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In one of our exams, teacher asked this sentence: "Er trinkt Tomatensuppe." Then followed with the question whether this sentence has any accusative objects or not?

Here is my view: The sentence contains a direct object which is tomato soup but it does not have any sort of accusative artikel. So, this is not a accusative object.

Am I in the right direction or completely off the tracks? Any help appriciated.

2 Answers 2

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Unfortunately you are wrong.

German does not distinguish between direct and indirect objects ( see e.g. Where should a direct and indirect object be placed in a Nebensatz?) and having an article or not does not change the grammatical case, it just makes it harder to recognize.

Here trinken requires in fact accusative, which becomes more visible, when adding some additional declined words:

Er trinkt einen heißen Tee.

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It's an accusative object, though you cannot see that easily in that example.

In German, the parts of speech are not always that explicitely marked as one would hope, so you have to do some detective work. To quote a famous figure of literature:

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

And this leads you to the question what Tomatensuppe could be else, if not an accusative object? Direct object or indirect object aren't correct answers as those are just a different categorization which doesn't distinguish noun phrases by case but by function.

In German, accusative objects usually function as direct objects, and dative objects usually function as indirect objects. But there's also dative direct objects, and genitive and accusative indirect objects. And nominative predicatives. This depends on the verb in question. You have to learn for each verb which cases it wants on its nouns. And forget about direct and indirect objects as they don't help you in German. It's just another categorization on top that only adds confusion for a learner of German.

So what is it? The verb trinken may take an accusative object, which is the thing drunken. There's pretty much nothing else Tomatensuppe could be in this sentence.


And to spin it further, don't let explicit case markers confuse you.

Er trinkt den ganzen Tag Tomatensuppe.

What's the accusative object in this example?

It's still „Tomatensuppe“.

Correct. Nothing has changed about the verb and it's object in comparison to before. But we have that extra piece den ganzen Tag in there, which is clearly marked as accusative. What's that?

It's an adverbial accusative. It tells a duration.

Oh? How do you know that?

You cannot drink days.

Great. A+.

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  • Sherlock Holmes (the quote).
    – RDBury
    Nov 16, 2022 at 0:18

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