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Today I came across the following sentence in an article from Der Spiegel:

Ebenso wie viele andere Länder ist die Türkei für die exportgetriebene deutsche Wirtschaft als Absatzmarkt von Bedeutung: Im Jahr 2017 sind deutsche Waren im Wert von mehr als 21,4 Milliarden Euro in die Türkei verkauft worden.

Can in DER Türkei verkauft worden be used instead of in DIE Türkei verkauft worden, as is written in the above sentence? As I understand it, the original phrase can be translated into English as were sold TO Turkey, while my version can be translated as were sold IN Turkey. In the context, both versions seem to me to be interchangeable.

According to German grammar, in is followed by either dative (if the appropriate question is Wo?) or accusative case (if the appropriate question is Wohin?).

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  • Using the direction is more reasonable, because this is about the Absatzmarkt and so, the origin is as much important as the receiver.
    – Janka
    Aug 10 '18 at 22:03
  • If the "direction is more reasonable", would it not have been better to write "Im Jahr 2017 sind deutsche Waren im Wert von mehr als 21,4 Milliarden Euro AN die Türkei verkauft worden." Aug 10 '18 at 22:10
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    No, because using an would mean Turkey as a state has bought German goods. Deutsche Rüstungsgüter im Wert von 4 Mrd. Euro sind im letzten Jahr an die Türkei verkauft worden.
    – Janka
    Aug 10 '18 at 22:12
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You gave yourself the answer to your question:

  • Both versions are grammatically correct.
  • They mean different things.

And you also said this, which is correct too:

  • »in« + accusative case = direction

    in die Türkei = into turkey
    Ich gehe in die Küche = I go into the kitchen.

  • »in« + dative case = place

    in der Türkei = in turkey
    Ich bin in der Küche = I am in the kitchen.

Now for interchangeability:

You already are aware of the fact, that both sentences mean different things. Lets have a closer look to the differences:

  • Etwas in die Türkei verkaufen = to sell something into turkey
    This means, that something is sold, and at the end, the sold good will be in Turkey. This can be realized in these ways:
    1. A German salesman travels to turkey with a truck full of goods and sells them there. He travels back with his empty truck and with the money in his pocket.
    2. A Turkish salesman travels to Germany with his empty truck and with money in his pocket. In Germany he buys good, and brings them to Turkey with his truck when he travels back.
    3. A German and a Turkish salesman make an online deal. Non of them has a truck, both of them stay at home in their offices. The Turkish salesman sends money to the German salesman (which is done virtually; only bits and bytes are moving; all coins or banknotes stay where they are), and the German salesman commissions a forwarding company to transport the goods to turkey.
  • Etwas in der Türkei verkaufen = to sell something in turkey
    This means, that the deal is done in turkey. So it means:

    1. A German salesman travels to turkey with a truck full of goods and sells them there. He travels back with his empty truck and with the money in his pocket.

    (no other options)

But the vast majority of business cases are of the 3rd type. It is hard to tell in which country the deal is done, when both partners reside in different countries and don't move. What moves is the goods in one direction and the (virtual) money in the opposite direction.

So, »in der Türkey« (a place) will not fit. But »in die Türkey« (a direction) fits perfect.


an die Türkei

In a comment you also asked:

If the "direction is more reasonable", would it not have been better to write "Im Jahr 2017 sind deutsche Waren im Wert von mehr als 21,4 Milliarden Euro AN die Türkei verkauft worden."

This is grammatically correct too, and it has a third meaning.

Hans verkauft Wasser an Martha.

This means, that Martha is buying the water. After the deal she is the owner of the sold good. In this sentence we don't talk about directions or places. We talk about ownership.

If we talk this way about a country, the meaning of what a country is, changes:

When we talk about directions and places we think of a country as a geographic region on the surface of planet earth. But when I say:

Ich verkaufe mein altes Fahrrad an die Türkei.
I sell my old bicycle to turkey.

then I'm thinking of Turkey as a nation, consisting of people living in a certain region. But I do not mean, that this nation is becoming the now owner of by old bike. I mean that one of the citizens of Turkey will be the new owner.


  • Im Jahr 2017 sind deutsche Waren im Wert von mehr als 21,4 Milliarden Euro in die Türkei verkauft worden.

    Goods have been sold, and at the end they land in a certain geographic region.

  • Im Jahr 2017 sind deutsche Waren im Wert von mehr als 21,4 Milliarden Euro in der Türkei verkauft worden.

    People made deals while they were in a certain geographic region.

  • Im Jahr 2017 sind deutsche Waren im Wert von mehr als 21,4 Milliarden Euro an die Türkei verkauft worden.

    Goods have been sold to some people who are citizens of a certain nation that occupies a certain geographic region.

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    "But I do not mean, that this nation is becoming the now owner of by old bike." - I disagree. I think Janka got it right in the comment above: I'd indeed understand "Ich verkaufe mein altes Fahrrad an die Türkei." as saying that the Turkish government has decided to purchase the bike for the country and it is now owned by the Republic of Turkey. Aug 11 '18 at 21:29
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"Im Jahr 2017 sind deutsche Waren im Wert von mehr als 21,4 Milliarden Euro in die Türkei verkauft worden"

"Im Jahr 2017 sind deutsche Waren im Wert von mehr als 21,4 Milliarden Euro in der Türkei verkauft worden"

Both sentences are grammatically correct, but they are semantically different.

In the first case the goods are sold from abroad into Turkey.

In the second case they are sold in Turkey

But since any German goods sold in Turkey must have been imported, effectively they are interchangeable

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    Only if all goods were also sold again in Turkey, both would be interchangeable. If goods are sold in Germany and delivered into Turkey, they might never be sold in Turkey but simply be kept and used by the recipient.
    – Gerhardh
    Aug 11 '18 at 9:32

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