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In Rammstein's "Dalai Lama", there's this verse:

Der Mensch gehört nicht in die Luft

But I believe that the verb gehört requires the dativ, so wouldn't it be?

Der Mensch gehört nicht in der Luft

Does my doubt make sense?

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But I believe that the verb gehört requires the dativ …

Ordinarily you would be correct. In this case, however, we are not talking about simply gehören in the sense of belong to, but the collocation nom. + gehören + in + acc. The question is not about ownership, but whether something is suitable, appropriate, or advantageous. English has the same concept: sb/sth. + belongs + in sth.

  • Light belongs in the darkness
  • Humor belongs in every classroom
  • It looks like it belongs in a gallery …
  • Man does not belong in the air
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  • True, but »in« can often be followed by a Dativ in German, e.g. if something is in a certain place. But »etw. gehört in ...« is formed with Akkusativ. As to why that is so – that's just how it is, but one explanation could be that you typically use the expression if something is not in the place it belongs, so the »in« would describe the direction of movement or desired position. Oct 8 at 14:21
  • I am not sure I follow completely. Yes, in can be used with the dative case as well, but only when referring to a position instead of a movement, and that results in in dem = im more often than not: Im Garten, im Auto, … That said, we can surely agree that gehören in requires the accusative case here — which I hope answers Raul’s initial question.
    – Ingmar
    Oct 8 at 14:42
  • 1
    "the collocation nom. + gehören + in + acc." - I don't think that is the fixed collocation we are looking at here. "gehören" can very well be used in the described sense of being "suitable, appropriate, or advantageous" without "in", e.g. "Das gehört verboten!" Likewise, we can find examples using other prepositions, such as "Die Schuhe gehören unters Bett." Oct 10 at 14:36
  • Obviously gehören + in is not the only fixed expression with gehören, or even the only way of describing something suitable, appropriate, or advantageous; if you are willing to user other prepositions (gehören + zu, nach, unter/über/neben/vor/hinter/…) the possibilities are plentiful. I simply said that nom. + gehören + in + acc. is a fixed expression (I stand by that statement), and the one used in the original posting.
    – Ingmar
    Oct 10 at 15:26
  • I don't see the point of considering e.g. "Er gehört in die Schule." and "Sie gehört ans Steuer." instances of two separate fixed expressions. Of course, the decision which parts of a phrase belong to a fixed expressions and which ones are variable is a matter of interpretation, and thus it is perfectly valid to claim that every combination of "gehören" with a different preposition is a separate fixed expression of its own. Personally, I just don't find that way of distinguishing fixed expressions helpful for learning/memorizing the expression. Oct 10 at 21:04
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Mir gehört das Recht zu recht zu sagen: der Ort gehört hierhin, genau wie er in den von dir zitierten Satz gehört.

Zweifelhafte Lyrik beiseite: etwas kann jemandem gehören (dann mit Dativ, wie du es erwartest). Oder etwas kann irgendwo hin gehören. Das 'irgendwo hin' ist dann eine Orts- bzw. Richtungsangabe (wohin?), in deinem Fall 'in die Luft', erkenntlich an dem 'in', was den Akkusativ fordert.

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