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  1. Alkohol ist der Gesundheit abträglich. (Alkohol ist abträglich für die Gesundheit.)
  2. Training ist dem Körper gesund.

I was told the 1 is correct, and 2 is incorrect. Why is that if both have the same structure to my eyes? Any reference would be very much helpful.

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  • Related: german.stackexchange.com/q/48362/35111
    – David Vogt
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 10:18
  • 1
    It is true that 2. is incorrect but Training ist dem Körper zuträglich is correct.
    – RHa
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 20:31
  • See also german.stackexchange.com/a/60764/31256 (in German).
    – johnl
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 8:09
  • It seems "gesund" in German doesn't correspond exactly to "healthy" in English. "He is healthy" = "Er ist gesund", but "Training is healthy" =/= "Training ist gesund" since health belongs to the organism, not to the activity of training. Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 19:49

2 Answers 2

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Adjectives can be used in three different grammatical functions:

  • attributiv (attributive)
    Attribute of another word (here of a noun) inside the same nominal group and describing this other word

    Das schnelle Auto steht in der Garage.
    The fast car is in the garage.

  • prädikativ (predicative)
    Not in a nominal group, but bound to a nominal group via a copula and describing this nominal group

    Das Auto ist schnell.
    The car is fast.

  • adverbial (adverbial)
    Neither in a nominal group, nor describing a nominal group but describing a verb (which is not a copula)

    Das Auto fährt schnell.
    The car goes fast.

This is true for almost all adjectives, but there are some exceptions and »abträglich« is one of these exceptions:

  • It never is used attributive:

    wrong: Der abträgliche Alkohol schadet der Gesundheit.

  • It never is used adverbial:

    wrong: Georg trinkt abträglich Alkohol.

  • It only can be used predicative:

    correct: Alkohol ist der Gesundheit abträglich.

Even stricter: The only copula, that can be used together with »abträglich« is »sein«. It can't be used with »werden« or »bleiben«. (I should mention, that there are exceptions when abträglich is also used with other copulas, but this is rare.)
And you always have to use it together with an object in dativus incommodi (dative of disadvantage).

So, the adjective »abträglich« always appears together with a form of the verb sein (to be) and a dative object that describes the suffering party. This object always must be there:

Das ist dem Gemeinwohl abträglich.
Der Verzicht auf Musik war der guten Stimmung gar nicht abträglich.
Ein solches Verhalten ist dem Kindeswohl sehr abträglich.
Seine Sturheit ist der internationalen Verständigung abträglich.
Der Unfall war dem Zweck der Reise sehr abträglich.
Der Rauch ist der Luftqualität abträglich.
Die Abschiedsrede war dem Ansehen des Professors abträglich.
Die Abschaffung der Kontrollen ist der Sicherheit abträglich.

But this all is not true for the adjective »gesund«:

attributive usage is ok: Der gesunde Wald erzeugt Sauerstoff.
predicative usage is ok: Klaus ist gesund.
adverbial usage is ok: Klaus ernährt sich gesund.

The sentence »Training ist gesund« is a sentence where the adjective is used predicative. But "normal" adjectives do not need any objects. Normally only verbs require objects. And here again copula behave different. They only can have objects if the connects an adjective with a nominal group, and only for some chosen adjectives. And the combination copula + »gesund« can not have an object.

If you want to add a beneficiary, you have to describe is as a prepositional object:

Training ist gesund für die Gesundheit.

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  • Not relevant here, but you can further distinguish between adverbs applied to verbs and adverbs applied to adjectives or other modifiers. That brings the total to four possible functions for an adjective. The adjective gut can be used in all four ways, but this seems to rare; it's most common for an adjective to be usable as predicate, noun modifier, verbal adverb, but not adjectival adverb. (The standard grammatical terminology is rather unfortunate, with no standard names to distinguish between the two types of adverbs. But there are clearly two different grammatical functions.)
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 19:49
  • From the DWDS usage database, use of abträglich as an attributive seems to be possible, for eample Gleichwohl ist die abträgliche Wirkung bei den Wählern nicht ausgeblieben. (Die Zeit, 28.02.1975). There are also examples with scheinen used as a copula Also note that English has similar "valence" issues: "harmful for", "harmful to", "healthy for" are all possible, but "healthy to" is not.
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 21:02
  • thank you @Hubert . "But this all is not true for the adjective »gesund«" To make it works with "gesund", shall I use other verb different from "sein" and then it works? For example: "Training tut dem Körper gesund."
    – Bur Nor
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 17:22
  • 1
    @BurNor: No. You can't use the adjective gesund with a dative object. But you can use tun + gut together with a dative object: »Training tut dem Körper gut«. But any verb + gesund never goes with a dative object. Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 6:44
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In German, adjectives can have complements and govern case just like verbs do. (Note that both verbs and adjectives can also govern prepositions.)

Verbs with different complements:

eine Situation (acc.) akzeptieren
einem Vorschlag (dat.) zustimmen
einer Diskussion (gen.) bedürfen

Adjectives with different complements:

den Stress (acc.) gewohnt
den Aufgaben (dat.) gewachsen
der Kritik (gen.) überdrüssig

Just as for verbs, what case an adjective governs is not predictable and has to be learned. As far as the question is concerned, abträglich governs the dative and gesund does not. Learners will have to glean the relevant information from dictionary entries.

Duden: jemandem oder einer Sache abträglich sein (gehoben)
DWDS: etw. ist der Gesundheit, Würde, dem Ansehen, jmdm. abträglich

Googling Adjektive mit Ergänzungen, one can find all manner of lists that might be useful to beginners. Some further examples can be found in this answer.

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