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According to DWDS.de, "abmahnen" comes with Dativ:

jmdm. von einem Vorhaben (dringend) abmahnen

But in many other resources like in dict.cc, I have found that the verb actually comes with Akkusativ. So my question is, which one is right??

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  • 1
    Both are right, because they are two different constructs. – Geshode May 1 at 13:42
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    When used synonymous to abraten, it is used the same way as abraten. But this usage is quite rare. Actually I never came across it. – RHa May 1 at 17:41
  • Ich habe Sie abgemahnt (but don't let those guys impede your judgement about cases :P). – phipsgabler May 2 at 10:16
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tl;dr: use accusative.

The entry in DWDS is outdated, it is from 1967 if I'm reading the page right, and its examples that exclusively use dative seem to be misleading. It does not yet contain the newer use of abmahnen in law that is much more frequent now. Almost all the usage examples further down on the DWDS page reflect the use in law.

Wiktionary and Duden show two meanings:

Wiktionary: abmahnen
(1) gehoben: jemanden vor etwas warnen und versuchen, ihn davon abzubringen
(2) Recht: jemanden formal auffordern, ein bestimmtes Verhalten künftig zu unterlassen

When used with the older meaning (1), abmahnen goes with accusative or, much less commonly, dative. When used with meaning (2), it goes with accusative.

Meaning (1):

Du würdest wohl tun, deinen Schwager [Akkusativ] von seinem rebellischen Vorhaben abzumahnen. [aus Goethe: Götz von Berlichingen]

but also

Wie dringlich die Stimme war seiner Brust, die ihm [Dativ] wispernd abmahnte, sich einzustellen, das läßt sich denken [aus Th. Mann: Joseph u. seine Brüder]

Meaning (2):

Die Rechtsanwaltskanzlei Gierig & Hansel hat in diesem Jahr schon 120 Firmen (Akkusativ) wegen der Impressumspflicht auf Webseiten abgemahnt.

Das Café mahnte den Barista wegen Unpünktlichkeit ab.

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    There's a line from Goethe: Du würdest wohl thun, deinen Schwager von seinem rebellischen Vorhaben abzumahnen. This uses the accusative, it's not recent, and it doesn't seem to have anything to do with law. There do seem to be two different meanings, one with dative and one with accusative, but the dative seems to be unusual even outside the law, and I couldn't find any actual quotes that use it. – RDBury May 1 at 23:02
  • @RDBury: Very good point. The first example in Wiktionary also supports that: "Hätte mich damals bloß jemand von der Dummheit abgemahnt!". Two examples on DWDS, one of them by Thomas Mann, use Dative. I'm confused now. – HalvarF May 2 at 8:00
  • Grimm's Wörterbuch als says accusative. woerterbuchnetz.de/?sigle=DWB&lemma=abmahnen#0 . I edited the answer. – HalvarF May 2 at 8:11
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    Grimm even mentions genitive as possible. Dative is very, very uncommon with [ab]mahnen, and if used, probably in the sense of "jmdm eine Mahnung geben". – tofro May 2 at 8:33
  • @tofro: Yes, that's my impression, too, after searching a bit more. In older texts on dwds corpora I have only found accusative. – HalvarF May 2 at 8:41

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