I was reading an article this morning from a German Newspaper:

Laut New York times droht Manchester City der Ausschluss aus der Champions League.

and I was trying to translate this roughly as:

Accoridng to New York Times Manchester City are threatened (with) expulsion out of the Champions League.

Now, I can understand this in context, but I was thinking about the verb drohen and its usage.

I thought because City are receiving the threatening, I thought this was passive and would have expected the use of "werden" to signify this.

On seconds thoughts, I was thinking about the sentence

Mir gefällt dieses Buch.

which with some "mind gymnastics" meant I was the dative (receiving some kind of emotion from the book) hence translating better as "This book is pleasing me."

My question is: Is the sentence about the Buch the same structure as the sentence above?

I thought the "Ausschluss" here is threatening Manchester City (the receiver) hence we don't need a werden and can use drohen in its purely conjugated form?

  • Note: Unlike what the name proposes, the dative is not just expressing giving and receiving - But much more. English Wikipedia lists some other purposes of the dative for Latin - You will be surprised that most of these are valid for German as well.
    – tofro
    May 14, 2019 at 21:25
  • German Wikipedia (if you can read it) is a bit more precise in that respect.
    – tofro
    May 14, 2019 at 21:34

2 Answers 2


Yes, the structure is excatly the same:

Mir (dat.) gefällt (verb) das Buch (subj)

Manchester (dat.) droht (verb) der Ausschluss (subj)

What might be confusing you ist that drohen not only means threaten, which is always something a person does, as here:

Der Chef drohte ihm mit einer Verwarnung.

The boss threatened him with a reprimand.

It can also mean be in danger of, in which case it is construed with the nominative:

Das Schiff drohte zu sinken.

The ship was in danger of sinking.

And finally, it can mean something usually best translated as to face, construed with the dative. That's the usage in the Manchester case:

Manchester (Dat.) droht der Ausschluss.

Manchester faces expulsion.

Ihm droht eine Haftstrafe.

He is facing a prison sentence.

It means that there is something bad that is likely to happen you if things go on the way they are.

  • Vorsicht! to face can mean to anticipate, turn to, to take on a confrontation, i.e. face the truth, but I'm affraid there is no better translation in active modus, except, you know, word for word translation. expulsion threatens Manchestet. It's the subject Mir [gefällt] raised to object that is difficult to translate. "Me pleased this book". "You believe [me] this book pleased [me]". Although there's no "Me this book pleased", there is *..., dass mir dieses Buch gefällt"; And as far as cases are concerned, cp. "For me to like this ...", an utterly awkward infinitive construction.
    – vectory
    May 16, 2019 at 16:15

The subject of the verb drohen is that person or thing which issues the threat. The thing or person receiving it is, well, the receiver of the threat and thus, in dative case. Let me mark the subject for you:

Uns droht ein Unwetter.

Manchester City droht der Ausschluss aus der Champions League.

Der Ausschluss aus der Champions League droht Manchester City. (not the common word order, as the subject is a concept)

But careful:

Es droht ein Unwetter.

Es droht Manchester City der Ausschluss aus der Champions League.

Here, es is a dummy subject and the real subject follows. This is done for doubling and hence, extra emphasis on the subject. It's on both most emphasized positions now.

The reason why this feels alien to you and you think of passive voice is you still think in English word order, in which the subject comes first. In German, the topic comes first.

  • I'd prefer to label Es in that position as object without case inflection, though not obviously, because even if we (as part of the indefinite it) are threatened by the club's potential expulsion, then that's not the common reading. Nevertheless, cp "Uns wurde gesagt", "Es wurde gesagt". It's just important that the syntax does not become too complicated. If "Ausschluss" were the indirekt object, it would usually have to be "Er drohte Ihm *den Ausschluss [an]". I hadn't heared about doubling. Would "Der Ausschluss drohte M aus der Liga" be too weird? Or "Aus der Liga drohte M der A"?
    – vectory
    May 16, 2019 at 16:26
  • In the above examples es answers to the question "Wer?", so it's a subject, not an object.
    – Janka
    May 16, 2019 at 18:39
  • Der Ausschluss drohte M aus der Liga. and Aus der Liga drohte M der Ausschluss. are both grammatical and both completely uncommon.
    – Janka
    May 16, 2019 at 18:42
  • What, how would the whole question sound? Replacing "Es" with "Wer" surely does not help, but that would be the usual form, replacing the subject.
    – vectory
    May 16, 2019 at 19:17
  • Wer droht? – Antwort: Es. Es droht. oder Ein Unwetter. Ein Unwetter droht.
    – Janka
    May 16, 2019 at 21:59

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