I saw it on link to youtube the following sentence :

Die Sonne scheint den Kindern auf die Köpfe.

The sentence appears at 0:47. It seems like "den Kindern" here is a dative case. But why is it so? Also, "auf die Köpfe" is non-dative. But shouldn't it be dative? As it is indicating the position. Shouldn't it be "auf der Köpfe"?

  • I don't understand, why you consider the dative to possess locking powers. Actually you can have all cases in the same sentence: Ich (nominative) schenke dir (dative) das Auto (accusative) meines Vaters (genitive).
    – guidot
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 22:06

1 Answer 1


Scheinen is intransitive, so there can't be an accusative object.

Dative indicates the receiver or the beneficiary of an action. This is the case here: The children get the light from the sun.

(As a side note, like many verbs scheinen can be turned into a transitive verb by adding the prefix be-. That would be Die Sonne bescheint den Kindern die Köpfe, a somewhat stilted but valid German sentence.)

Auf die Köpfe indicates direction, not position: The sunlight goes from the sun to the heads of the children. That's why it's accusative.

Dative would be auf den Köpfen, not auf der Köpfe. That would mean that the sun is placed on the children's heads, which obviously would be nonsense.

  • And since each child usually has only one head, "...scheint den Kindern auf den Kopf" would be even more idiomatic Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 8:25
  • 1
    @VolkerLandgraf That seems to be a bad translation from English, which insists that multiple kids must have multiple heads - German is simpler here and assumes the receiver can imagine that...
    – tofro
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 11:32

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