First, let me say that I'm new to German.

I see that the article of a feminine noun isn't inflected when the case is changed from nominative to accusative, i.e. in both cases the definite article is "die." My question is, can this lead to ambiguity in certain situations? For example, take a sentence where both the subject and object are feminine nouns. How would one discern the object from the subject if both articles are "die"?

  • 2
    +1 I had the same question.
    – nibot
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 10:26

2 Answers 2


Theoritically, yes: "Die Spinne fraß die Ameise". But even though the word order is more variable as in English, S-P-O is preferred, especially if the sentence might be ambigous.

If there is no such danger, e.g. when the order is clear from context, you might hear sometimes the reverse order O-P-S: "Die Wurst fraß die Katze...". There is a slight shift in meaning: This sentence answers the question "Was passierte mit der Wurst?", while "Die Katze fraß die Wurst" is an answer to "Was tat die Katze?".


Ambiguities from female accusative vs. nominative may arise when the relationship is not clear by logic (as was nicely shown in the example already given in "The sausage eats the cat").

Die Anna liebt die Mamma.

Is another simple example where it may be that Mamma loves Anna or Anna loves Mamma (of course both is likely to be true). In spoken German we can easily overcome the ambigutiy by using a slightly different accentuation:

Die Anna liebt die Mamma - Anna is the subject
Die Anna - short break - liebt die Mama - Anna is the accusative object

This of course is not possible in written German. Therefore it is a matter of style to avoid such constructs. In the example given we may say:

Die Anna liebt ihre Mamma

By this the subject-object relationship becomes clear.

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    Ich glaube nicht dass der letzte Satz so klar ist. Die Anna liebt ihre Puppe. aber auch Den Kuchen isst ihre Mamma. Und wie ihre Mamma den Kuchen essen kann, so kann sie auch die Anna lieben. Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 2:56
  • @userunknown: the virtual sentence before my last example was "Der Paul liebt seinen Papa". Thus there is not other female subject "ihre" could relate to. But you are right, if we had another female in a preceding sentence the ambiguity may still not be solved. We'd then need another wording again.
    – Takkat
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 7:48

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