Die Kinder sehen den ganzen Tag fern. (The children watch TV all day. )

The phrase

den ganzen Tag = all day

is an adverbial phrase of duration since it responds to the question :how often? Why is it using the accusative? As far as I know the accusative is used as object of verbs, which is not the case here. What's the rule behind it?

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    This is a common logical error. Even if all ravens were black, this does not mean that all non-ravens are not black; other birds could be black, too. The same here: even though "the accusative is used as object of verbs", this does not mean that everything else cannot be accusative. – Björn Friedrich Oct 22 '19 at 16:56
  • You are right is duration. I corrected that – J.C.VegaO Oct 22 '19 at 17:31
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    @πάντα ῥεῖ The question is about den ganzen Tag. Die Kinder is nominative, since it is the subject of the sentence – J.C.VegaO Oct 22 '19 at 17:32

Some grammars (e.g. Duden-Grammatik) call this an "adverbial accusative" (adverbialer Akkusativ):

"The adverbial accusative usually expresses a measurement, such as a distance, a deadline, a weight, a temperature, or an amount of money [...] It is in a dependency relation to verbs, adjectives, or adverbs; in some cases, it is demanded by those words [...], in some cases it modifies them." (Duden-Grammatik, 8th edn 2009, para 1246; my translation)

Examples are:

  • Ich wiege [zwei Kilo] weniger als du.
  • Ich hatte [zwei Wochen] Urlaub. Ich war [zwei Wochen] im Urlaub.
  • Ich arbeite schon [sehr lange Zeit] an dem Projekt.
  • Das Buch kostet [einen Euro].
  • Sein Hobby kostet ihn/erfordert von ihm [viel Einsatz].

In more technical terms, such adverbial complements are sometimes called "dilativ", meaning they express some sort of extent. There are different means in German to realise this. One way is a prepositional phrase (Die Kinder schauten [über zwei Stunden] fern.), another one would be an adverbial phrase (Die Kinder schauten [lange] fern.) and yet another one is a noun phrase in accusative case, which is what you are looking at here. See Grammis for details.

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