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Du fährst nächste Woche in den Urlaub.

How is Urlaub accusative here? How can we travel into vacation? Next week we travel in the Vacation.

Ich springe über den Zaun in den Garten.

Hier how is Garten taking accusative …?

  • related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/3245/… – Takkat Dec 18 '18 at 7:40
  • Directional expressions take the accusative; that's something you just have to accept. And the journey from home to the vacation destination will take next week, so sentence 1 is entirely correct. – Kilian Foth Dec 18 '18 at 7:52
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It's pretty logical. For the nine dual-way prepositions (and only for them), accusative means direction, while dative means place. Consider:

Ich gehe an den Strand. — I walk to the beach.

Ich gehe am Strand. — I walk on the beach.


It's the same for your examples:

Ich fahre in den Urlaub. — I go on vacation.

Ich fahre im Urlaub. — I drive during the vacation.

Ich springe über den Zaun. — I jump over the fence.

Ich springe über dem Zaun. — I jump above the fence.

Ich springe in den Garten. — I jump into the garden.

Ich springe im Garten. — I jump inside the garden.

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Every human language has developed its own quirks over time. When a German learns English, using the correct prepositions is a major difficulty. You are experiencing the same problem in the opposite direction right now.

Going somewhere can take many different prepositions:

Ich gehe auf den Markt.

Ich gehe in die Schule.

Ich gehe zur Schule.

Ich gehe über die Straße.

Ich gehe auf dem Fußweg.

Ich gehe durch den Tunnel.

Ich gehe unter der Brücke durch.

Most of the above examples can be grouped somehow to "explain" which preposition is the correct one to use. Your case of "in den Urlaub" belongs to the category "it's just the way it is".

There is an additional complexity because every German preposition has a corresponding case, like Dativ or Akkusativ. These have to be learned by heart as well. There are some rules like "locations take Dativ" and "directions take Akkusativ", but of course there are exceptions and other cases.

One thing that makes it difficult to learn these is that the English "where" has two entirely different meanings:

  • Where am I? — location
  • Where do you go? – direction

German has two separate words (wo and wohin), Spanish does the same (dónde and adónde).

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In the holiday case: you start off at home, then you are driving into the holiday.

In the garden case: the fence is the boundary of the garden, so by jumping over the fence you are jumping into the garden.

In both cases you can also build sentences with the respective words in dative, but the meaning shifts.

Wir fahren im Urlaub nach Österreich.

I.e. you are already in your holiday but part of that holiday is you going to holiday.

Wir fahren nach Österreich in den Urlaub.

Your holiday consists of going to Austria.

Likewise for the garden:

Ich springe über den Zaun in den Garten.

I.e. the fence is the garden’s boundary.

Ich springe über den Zaun im Garten.

I.e. the fence is fully within the garden so you’re not leaving the garden while jumping.

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