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I'm currently learning German and there are some issues in fully understanding accusative and dative forms.

Example 1:

Sie hat ein Sofa, einen Stuhl und einen Sessel ins Zimmer gestellt.

So, by our coursebook this is Accusative

Example 2:

Zwischen dem Sofa und dem Sessel hat sie einen Tisch gestellt.

By our coursebook this is Dative

So, I have trouble understanding why 2nd sentence is dative as it looks like we can rearrange it and rewrite it to be same like first one (as accusative).

Sie hat einen Tisch zwischen das Sofa und den Sessel gestellt.

Thank you!

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    Could you check whether your book actually contains the second example? It looks wrong. (Also, what book is that?) – David Vogt Jan 20 at 22:07
  • pardon me, it was workbook which we solved as a group with teacher. This is something that we discussed on a class but didnt reach an agreement – Djuro Jan 20 at 22:29
  • Suppose Sofa may be masc.? It is tylically neuter and requires das in either case. – vectory Jan 20 at 22:31
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    For me, the second example is not correct. It should be accusative, too. – Björn Friedrich Jan 20 at 22:35
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First of all: Not the whole sentence is in any case, only some parts of it are in a case. Here is an example where all 4 cases appear in just one sentences:

Elisabeths Eltern glauben ihrer Tochter die Ausrede.

  • Elisabeths Eltern
    Subject in nominative case
  • Elisabeths
    Genitive Attribute of the noun Eltern
  • ihrer Tochter
    Dative object of the verb glauben
  • die Ausrede
    Accusative object of the verb glauben

This sentence is wrong:

Zwischen dem Sofa und dem Sessel hat sie einen Tisch gestellt.

These are correct sentences:

Zwischen dem Sofa und dem Sessel hat sie einen Tisch stehen.
She has a table between the sofa and the chair.
Zwischen dem Sofa und dem Sessel hat sie einen Tisch aufgestellt.
She has set up a table between the sofa and the chair.
Zwischen das Sofa und den Sessel hat sie einen Tisch gestellt.
She put a table between the sofa and the chair.

The main difference between dative and accusative case is this:

  • Dative case describes a place, not a direction.
  • Accusative case describes a direction, not a place.

So, when ever you move something into a certain direction (for example between some other furnitures) you need to have this direction in accusative case:

Jürgen stellt die Lampe auf den Tisch.
Jürgen puts the lamp on the table.
Ilse legt das Hemd in den Koffer.
Ilse puts the shirt in the suitcase.

But when you describe, that something is at a certain place, you have to use dative case:

Die Lampe steht auf dem Tisch.
The lamp is on the table.
Das Hemd liegt in dem Koffer.
The shirt is in the suitcase.

Wenn you move the table between sofa and chair, then you describe a direction and then you need accusative case:

Zwischen das Sofa und den Sessel hat sie einen Tisch gestellt.
She put a table between the sofa and the chair.

This is because the verb stellen describes a movement into a direction.

But the verb aufstellen (to mount, to erect, to assemble) means that you assemble the table at a given place, i.e. not into a direction., and the verb stehen means, that it stands at a given place, i.e. not into a direction. So, for stehen and aufstellen you need dative case.

Zwischen dem Sofa und dem Sessel hat sie einen Tisch stehen.
She has a table between the sofa and the chair.
Zwischen dem Sofa und dem Sessel hat sie einen Tisch aufgestellt.
She has set up a table between the sofa and the chair.

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Yes, you are right. It is possible to rephrase it like you did. In German we differentiate between where something is (Dativ, with related question: Wo?) and where we like to put something (Akkusativ, with related question: Wohin?). As you can see there is no difference in English, neither in other languages like Italian.

Another example: Wo bist du? Ich bin bei meinem Freund. Where are you? I'm at/with my friend. This is Dativ in German. But when I ask: Wohin gehst du? Ich besuche meinen Freund. In this case it's Akkusativ. Where do you go? I'm going to visit my friend. Wohin asks for a direction to, not for a place.

Since there is no equivalent in English, you have to simply learn it.

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The examples are insufficient and, as David pointed out, probably wrong in the second example.

The articles may be deictic (Er hat die Antwort gegen die Wand gefahren, du bellst den falschen Baum an) and they may be otherwise left out, if the referents are already known in at least a abstract sense (zwischen Tür und Angel).

The difference between akkusativ and dativ only makes sense in your last example, to distinguish the object types (traditional grammar speaks of direct and indirect objects, ich geben ihn ihm, i.e. einem Hund einen Knochen). This typing has to agree across texts even if no ambiguity exists in the single clause such as in your first example.

In the second example, stellen could be in principle from an mono-transitive sense akin to herstellen, whereby the zwischen-phrase would be chiefly adverbial, predicative but no argument. This would very unusual and typically used only to mock broken grammar, but it is in agreement with the stellen-stehen distinction (Ich stelle mich zwischen einen...; Ich stehe zwischen einem Stuhl und einem Tisch). This distinction is not frequently observed for "stellen" and would be perceived as embedding of a relative clause as preposition (zwischen dem Sofa und dem Tisch [stehend], i.e. während ich zwischen dem Sofa und dem Tisch stehe).

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  • I find this answer more confusing than helpful. Mentioning direct and indirect objects, which are typically considered as non applicable in German, see this question, further increases confusion. – guidot Jan 21 at 12:15
  • @Guido, it makes a lot of sense to distinguish dem Hund as somehow inferior, because it usually cannot appear alone in this phrase (Gib Ihm, is a rare exception), and indirect aappears as a plausible choice. There are many other ways where it maybe is less usefull. Calling it dative object explains very little anyhow, but should yield positive hits in a web search, agreed. – vectory Jan 21 at 13:29

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