Which is correct and why? Sehen is an accusative verb so I thought that "Wen" would be correct but Google Translate says that "Wer" is correct. Could someone please explain? Thanks!

  • 1
    What is the intended meaning?
    – Carsten S
    Aug 19 at 9:44
  • 1
    @CarstenS "Wen hat dich gesehen?" is not valid German in any context. Not even in any dialect I know of.
    – YetiCGN
    Aug 19 at 9:57
  • @YetiCGN, true, and the Google Translate part indeed indicates that “wer” was intended, but “wen hast du gesehen” is also correct German.
    – Carsten S
    Aug 19 at 10:12
  • FWIW: There is "Wen hast du gesehen?" - subject and object reversed. Aug 19 at 11:29
  • "Sehen is an accusative verb" - That's why you say "Wer hat dich gesehen" and not "Wer hat dir gesehen". "Wen hast du gesehen" is also grammatically correct but has a totally different meaning - "which are the people that you saw", instead of "which people did you see". "Helfen" for example is not an accusative verb, so you say "Wer hat dir geholfen" instead of "Wer hat dich geholfen".
    – gnasher729
    Aug 19 at 11:49

The object in

Wer hat dich gesehen?

is dich. That's why it is dich (acc.) and not du.

Wer is the subject and therefore in nominative.


DanielJerrehian's answer already pretty much covers it, but I think the root problem here is a misunderstanding of the term "accusative verb", which is not a standard grammatical term. A verb does not have a case, but it does require specific cases for the other parts of a sentence. But it's more complicated than a verb requiring a single case for everything else. Instead, the verb may require one sentence part with one case, another sentence part with another case, and possibly a third part with yet another case. All verbs require a subject, which is always in the nominative. In the sentence given, that would be wer. Nouns, or the phrases in a sentence which serve as nouns, other than the subject are called objects.

Some verbs are called "dative verbs" because in addition to the (nominative) subject, which is taken for granted, they also require an object in the dative case. This is for convenience since the verb itself isn't in the dative, it just wants something else to be in the dative. By extension you might also call a verb accusative if it requires an accusative object, but these are already called transitive verbs, so having a second name for them can be confusing. A verb might require both an accusative object and a dative object; the grammatical term for this is ditransitive. Unfortunately, while traditional grammar terminology supports subject only (intransitive), subject+accusative object (transitive), and subject+accusative object+dative object (ditransitive), there is no such term for subject+dative object. Hence the need for the rather ad hoc and confusing term "dative verb". It would be difficult to consistently generalize this terminology to more verbs because there are many variations: verbs that require an impersonal object, a reflexive object, an adjective, a specific type of subclause, or some combination of the above.


The correct answer is "Wer hat dich gesehen?"

The verb sehen is accusative (the grammatical case where only the masculine article changes), meaning the sentence contains a subject and a direct object. In the sentence Wer hat dich gesehen?, the the subject is Wer and the direct object is dich.

The other sentence Wen hat dich gesehen? is incorrect because you are referring to two accusative pronouns without a subject. A way to think about it would be like this:

Wer = Nomativ = Subject
Du = Nomativ = Subject
Wen = Wer in the Akkusativ Case = Direct object
Dich = Du in the Akkusativ Case = Direct object

An example of the sentence with Wen would be: Wen hast du gesehen? = Who did you see?

  • I would rephrase "This sentence accusative". A noun phrase, meaning a pronoun or a noun with its article and adjective (if any), has a case. You might also say a verb is accusative if it takes an accusative object, though transitive is the more common term. But a sentence has several parts, and they can't all be accusative, so it's a bit misleading to call a sentence accusative. or to assign any case to it. Sorry for nitpicking, but I think it's important to use these grammatical terms the correct way to avoid confusion; grammar is confusing enough as it is.
    – RDBury
    Aug 19 at 17:25
  • I understand what you mean and you are right - since this was a fairly beginner question I wanted to keep it simple and refer to the entire sentence (which is only 4 words) as falling into a specific gramamtical case. It is true that a sentence will have many cases - good add. Will change "sentence" to "verb" Aug 20 at 8:23

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