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This is perhaps a very noob question, but I'll ask anyway since I have failed to understand this.

Some sites I find from google search tell me that some verbs are dative and some verbs are accusative. Meaning the verbs are always causing an accusative case and the others always a dative. Have a look at this eg for instance:

Wir folgen dem gelben Auto.

However, another thing I learned was that preposition control the case of the object in the sentence. Prepositions having some notion of movement pushes part of the sentence in accusative and prepositions with stationary puts in dative.

These thing confusing me is, what if the verb and the preposition suggests different cases? Whose case would dominate then?

1 Answer 1

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The verb itself controls the case of one or more nouns, pronouns or related phrases. For a typical verb this means the subject (nominative) and possibly a accusative object and/or a dative object. Which combination of objects depends on the verb and often its meaning. On top of this basic structure you can add prepositional phrases, meaning a preposition followed by phrase meaning a person or thing. The phrase following a preposition is sometimes called a prepositional object. The case of the prepositional object is determined by the preposition, but the scope of the preposition ends with the prepositional object and doesn't affect the other objects which may be present in the sentence.

For example:

Ich gebe dem Kind einen Kuchen in der Küche.

The basic sentence is

Ich gebe dem Kind einen Kuchen.

The verb here is geben (to give) which, in addition to the subject, expects an accusative object and a dative object. The accusative object is the thing being given, in this case einen Kuchen (a cake). The dative object is who is receiving what is being given, in this case dem Kind (the child). The prepositional phrase is added to the basic sentence but is not necessary for it. In this case the preposition is in which requires the dative. (The case used with in depends on the meaning; this is a separate issue which has been covered elsewhere on this site, but the simplified version is to use dative when it means "in" in English, and the accusative when means "into" in English.) The prepositional object here is der Küche (the kitchen), in the dative.

What you need to know is that prepositional phrases can (in principle) be added and removed without affecting the cases of the other objects in the sentence. The case of an object within a prepositional phrase depends on the preposition (and sometimes its meaning).

Remember that sentences can have many objects, and the case of each one must be determined individually depending on its role the the sentence. Up to two objects can be attached to the verb, and their cases can tell you how they are related to the verb. Other objects are connected to the sentence by prepositions, and their cases mostly determined by which preposition is being used with that object.

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  • Just because the OP is already aware of two-way prepositions, one could add that there is only a small number of them, the movement/stationary (or whatever the best terms are) distinction is not a general rule for all prepositions.
    – Carsten S
    Feb 22 at 9:10
  • @CarstenS Good point. And it's not about movement but about direction.
    – Olafant
    Feb 22 at 10:40
  • I feel like I've reached enlightenment reading this answer, so many things suddenly make sense at once! You should write a book maybe. Feb 22 at 15:27
  • @CarstenS: I forgot that the OP mentioned two-way prepositions. But, as I said in the answer, it's really a separate issue and covered elsewhere on GSE.
    – RDBury
    Feb 22 at 18:26
  • @Buraian: Thanks. I do have a lot of notes gathered into what you might call book form, but still very incomplete since I'm still learning myself. I'll add a link to them on my user page if and when they're ever ready to made open to the public.
    – RDBury
    Feb 22 at 18:56

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