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Das war ganz einfach für ihn.
(That was quite easy for him.)

Why are we using the accusative case? I am also confused about what the subject, the object, and the indirect object are in this sentence.

I expected the dative, but still, I'm not so sure. I think the subject is whatever "Das" is referring to here. So, das is doing the action "war". The problem I have is that I don't see an object who is receiving the action, for it to be accusative.

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  • I expected the dativ, but still im not so sure. I think the subject is whatever "Das" is referring to here. So, das is doing the action "war". The problem I have is that I dont see an object who is receiving the action, for it to be accusativ. Feb 7, 2022 at 11:10
  • For a start concerning non-existence of direct and indirect objects in German see this question.
    – guidot
    Feb 7, 2022 at 11:24
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    From that question, I gathered that the reason we are using accusativ has to do with it being a prepositional object. And, the case for these is determined by the preposition. So, I am guessing the preposition für requires the accusativ? Feb 7, 2022 at 11:36
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    Correct, see DWDS.
    – guidot
    Feb 7, 2022 at 11:40

2 Answers 2

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Wajaap's answer sums it up pretty well, but some additional detail might help. A verb that describes the subject, or equates it with something else in some way is called copulative. An example is sein, and as such it's not transitive and so it does not have an (accusative) object. The basic form of the sentence, in this case, is "(subject) sein (adjective)." The subject is das and the adjective is einfach. The das here is a pronoun meaning "that" as in "that task", whatever it was that "he" was doing. The full sentence has some additional modifiers. First ganz modifies einfach changing "easy" to "quite easy". Second, the phrase für ihn, the preposition für followed by the accusative, modifies the sentence itself. The ihn is actually a prepositional object since it's governed by a preposition. The case of a prepositional object in German is determined by a couple of factors, but here it's easy since für is always used with the accusative case.

You should forget about the terms "direct object" and "indirect object" in German grammar; they may be useful for English grammar, but they can cause confusion when you try to apply them to German. Use "accusative object" and "dative object" instead. The problem is that German sometimes uses the dative whereas English used a direct object. For example helfen uses a dative object while "help" is a transitive verb in English that uses a direct object. For objects that are associated with a preposition rather than the verb itself, the term "prepositional object" may be useful. For nouns used with a copulative verb, the term "predicate object" seems most appropriate, and there are additional rules to predict the actual case of a predicate object. For example in Ich bin ein Narr, the predicate object is ein Narr in the nominative case. (The accusative case would be einen Narren and the dative case would be einem Narren.) The upshot is that while the terms "direct object" and "indirect object" may predict German cases some of the time, they often predict the wrong case and you're better off not trying to apply them to German.

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    Very insightful explanation, well done!
    – wajaap
    Feb 7, 2022 at 14:07
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We are using Accusative when we can make the question: for whom was it easy? For him. -> Für ihn. Anyways it is important for you to know that the preposition Für always goes with Accusative.

An other example:

-Es ist unmöglich für mich ein Auto zu kaufen.

(It is impossible for me to buy a car.)

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  • How is the question helpful?
    – Carsten S
    Feb 7, 2022 at 12:57
  • This is a circular argument "You ask für wen, so it is akkusativ". How is a foreigner supposed to know it? Feb 7, 2022 at 13:10
  • Also: Dativ and Akkusativ are dative and accusative in English. Feb 7, 2022 at 13:11
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    It's apparently hard to grasp for a native speaker that the "question the object and know the case" that's sometimes used in German schools doesn't help non-native speakers at all. If they don't "feel" the case, they also won't know how to ask properly.
    – tofro
    Feb 7, 2022 at 16:18
  • Maybe you are right. I am not a native speaker but this method had helped me a lot when I was learning the language. It provides the logic behind the rule.
    – wajaap
    Feb 7, 2022 at 17:22

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