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I'm questioning myself whether it should be in ein Restaurant.. but I think as I am using 'essen' I should use the dative and say 'in einem Restaurant' ?

Thank you in advance, I find this forum really helpful

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    While Dativ is correct, your sentence structure is incorrect. Danach wir könnten should be Danach könnten wir – infinitezero Oct 20 at 12:31
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    Because the verb comes in second place in German main clauses. Another possibility would be "Wir könnten danach ...". – infinitezero Oct 20 at 12:41
  • @infinitezero thank you :) – Alice Dent Oct 20 at 12:41
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The German "in" with accusative basically means the English "into", while the German "in" with dative means the English "in".

You can go into a restaurant: "in ein Restaurant gehen".

You can run into a restaurant: "in ein Restaurant rennen".

However, you don't eat into a restaurant, you eat in a restaurant, so in German, the dative case is correct: "in einem Restaurant essen".

To put it in a more abstract form: "in" + accusative denotes direction, "in" + dative denotes place.

If you begin the sentence with "danach", your verb and subject swap places:

Danach könnten wir in einem Restaurant essen.

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Both sentences are correct. They just have slightly different meanings.

Wir gehen in einem Restaurant essen

answers the question: "Where will you eat?" - "We will eat in a restaurant".

Wir gehen in ein Restaurant essen

answers the question: "Where will you go to eat?" - "We will go to a restaurant"

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    But the question does not say in ein Restaurant essen gehen, but in ein Restaurant essen - and this would be wrong, while Wir gehen in einem Restaurant essen does not sound like proper German, since it would mean something like: Inside a restaurant, we are going for diner. – jonathan.scholbach Oct 20 at 12:51
  • you are right... I somehow assumed the "gehen" to be there... – Torsten Link Oct 20 at 12:53
  • @jonathan.scholbach Why is it not proper German? Wir gehen essen. Wir gehen Pizza essen. Wir gehen Pizza in einem Restaurant essen. Wir gehen in einem Restaurant essen. – infinitezero Oct 20 at 12:55
  • You make the same mistake as I did: There is no "gehen" in the question.... I just assumed it was there... "Wir essen in einem Restaurant" is correct, whereas "Wir essen in ein Restaurant" is not. With "gehen" both expressions are right of course... – Torsten Link Oct 20 at 12:58
  • Ich schreibe mal auf Deutsch, da kann ich das besser erklären: In meinen Ohren heißt dieser Satz, dass man innerhalb eines Restaurants (= in einem Restaurant) essen geht. Ausgedrückt werden soll aber, dass man in ein Restaurant geht (um zu essen), oder dass man in einem Restaurant isst. in einem Restaurant essen gehen drückt das aber nicht aus, sondern sagt aus, dass es gerade das Essen gehen ist, was man im Restaurant macht. Vielleicht macht folgendes kontrastierendes Beispiel das klar: Wir gehen in einem Restaurant essen, ihr geht in einem Resturant auf Toilette – jonathan.scholbach Oct 20 at 13:05
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As the other answers have pointed out, your use of the Dativ is correct and mandatory in this sentence.

However there is another possibility, with a little change:

Danach könnten wir in ein Restaurant, essen.

This basically translates to "Afterwards we could go into a restaurant, to eat."

But in this case specifying what you want to do in a restaurant other than eating isn't really necessary. A more reasonable use-case would be "Danach könnten wir in den Park, picknicken." because otherwise it was not inherently clear what you want to do in the park.

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In German, common positional prepositions "in"/"auf"/"an" are two-way prepositions. This means they lead accusitive when indicating direction, but dative when indicating location.

The last sentence requires clarification: a two-way preposition leads accusitive, when the subject ("wir" in your example) and the object ("restaurant") changed their relative positions, from non-contact to contact (or contact to non-contact) from a bird's eye view.

Whereas a two-way preposition leads dative, when the subject ("wir" in your example) and the object ("restaurant") do not change their relative positions. They either stay non-contact, or stay in physical contact, from a bird's eye view.

Note that you can eating and running everywhere within the restaurant, and it's still dative.

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