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… meine Mutter richtete mir das Bett auf dem Balkon.

auf + dative → It is on the table.
auf + accusative → I put it onto the table.

In the example, I thought, the latter would be apt. But why isn't it in the accusative case?

And why is mir used? Is it an ethical dative?

7

I agree with @BjörnFriedrich in every detail, but I would like to put more emphasis on the misunderstanding-prone issues here.

richten: 1) to point; 2) to prepare

You thought that the verb would be etw. auf etw. richten ('to point sth. in the direction of sth.'). If that was the case, das Bett auf den Balkon richten would be grammatically correct.

But, the verb here is etw. (her)richten ('to prepare sth.'), and auf dem Balkon is not a part of the verb, but is an adverbial determination of the place. That means the phrase auf dem Balkon means just on the balcony, and thus is dative. The translation would be my mother prepared the bed on the balcony...

mir: for me

...for me. The case of mir is not the dativus ethicus (ethical dative), but the dativus commodi. It says who profits from an action; in this case, for whom the bed is prepared (who enjoys the prepared bed later).

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The preposition auf works in two ways: It demands the accusative case when it refers to a direction, and it demands the dative case when it refers to a location.

Accusative

In the following example, the bed is moved onto the balcony. Therefore, auf refers to a direction:

Meine Mutter stellte mir das Bett auf den Balkon.
(My mother put the bed for me onto the balcony.)

Dative

This is different in the following example, where the bed is prepared on the balcony. Here, auf refers to the bed as a location:

Meine Mutter richtete mir das Bett auf dem Balkon (her).
(My mother prepared the bed for me on the balcony.)

Notice that the verb is actually herrichten. But in southern regions the prefix her- is often omitted, resulting in richten (see meanings [3] and [4]). Still, it is essential to not confuse it with the noun Richtung (direction), as this might lead to a wrong association with the accusative case.

Regarding mir

The pronoun mir is in dative case, too, because in German this is one way to indicate the receiver of the action. In our example, the bed is not prepared for anyone, but for me. The advantage of using mir is that you need no additional preposition. Still, you can use a preposition, für, but then the pronoun must be in accusative case, i. e., mich:

Meine Mutter richtete für mich das Bett auf dem Balkon (her).
(My mother prepared the bed for me on the balcony.)

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  • I dont get it. the only difference is the verbs...whats it about richete that makes auf require the dative case? richete means direct so...auf seems to require accusative whhichh is about motion.
    – user21669
    Mar 6 at 11:16
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    @user21669, actually, the verb is herrichten. I edited my answer to clarify this. Mar 6 at 11:28
  • 2
    Richten by itself can have the meaning to prepare: dwds.de/wb/richten#d-1-5
    – David Vogt
    Mar 6 at 12:00
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    What I was trying to say is that it is unnecessary to mention herrichten at all. Furthermore, I believe that it is wrong to claim that richten in the sense to prepare is derived from herrichten.
    – David Vogt
    Mar 6 at 18:17
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    Wiktionary (all links in the answer): herrichten: "[1] in einen ansehnlichen oder zumindest verwendbaren Zustand versetzen". richten: "[3] süddeutsch, österreichisch, schweizerisch: etwas in Ordnung bringen, (figürlich) etwas wieder gerade biegen and [4] süddeutsch, österreichisch, schweizerisch: etwas zubereiten, vorbereiten". In short: generally with her-, in southern regions without her-. You're welcome! Mar 6 at 19:20

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