I was doing an exercise over on Duolingo and translated the following sentence incorrectly:

"That is totally new to me."

I answered with

"Das ist ganz neu mir."

The correct answer is

"Das ist mir ganz neu."

I can memorize that construct and get very similar sentences like that correct in the future, but if there is some sort of rule that I could apply to a wider variety of sentences of this nature (which I believe in English are described as predicate adjective sentences), that would be helpful. It would be even more helpful if I could find some literature on this, but after several minutes of finding little more than pages on word order rules when there is both a dative and accusative object, I have given up and am seeking out this answer on the German Language Stack Exchange instead.

3 Answers 3


To give a short answer, we need one concept: Mittelfeld (see Wikipedia). In the following sentence, everything between the finite verb in the beginning and the participle at the end belongs to the Mittelfeld.

Hat er dir wirklich jede Woche einen Brief geschrieben?

The short answer is: Personal pronouns (that function as the subject or an object) go to the left of the Mittelfeld, predicative complements to the very right. One could add a few words to your sentence to separate pronoun and predicative complement even more:

Das ist mir jetzt aber wirklich ganz neu.


Leider bin ich in der letzten Woche wegen diesem blöden Virus richtig krank gewesen.

  • Though I appreciate the answers from the others, you confirmed for me, and very clearly and succinctly, what appeared to be true from my observations. Danke schön. I look forward to reading more about the Mittelfeld!
    – Lisa
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 11:35

The fact that you identify your example as a "construct" is a valuable starting point. In fact, leaving aside word order in other tenses, your example refers to what one could call a "dative of judgment", where speakers relate a certain fact to their own perception, as in "this is ADJECTIVE to me" In this case, the dative pronoun must precede the verb in the Simple Present. This does not apply to datives which are licensed by specific verbs as arguments, where the opposite holds: "sie hilft mir" ('she helps me').


A more neutral translation is

Das ist ganz neu für mich.

Das ist mir ein Rätsel

Das ist ein Rätsel für mich

Here both meanings are possible and are not the same. The first is sth. presenting itself as a riddle to me. The second is a riddle made for or given to me.

If I see some signs written "§$%&$%$% &&(%&/&§§$%" somewhere (on a paper / in a letter) and ask what is this, then

  • "mir ein Rätsel": I do not know
  • "ein Rätsel für mich": a puzzle for me (maybe I solved)


  • Du bist für mich ein Geschenk des Himmels.

  • Du bist mir ein schönes Geschenk.

    The second is ironic. "To me" yes, but more towards/against than for/in favor of.

Du bist mir aber einer (now look at that)

Du bist aber einer für mich (In my team I can use you)

It happened to him yesterday

Es geschah ihm gestern

Es geschah mit/an ihm gestern

Es geschah gestern mit/an ihm

But also:

Es geschah gestern ihm selber

Otherwise it is much like:

he told the child a story

he told a story to the child

  • "Das ist ein Rätsel für mich" does not mean that the riddle was made for the speaker. It has exactly the same meaning as "das ist mir ein Rätsel".
    – Nico
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 10:25
  • Well I made it worse.
    – user41814
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 11:05

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