auf die Tür geklebt werden

refers to an action of movement - move something from here to there, here, to the door.

Das Foto ist auf der Tür geklebt

Is the result of a movement - Somebody was using accusative in the past to move it there, now it's there and won't budge, so dative.

This rule is easiest to understand with "in":

I'm driving into town

is definitely a movement towards something, so translates to

Ich fahre in die Stadt


I'm driving in town

Is not a movement towards something, but rather some limited movement within a confined area, so takes the dative in German

Ich fahre in der Stadt

  • If I understand correctly, if I notice the slightest sign of an action, I should use accusative? For example: Die Autos müssen auf die Straße geparkt werden. Die Autos sind auf der Straße geparkt. Den Satz werde ich in den Prüfbericht hinzufügen. Der Satz ist im Prüfbericht hinzugefügt. (Should I also use Den Satz, since that is the object here?) – blackarrow Oct 25 '17 at 9:44
  • Right. All your examples are correct. And don't do what you asked in parentheses - "Der Satz" is the subject in "Der Satz ist hinzugefügt" – tofro Oct 25 '17 at 9:55
  • Right, "Der Satz" is the subject here. It is a little bit off the topic, but what about: Es ist ein entsprechenden Satz hinzufügen. It looks to me that in this case "Der Satz" is the object, but it is written in nominative. – blackarrow Oct 25 '17 at 10:16
  • "Das Foto ist auf der Tür geklebt" is incorrect (or, if one considers it correct, it does not mean what's intended). "Etwas auf etwas kleben" requires the accusative after auf, otherwise "auf ..." describes the position of the subject, not the object. Correct is "Das Foto klebt auf der Tür". – RHa Oct 25 '17 at 10:46
  • 3
    "... ist auf der Tür geklebt" to me simply feels wrong. – RHa Oct 25 '17 at 14:15

Be careful, "Das Foto ist auf der Tür geklebt" is correct, but it emphasizes the fact that the photo is glued (not otherwise attached). The sentence "Das Foto ist auf die Tür geklebt" is also correct, but emphasizes the fact that the photo has been glued to the door (not somewhere else).

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