Der Vater widerspricht dem Sohn.

Why does "der Sohn" get dative case here? And not the accusative case? To me, the son seems to be the direct object.

  • 6
    German does not have "direct" and "indirect" objects. That is a notion that makes sense in English but not in many other languages. Inflecting languages have case frames, and the distribution of cases to verbs is almost always only partially rule-based. In other word, there is no particular reason. Mar 8 '19 at 10:17
  • @Kilian: of course it has, just like many other languages. But in German, direct objects are not always in the accusative case. Mar 8 '19 at 12:43
  • @Kilian: FWIW: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accusative_case Mar 8 '19 at 12:47

Yes, "der Sohn" is the direct object of the sentence - but it's not in the accusative.

This is one of quite some possible examples where "direct object == accusative" is not true and shows you shouldn't assume such a congruence.

Many German verbs that express opposition through "wider-" and "gegen-" prefixes rule the dative.

  • widersprechen
  • gegenüberstehen
  • entgegengehen
  • widersetzen
  • ...
  • Another possible fit for this list is antworten.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 7 '19 at 22:01
  • Also helfen, danken, dienen, etc. etc. etc.
    – Janka
    Mar 7 '19 at 22:30
  • 2
    I mentioned antworten because the ant is originally also against.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 8 '19 at 10:26
  • @CarstenS not anti?
    – vectory
    Mar 8 '19 at 11:14
  • 1
    @Philipp: but Arktis, Agonist, etc. are of Greek origin, and start with an A. Antworten probably does not come from anti-Worten. Mar 8 '19 at 21:02

German doesn't have the concept of direct and indirect objects. It does have accusative objects, dative objects and even genitive objects.

Widersprechen takes a dative object

  • 4
    It's not quite true that German doesn't have the concept of direct/indirect objects - It is simply not useful to derive the case from that concept, because in German it's a semantical concept only, and not necessarily a grammatical one.
    – tofro
    Mar 7 '19 at 21:54

These pronouns help to figure out the right case in German:

wer? -> nominative

wen? -> accusative

wem? -> dative

wessen? -> genitive

You ask:

Wem widerspricht der Vater?

The answer is:

Dem Sohn. (Dative object)

So you get:

Der Vater widerspricht dem Sohn.

  • Yes, but this does help only when you actually know the correct case to be used. Native speaking children know it because they just got used to it. People coming from other languages will not be able to use it. Kwiebies can also ask Wen widerspricht der Vater without knowing that this is the wrong case. Mar 9 '19 at 15:43

the preposition wider generally takes the dative "wider der Natur", hence we could analyse this as "Er spricht wider dem Sohn".

  • 1
    I'm unconvinced, that a case required by a preposition hold for all verbs constructed with it. In any case Duden gives accusative for the preposition wider.
    – guidot
    Mar 8 '19 at 16:40
  • @guidot wider das Gesetz sounds unusual to me, and the dative variant does have currency, so the claim of various authorities, that this preposition could only be followed by accusative is patently proscriptive, not descriptive, and for no good reason as far as I can see, as widerspricht dem does show that the semantics are not the problem. The dativ "wegen dem Mann" wins in my region over "wegen des Mannes", by the way, so maybe I am biased. Taking Latin contra for comparison ("with" + comparative "tra"), I wonder what cases it inflicts.
    – vectory
    Mar 8 '19 at 23:55
  • Latin contra very pointedly requires the ablative, the case for things moving away from, lol. Wider can be understood as towards, against, gegen, and more as per Duden. Neither helps to decide the case. In archaic adverbial usage Der Regen war Ihnen wider, now rather zu wider, it's also dativ, but that's not ruled by the adverb as much as the semantics of the sentence. Vgl. vielleicht auch wehre dem, der .... The comparison to gegen is useless, the words arent completely synonymous. Widerspruch certainly has retained a connotation of wieder, cp. re-.
    – vectory
    Mar 9 '19 at 15:57
  • I'm not convinced either, that a case required by a preposition would hold for all verbs constructed with it. But it works here, or with wiederholen. A counterexample would be welcome. I can't think of one where the prefixed morpheme is seperable like this.
    – vectory
    Mar 9 '19 at 16:01

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