Der Apfel liegt auf dem Tisch.

Can someone explain me why Tisch is in dative case and not in akkusative?


German has nine dual-way prepositions: an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor and zwischen. These prepositions can take either the dative case or the accusative case, depending on whether a place or a direction is meant. Telling the two cases apart can be a bit tricky. Luckily, most times the verb commands direction or place.

Ich lege den Apfel auf den Tisch. ← It's a direction, the verb legen requires one.

Der Apfel liegt auf dem Tisch. ← It's a place, the verb liegen requires one.

Note this is only true for these nine prepositions. Other prepositions as zu or aus always take the dative case though they mean a direction, or, as durch, always take the accusative case though they mean a place. There is also a small number of genitive prepositions.

Also note there is a small number of prepositions as entlang which take a different case depending on whether they are used as prepositions or postpositions.

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