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I was learning German and stumbled across a "complete the sentence" question:

"Er fährt mit einem _____ Fahrrad zur Schule" (blau)

Now, I thought that because the bike is being actively performed on i.e. being affected by the fährt, the Fahrrad would be accusative, so I thought the missing word was "blaues"

But apparently, the correct answer is "blauen" as Fahrrad is dative, not accusative. I'm confused why.

Can someone explain this?

  • (1) You wouldn't say "einem" if it were not dative. (2) The object of the preposition "mit" is always dative. – Michael Hardy Oct 5 at 4:18
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after "mit" you always use "Dativ". Look at the "einem". That's screaming "Dativ" for you!

7

Case in prepositional phrases is largely determined by the preposition involved. If it's mit, then the noun takes the dative, no questions asked; if it's ohne, it's the accusative.

(There are a small number of location-related prepositions that take either the dative or the accusative, depending on whether the entire proposition is about a location or a direction, eg. auf or unter, but otherwise the larger context is irrelevant for case after a preposition.)

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You’re thinking ‘something that is actively performed on’, i.e. an object. It is true, that if a verb takes an object and if that object is usually inanimate by nature then this object will typically be in accusative case in German:

Er spielt die Rolle sehr überzeugend.

Verbs that have an accusative object like in the above example are called transitive. The verb fahren can also be transitive:

Er fährt ein blaues Fahrrad zur Schule.

In English, a possible translation would be:

He rides a blue bike to school.

However, fahren can be used in many different ways. The above emphasises the act of riding the bike and the destination (the school) is less relevant. Another way to use fahren is intransitively. In this case, there is no direct object and the main meaning shifts from steering/driving a vehicle to using a vehicle to get from A to B. A more reduced version but still perfectly valid version of your example sentence would be:

Er fährt zur Schule.

Or even:

Er fährt.

These in themselves are complete sentences using the intransitive meaning of fahren. As with most verbs, they can be expanded with various adverbials one of which designating the tool—here, the bike. When describing a tool with an adverbial, the usual way to do it is in a mit expression. Mit as a preposition governs dative, thus in your example sentence dative is the only possible choice:

Er fährt mit einem blauen Fahrrad zur Schule.

Compared to the above, the focus here is centred more on where he is going with the additional information of how being optional.


Even without this in-depth analysis, the only possible choice given the small blank you have is blauen anyway: the indefinite article einem already makes it clear that the dative form is required.

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