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I am learning German the hard way - currently reading Yuval Noah Harari's book "Eine kurze Geschichte der Menschheit." In pages 12 and 13 I came across two sentences where the first uses "ihr" and the second "ihren" followed by the same word, "Nachwuchs". The subject of the first sentence is "Diese Menschen" and of the second is "Sie". Here they are:

1) "Diese Menschen liebten, stritten, zogen ihren Nachwuchs auf und ..."

2) "Sie unterscheiden sich zwar äußerlich ... und ihr Nachwuchs kann mit anderen Hunden neue Welpen zeugen."

My question is: Why "ihren" in the first and "ihr" in the second? What is the grammatical explanation?

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The two examples are differently flexed:

Sie zogen ihren Nachwuchs auf.

Wen oder was zogen sie auf? Ihren Nachwuchs. Akkusativ.
Whom did they raise? Their offsping.

Ihr Nachwuchs erzeugte viel Heiterkeit.

Wer oder was erzeugte die Heiterkeit? Ihr Nachwuchs. Nominativ.
Who made all the fun? Their offspring.

Maybe you are distracted by the fact that ihr and ihre are possessive pronouns themselves. It is just a coincidence that the possessive pronoun ihr (like in "ihr Kind") is the same word as the personal pronoun in second person plural ("ihr geht mir ganz schön auf die Nerven!").

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  • And, even if those words are possessive pronouns, there is no genitive involved. – tofro Feb 20 '18 at 17:59
  • Thank you Nils Magnus. How could I have missed this fine distinction (object, subject) in the respective sentences! You are right. – G. Trialonis Feb 20 '18 at 20:22
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Simple:

... zogen ihren Nachwuchs auf

is accusative singular (the pronoun is part of the object) and

... ihr Nachwuchs kann Welpen zeugen

is nominative singular (the pronoun is part of the subject)

If in doubt, consult your grammar's declination tables.

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  • Yes, thank you tofro, you are right. I know that they are accusative and nominative, respectively, but I meant to ask "Why are they accusative and nominative." I suspect you meant because in the first sentence we are dealing with the object whereas in the second with the subject of the respective sentence. Check Nils Magnus' answer. – G. Trialonis Feb 20 '18 at 20:20

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