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I'm having some trouble with this sentence and the prepositions used:

Ich suche nach einem Zimmer mit Bad.

Isn't einem Zimmer the direct object? And isn't nach always a dative (indirect object) preposition? Mit seems to me to be used properly, but shouldn't nach be replaced by für?

Thank you for any help.

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    There are no direct and indirect objects in German, but accusative, dative, and genitive objects. The preposition nach is part of a dative object here. – Björn Friedrich Aug 18 '20 at 12:50
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First of all (about categories of objects in German grammar)

There are no direct or indirect objects in German grammar! Forget these terms, they are misleading. And tell whoever taught you these terms, that he/she should stop teaching things that don't exist. Thinking in these categories maybe brings you good results in 90% of all sentences, but in 10% you are wrong! Take any German grammar book and look for direct and indirect objects: You will not find them. If you think in the really existing categories, then you have a good chance to get 100% of all sentences correct.

German has:

  • genitive objects
  • dative objects
  • accusative objects
  • prepositional objects
  • parts of speech that at first sight look like nominative objects (Gleichsetzungsnominativ)

But there is no direct object and there is no indirect object!


Answer to your question

The verb suchen can be used with an accusative object:

Ich suche ein Zimmer.
I'm looking for a room.

This is the simplest usage of suchen. You don't need any preposition here. The part "ein Zimmer" is an accusative object. Other cases would be wrong:

  • genitive case is wrong: Ich suche eines Zimmers.
  • dative case is wrong: Ich suche einem Zimmer.

Nominative case is wrong too, but for "ein Zimmer" nominative and accusative looks identical. But there are nouns where it makes a difference:

I'm looking for a raven.

  • nominative case is wrong: Ich suche ein Rabe.
  • accusative case is correct: Ich suche einen Raben.

The verb suchen allows you to replace the accusative object with a prepositional object:

Ich suche nach einem Zimmer.
I'm looking for a room.

The part "nach einem Zimmer" is a prepositional object. It consists of a preposition (nach) and a nominal group (einem Zimmer). The grammatical case of this internal nominal group (it is inside the prepositional object) is not ruled by the verb (which is outside), but by the preposition (which is the head of the prepositional object). And the preposition "nach" always needs its nominal group to be in dative case. So this is wrong:

  • nominative case is wrong: Ich suche nach ein Zimmer.
  • genitive case is wrong: Ich suche nach eines Zimmers.
  • accusative case is wrong: Ich suche nach ein Zimmer.

After nach only

  • dative case is correct: Ich suche nach einem Zimmer.

But you can also add additional prepositional objects:

  • without additional prepositional object:

    Ich suche den Brief = Ich suche nach dem Brief.
    I'm looking for the letter.

  • with additional prepositional object:

    Ich suche den Brief für meinen Chef. = Ich suche für meinen Chef nach dem Brief.
    I'm looking for the letter for my boss.

The part für meinen Chef (engl: for my boss) is an optional prepositional object. It tells you who benefits from the search.

You also can tell where you are looking for something:

Ich suche den Brief in der Küche. = Ich suche in der Küche nach dem Brief.
I'm looking for the letter in the kitchen.

Ich suche den Brief vor dem Haus. = Ich suche vor dem Haus nach dem Brief.
I'm looking for the letter in front of the house.

Ich suche den Brief unter dem Tisch. = Ich suche unter dem Tisch nach dem Brief.
I'm looking for the letter under the table.

This way you can combine suchen with almost any preposition.


In German you also can omit the part of speech that tells you what you are looking for:

Ich suche.
I'm searching.

But still you can add any of the optional prepositional objects:

Ich suche für meinen Chef.
I'm looking for something for my boss.

also:

Ich suche unter dem Tisch. Ich suche vor dem Haus. Ich suche in der Küche.

In "Ich suche für meinen Chef" you do not tell that the thing/person you are looking for is your boss. You tell, that - whatever you are looking for - will result in a benefit for the boss.

You also can search for things that might give your room a better look:

Ich suche einen Teppich für mein Zimmer. = Ich suche nach einem Teppich für mein Zimmer.
I'm looking for a carpet for my room.

So, when you omit that you are after a carpet, you just can leave it out:

Ich suche für mein Zimmer.
I'm looking for something for my room.

