When someone says “Einen Augenblick!”, like the English “Just a moment!”, why is the accusative used and not the nominative case?


In English, “Just a moment!” implies a verb like “wait” or “give (me)”.

The same is true in German, “Einen Augenblick!” is just a shorter form of “Warten Sie einen Augenblick!”, “Geben Sie mir einen Augenblick!” or some variant of that sentence, and these require the accusative (“einen Augenblick” is the direct object).

  • 2
    1. The name of this type of simplification is ellipsis. 2. German has a bunch of different types of objects, but a "direct object" are not among them. German has dative objects, genitive objects, accusative objects, nominative objects and prepositional objects, but neither direct nor indirect objects. Open any German grammar book that is used to teach students in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, and try to find the term »direktes Objekt«. You will fail, regardless of which book you choose. Feb 6 '18 at 21:27
  • @HubertSchölnast It is used frequently enough to have made it into Wikipedia (de.wikipedia.org/wiki/…). I used it because it is easy to understand for learners whose first language does not have cases. Btw, some people even advocate that I should not only delete the direct / indirect object from my grammar vocabulary, but also dat. obj, gen. obj. and prepos. obj. (cf. Scholten 2016, 156f.).
    – Philipp
    Feb 6 '18 at 21:44
  • @HubertSchölnast Also, my answer wasn’t very clear: I meant to say that from the standpoint of linguistics, my explanation is simplifying what is actually happening in that sentence. I did not mean that in linguistic terms, this phenomenon is called a simplification. I’ll edit that.
    – Philipp
    Feb 6 '18 at 21:51
  • 4
    @HubertSchölnast, feel free to write a better answer.
    – Carsten S
    Feb 7 '18 at 0:08
  • 2
    @CarstenS: I already wrote 1,055 answers Feb 7 '18 at 13:53

Because all noun phrases with a temporal meaning appear in the accusative.

Könntest du einen Augenblick auf das Kind aufpassen?
Er geht jeden Abend ins Fitnessstudio.
Du würdest diese Arbeit keinen Tag aushalten.
Sie sieht so aus, als würde sie sich jeden Moment übergeben.

(The last phrase has the idiomatic meaning of soon.)

  • Im Januar doesn't count as "temporal meaning"?
    – c.p.
    Jan 8 '20 at 22:42
  • @c.p. It's a prepositional phrase.
    – David Vogt
    Jan 8 '20 at 22:54

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