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In Volker Kutscher's Krimi "Märzgefallene", pg 93, he writes: "Trotz der Kälte lungerten Bettler vor den Aufgängen zum Hochbahnhof herum. Direkt an der Treppe saß ein Mann auf einem Pappdeckel, in einen vor Schmutz starrenden Mantel gehüllt, den Hut vor sich auf dem Pflaster." As I've tried to understand the dative and accusative cases, "in" takes the accusative when it implies direction or movement ("wohin"), the dative when it refers to place ("wo"). Thus it seems to me the phrase should be: "in einem vor Schmutz starrendem Mantel". Is "in einen" correct?

2 Answers 2

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It's neither an accusative nor a dative object. — It's either accusative or dative case. It's important to tell that apart. A preposition may require a certain case. That doesn't make its argument an object.


About your question, the particular phrase is

…, in einen vor Schmutz starrenden Mantel gehüllt, …

The important part are the commas, and the Partizip II at the end. This whole thing tells a circumstance as a participial phrase, and the verb hüllen rules it.

That particular verb is a phrasal verb that takes in+accusative as an argument. If you look it up in a dictionary, it shows you

jemanden/etwas in etwas(Akk) hüllen — to wrap someone/something in something

And that's the whole logic about that accusative in your example. The verb demands it. If you used a different verb, there would be a different preposition and likely a different case:

…, mit einem vor Schmutz starrenden Mantel umhüllt, …

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  • "If you look it up in a dictionary ... ." It depends on the dictionary; DWDS and Wiktionary are unspecific. (I can fix Wiktionary though.) The accusative makes sense from a certain point of view: The man was put into the blanket. Dative would mean that the man was wrapped (in something else) while inside the blanket. If that doesn't make sense to you then I guess you just have to memorize "hüllen in" as a prepositional verb which takes accusative.
    – RDBury
    Mar 21 at 21:23
  • Unfortunately in English the phrasal verb is to wrap something in something, not into.
    – Janka
    Mar 21 at 21:49
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The question is interesting in that it makes clear that the case government by the preposition is not directly linked to the ultimate interpretation of the sentence. As already stated in Janka's answer, the verb selects an in+acc complement. With this verb it does have a directional meaning. However, the participle form in the example does not denote the event of wrapping something in something, it denotes the resultant state here (hence might be considered an adjectival participle here). Hence, in a way the description in the question is correct: the situation is one of pure location, not directed movement.

So part of the answer has to be: resultative participles may contain all sorts of additions that belong to the description of the dynamic event, although they do not refer to that event, they refer to the resulting state instead. But it's a state that results specifically from such a kind of event. So the phenomenon of a directional preposition with a stative situation is part of a larger picture of event-related modifiers with stative participle meanings:

  • Die Nudeln sind zu lange gekocht (the pasta "is" cooked too long, i.e. is overcooked. "Too long" cannot directly refer to the resulting state that is ultimately described in the sentence... but it specifies it indirectly)
  • Der Salat ist sorgfältig gewaschen (the salad is washed (adj.) carefully)
  • Er war in einen Mantel gehüllt

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