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In the following sentence, why the dative "dem" and not the accusative "den", considering that we are talking about movement here?

Die Kaiserin ist auf dem Weg zur Kutsche.

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Because it is not about movement, despite what your teacher or what your learning materials told you.

It's about a mere location (where) vs a direction towards the thing in question (where to).

As the empress is not on her way to the way but rather on her way to the coach, the way (the thing in question) is not a direction. And with a two-way preposition as auf, that means it must not be accusative. Compare

Die Kaiserin steigt in die Kutsche.

That's a direction towards die Kutsche and that's why it must be in+accusative.

Die Kaiserin sitzt in der Kutsche.

That's not a direction and that's why it must be in+dative.

But be careful. Only the nine two-way prepositions an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zwischen tell apart direction and no direction by accusative and dative. For all other prepositions, the case is fixed, and direction or location is determined by the preposition you use. For example.

Die Kaiserin geht zur Kutsche.

That's a direction yet it is dative because the preposition zu always takes dative yet always means a direction.

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  • Another way to tell is that sein is not a movement verb. There are (of course) exceptions, but if the verb does not describe movement or the cause of movement then the preposition is dative.
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 20:56
  • No, that doesn't help you here. Die Kaiserin ist husch husch ab in die Kutsche. is perfectly valid everyday speech though a main verb as e.g. gestiegen is missing. Such ellipses are super common.
    – Janka
    Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 23:21
  • I expected there would be exceptions. With many prepositional expressions you just have to memorize which case to use; the movement rule, even if correctly applied, doesn't help.
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 4:35

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