Dem Computer fehlt ein Hub für USB.

Why Dem Computer and not Der Computer? Because I think Dem Computer is subject, so it should takes the nominative der article.

Source: https://www.linguee.com/english-german/search?source=auto&query=fehlt

  • Can we say?: Der Computer fehlt einem Hub für USB. @harper Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 8:22
  • no, it is still dative and thus "dem Computer fehlt" - the rest "einem Hub für USB" does not make that much sense. Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 8:28
  • 3
    "Der Computer fehlt einem Hub für USB." you can say that if there is a hub which lacks a computer. Indeed, it sounds like the hub might be sad because of it.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 10:07
  • @user3640028: Please ask follow-up questions separately instead of the comments.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 11:24
  • 1
    Who deleted my comments and why?
    – Iris
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 13:31

4 Answers 4


Notice that in German, the subject that goes with the verb fehlen is the thing that is missing/ lacking/ absent/ not present, and the dative object refers to the thing that "feels" or is impaired by the absence. This is opposite to the English verbs to miss or to lack!

Consider the following simple sentence, which contains only the subject and the verb:

Ein Hub(subject) fehlt(verb).

The subject ein Hub is the absent thing.

Now let's add the dative object:

Ein Hub(subject) fehlt(verb) dem Computer(object).

The dative object dem Computer is the thing that is impaired by the absence of the subject.

Finally, let's rearranged the sentence such that it starts with the object:

Dem Computer(object) fehlt(verb) ein Hub(subject).

In English, the roles of subject and object are interchanged, which might have cause the confusion:

The computer(subject) lacks(verb) a hub(object).


While Björn Friedrich's answer covers fehlen, I feel it would be a mistake not to mention that there are a whole group of verbs that behave just like it: fehlen, schmecken, gefallen, gehören, passen, stehen (with the meaning "to suit someone") etc.

The meaning these verbs share is hard to put into words, but a starting point would be to say that for these verbs, the dative object usually denotes a person experiencing something and the subject denotes a thing that is responsible for the experience.

One problem that language learners have is the following. In German, the dative object may precede the subject. If case is not visible, for instance when the dative object is a proper noun, it is very easy to mistake the dative object for a subject. (The dative object is marked in italics and the subject in bold in the following examples.)

Hans schmeckt die Suppe. (Hans likes the soup, not Hans tastes the soup.)
Susi gefällt dieses Buch von Stephen King.
Frau Özel gehört das Nachbargrundstück.
Eltern fehlen manchmal Informationen.

When the dative object is singular and the subject is plural (or vice versa), subject-verb agreement makes it obvious what the subject is.

Hans schmecken die Würstchen.
Susi gefallen alle Bücher von Stephen King.
Frau Özel gehören mehrere Grundstücke.
Eltern fehlt manchmal die Geduld.

Of course, when case is visible, no misinterpretation is possible.

Ihm schmeckt der Salat.
Ihr gefällt dieser Film von Steven Spielberg.
Ihr gehört der Nachbargarten.
Den Eltern fehlt manchmal der Elan.


Because the noun "der Computer" is masculin and this sentence requires a dative.


The subject is "ein Hub", the object is "der Computer". A Dative object is required here, therefore "dem Computer".
Answered by @harper

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