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I note that DWDS offers this, among examples of the use of aussuchen:

ich habe mir ein gutes Quartier, den kürzesten Weg ausgesucht

which Google translates as

I have chosen a good place to stay and the shortest route.

No mention of, for whom, except with the reflexive pronoun. Does that indicate the choice is for himself?

But it also offers non-reflexive examples:

er suchte sorgsam die passende Farbe für die neue Tapete aus

And then I read this sentence from B. Brecht's, Der gute Mensch von Sezuan, in which the water seller is searching for lodging for the gods:

Ich brauche nur ein Haus weiterzugehen und kann mir ein Quartier für euch aussuchen.

which has both a reflexive pronoun as well as a clause indicating who the choice is being made for. So what is the actual meaning of the reflexive pronoun?

Please explain how the following variations differ in meaning between each other, of course, noting those that could have no meaningful context:

  • Ich kann ein Quartier aussuchen.
  • Ich kann ein Quartier für mich aussuchen.
  • Ich kann mir ein Quartier aussuchen.
  • Ich kann mir ein Quartier für mich aussuchen.
  • Ich kann mir ein Quartier für dich aussuchen.
  • Ich kann dir ein Quartier für mich aussuchen.
  • Ich kann dir ein Quartier für dich aussuchen.
  • Sie können sich ein Quartier für euch aussuchen.

1 Answer 1

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The dative object tells who bears the result of the action. For the action aussuchen, that's the person who is going to be happy or unhappy about the choice.

Ich habe mir ein gutes Quartier, den kürzesten Weg ausgesucht.

If I am unhappy with it later on, I can only blame myself.

Okay. But lets dissect your last example. Compare

Ich kann euch ein Quartier aussuchen.

If you are unhappy with it, I am to blame. So you may want to make the choice yourself?

Ich kann mir ein Quartier für euch aussuchen.

If you are unhappy with it, it's because I made the choice. I am unhappy then. I deserve extra blame for that.

And of course, if you are happy with it, I am happy with it as well. Please tell.


Ich kann ein Quartier aussuchen.

I'm the one in charge.

Ich kann ein Quartier für mich aussuchen.

I decide on the one for myself.

Ich kann mir ein Quartier aussuchen.

I am the only one who I can blame for my choice. It's only implied that it's going to be my room.

Ich kann mir ein Quartier für mich aussuchen.

I am the only one who I can blame for my choice of a room for myself.

Ich kann mir ein Quartier für dich aussuchen.

I'm going to choose for you, and I bear the result. I'm going to choose wisely.

Ich kann dir ein Quartier für mich aussuchen.

I'm going to choose my room, and you will like it. I mean, what we are going to do there. As you pay.

Ich kann dir ein Quartier für dich aussuchen.

I'm going to help you, and I hope you like it.

Sie können sich ein Quartier für euch aussuchen.

They are in charge and get all the blame if you don't like your room.

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  • Wow! That is amazing! All that information in one little pronoun. I will have to edit my question to investigate this little pronoun in greater detail.
    – user44591
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 22:59
  • This is mostly about the relation between the one who gets the room and the one who bears the result of the choice.
    – Janka
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 0:27
  • Wow! There are a number of things about this explanation that I find remarkable, from someone whose first language is English. First, in English, if you say someone is going to do something, then the responsibility for the outcome (or, as you put it, the one who bears the result) is implied to be the someone who is going to do it. But in German apparently a pronoun is required in order to indicate that.
    – user44591
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 2:06
  • Secondly, the first point means that, in German, if the pronoun is not given (since it is optional) then no one bears the responsibility for the result of the effort -- "I will do it, but you cannot blame me for the outcome." In English one would have to make that explicit.
    – user44591
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 2:08
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    So this is not so much about practical use of all the variations but it explains why in German some verbs commonly require you to place such a dative object, as otherwise it would mean you deliberately hold back that information. E.g. if you say Ich habe die Zähne geputzt. people will just stare at you because the common way to say this is indeed Ich habe mir die Zähne geputzt. If you hold back that mir, they understand that you cleaned some teeth not bolted into your jaws. Probably those from your car's transmission.
    – Janka
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 11:14

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