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I was always taught that using a verb that implies movement automatically tiggers the accusative case for the direct object when used with certain prepositions.

For example, Germans say

Ich gehe ins Bett.

rather than

Ich gehe im Bett.

However I'm confused by exactly what degree of movement needs to be implied for this to hold true. Is there some kind of threshold that needs to be reached?

For example, let's take the sentence

I look at the clock.

Would that be dative or accusative? To me it doesn't require a great deal of movement, but then I suppose you are moving your eyes. Is there a list of not quite so obvious verbs that also require the accusative?

  • 4
    It's less about movement and more about direction. There is another thread about this, but I can't find it right now. – infinitezero Oct 9 at 16:46
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    Check whether this answer helps: german.stackexchange.com/a/41849/35111 – David Vogt Oct 9 at 17:03
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    Possible duplicate of Wechselpräpositionen – RalfFriedl Oct 9 at 17:03
  • @DavidVogt and RalfFriedl have already pointed you towards a relevant answer for your question. In the case of your clock example, it's accusative: "Ich schaue auf die Uhr." You ask "wohin [schaust du]?" and not "wo"? (meaning it's a direction - and no location). – Frank from Frankfurt Oct 9 at 17:39
  • I go to bed. – Ich gehe zu Bett. Old-fashioned but valid German. – Janka Oct 9 at 17:42
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As others had already pointed out, most of your question is covered in this answer. For verbs as gehen, this is quite intuitive.

For a verb as sehen, schauen or gucken, it might be not.

Ich schaue auf die Uhr.

I look at the clock.

You are aiming your view on the watch. That's why you need a direction here.

Ich schaue mal im Schuppen nach dem Besen.

I will check the shed for the broom then.

You go to the shed and check for the broom in there. That's why you need a place here.

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