This is not very common, but possible and correct. So, when you make a wrong translation, and say:

Ich suche für ein Zimmer mit Bad.

Then you say, that you are looking for something that might improve an apartment with bathroom. But you do not tell what you are looking for. (Note, that in this sentence it makes more sense to translate Zimmer as apartment.)

This is a possible conversation in a home-center:

  • German

    Verkäufer: "Guten Tag, kann ich Ihnen helfen?"
    Kundin: "Guten Tag, ja gerne. Ich interessiere mich für einen dieser Teppiche."
    Verkäufer: "Wie groß soll er sein? In welchem Raum soll er liegen?"
    Kundin: "Ich suche für ein Zimmer mit Bad."

  • English translation

    Shop assistant: "Hello, can I help you?"
    Customer: "Hello, yes. I'm interested in one of these carpets."
    Shop assistant: "How big should it be? In which room should it lie?"
    Customer: "I'm looking for something for an apartment with a bathroom."

Compare to this conversation

  • German

    Wohnungsmakler: "Guten Tag, wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?"
    Kundin: "Guten Tag, ich suche nach einem Zimmer mit Bad."

  • English

    accommodation broker: "Hello, how can I help you?"
    Customer: "Hello, I'm looking for an apartment with a bathroom."

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    wow ... thank you for the comprehensive answer – Ahmad Hajjar Aug 19 '20 at 8:21
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    Yes, very comprehensive and enlightening. I looked for "prepositional objects" in my old textbook and found nothing on them. This clears up my confusion. Also, the article in front of the noun in a prepositional phrase should always agree with the case of the preposition in that phrase, right? "für_meinen_Chef", "nach einem Zimmer"? Thanks very much for your time and effort Hubert. – gfulton Aug 19 '20 at 13:27
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First I would like to recommend that you do not think of it as direct one-to-one translation.

Second the preposition nach has many meanings and usages, based on the context:

It can mean after, whether be it after something (a goal/an object) or after sometime (ordering events)

It can mean to like when you say Nach dem Süd fahren

It can also mean for like when you say Ich suche nach einem Zimmer

Please have a look at the duden.de there are many example of how a word is used here is a link for "nach"

Edit:

For a preposition to be dative and for a verb to be accusative is two different things, so you can think of it as if the phrase nach einem Zimmer as a whole forms the direct object of the verb suchen ... so Zimmer in this case is not the direct object actually you are not searching a room you are searching for a room .. your goal is the room, but the room is not what you apply the action on.

  • I'm not fluent in German at all. Trying to learn, but my 101 college text indicates that "nach" is always a dative preposition. And that the dative case is for an indirect object. "einen Zimmer" in the sentence I posted is the direct object of that sentence. Accusative case. I'm still confused by the use of "nach" in this sentence. – gfulton Aug 18 '20 at 13:22
  • @gfulton But it's einem Zimmer. – David Vogt Aug 18 '20 at 13:38
  • Indirect object in dative case (without preposition) and nach with dative case are two totally different things. You must not mix them up. – RHa Aug 18 '20 at 15:21
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    Neither am I, fluent in German, but for a preposition to be dative and for the verb to be accusative is two different things, so you can think of it as if the phrase nach einem Zimmer forms the direct object of the verb suchen ... so Zimmer in this case is not the direct object actually you are not searching a room you are searching for a room .. your goal is the room, but the room is not what you apply the action on. – Ahmad Hajjar Aug 18 '20 at 17:19
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There are two different ways of expressing "to search for something" in German, with the same meaning:

nach einem Zimmer suchen (object with "nach" + dative)

and

ein Zimmer suchen (without preposition, with accusative object)

So these two are both completely valid. It's just two different ways of saying basically the same thing.

"Nach einem Zimmer suchen" is an idiomatic usage of nach, much like "to search for something" is an idiomatic usage of for in English. It doesn't really make much sense to ask why it is "search for" (or sometimes "search after") in English, or why it is "suchen nach" in German. You basically have to learn how to use these verbs with their prepositions, and the actual meaning of the preposition on its own can sometimes be a guide, but often it seems very arbitrary.

Differently than in English, you cannot use für with "suchen" in German. It's either "nach" or the accusative object.

  • Thanks to all for taking the time to help me with this. Considering "nach einem zimmer" as the direct object of the sentence helps clear it up for me. – gfulton Aug 19 '20 at 5:16

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