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I am beginning to study German and I was checking solutions of some grammar exercises from the book "Practice Makes Perfect" and couldn't understand why the nominative case is used in these sentences (regarding the possessive pronoun) : "11. . 12. Sie kaufen sein Fahrrad. 13. Sie kaufen ihr Fahrrad. 14. Sie kaufen unser Fahrrad. 15. Sie kaufen euer Fahrrad."

I thought the proper case for this sentence would be the accusative case (e.g. deins, seins, deinen, seinen...) because the "Fahrrad" is being bought by the person (Sie in the case) so it is the direct object.

Where am I wrong here? I'm sorry for the likely stupid question.

2 Answers 2

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Your thought is absolutely correct, and it is indeed Akkusativ of the possessiv pronoun (which incidentially is identical to the nominative case for these). Your question is far from stupid.

The base sentence without saying whom it belongs it is (same problem: Akkusativ looks like Nominativ here):

Sie kaufen das Fahrrad

Kaufen can take two objects, where the Akkusativ always refers to the object being bought, and the Dativ can refer to a person whom the thing is bought (jmd. etw. kaufen): "Ich kaufe Dir sein Fahrrad"

Ich: Subject, Nominativ
kaufe: verb
Dir: Dativ, whom (Wem?)
sein Fahhrad: Akkusativ, what (Wen/Was)? where 'sein' is a possessive pronoun replacing the article; it follows always the case of the object it belongs to. E.g. similarily:

Ich kaufe Deinem Hund ein Leckerli (= I buy your dog a treat)

"Deinem Hund" is the Dativ object whom something is bought, but the possessive pronoun "Dein" thus has to be in Dativ, too, thus "Deinem".

So, back to the sentence at hand: If you now want to describe whose bike is being bought, you can replace the article by a possessive pronoun which has to match the noun in numerus and genus (thus declension). It is like in singular (Nominativ - Genitiv - Dativ - Akkusativ):

mein - meines - meinem - mein

And in plural:

meine - meiner - meinen - meine

As a side remark: you might want to skip thinking of direct and indirect objects; it's a concept in English, but not in German. Thus it does not (always) translate well and is a 90% rule at best. You have to learn what verb takes which kind of objects for what purpose.

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  • The confusion was caused by the grammar book which taught the possessive pronouns as "ein-words" and used a table to demonstrate the declination. However, the table content was in the nominative case and the chapter was about the accusative case (there is a diference in the masculine form). Jul 24, 2022 at 20:20
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In

Sie kaufen sein Fahrrad.

“sein Fahrrad” is indeed in the accusative case. You can consult a table. The relevant table is the first one (“vor Substantiv”), and “Fahrrad” is neuter. You see that Nominativ and Akkusativ are both “sein”.

In case that you wonder what the other two tables are for, they would apply to

Sie kaufen sein(e)s.

Sie kaufen das seine.

Maybe this is where you got “seins” from, but notice that this, too, is both Nominativ and Akkusativ. (I would suggest that you forget about “das seine” for now.)

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    "stell Dir keinen rosa Elefanten vor" ;) Jul 23, 2022 at 16:25
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    As a general rule. nominative and accusative forms are always the same when the gender is neuter.
    – RHa
    Jul 23, 2022 at 20:57

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