About dative


Why are these phrases in dative?: Der frau gefallt das Hotel; Dem Mann gefallt das Hotel.
Normally they are in nominative because in both of them, der Frau and dem Mann are subjects of the action gefallen.


German has more flexibility in sentence construction than English.  The classic example is a dog bitting a man.  There are four ways to correctly construct that sentence in German and depending on construction, either man or dog can appear first in the sentence.  For fun, look it up sometime.

Your examples above are literally saying 'the hotel pleases the women' and  'the hotel pleases the man' which puts woman and man in the dative case even though they appear first in the sentence.  Hotel, you see, is actually the subject.  However, typically it would be translated as 'the man/woman likes the hotel'

In English, our articles don't change based on the case of the noun.  Therefore, to make sense of the sentence, the word order of the nouns is often important.  In German, not so much because the articles can define the case of the nouns.

German grammar can be very complicated!


Hi Byron

Thanks for a very useful and concise explanation of why cases matter.

I presume that because I learned English as a first language without recourse to formal grammar thinking of sentences in terms of subjects and objects etc just doesn't come naturally to me.

After years of practice I am ok at German word order and have a halfway decent (and still improving) vocabulary. I can usually work out cases but nowhere near quickly enough to be of any use at all in real conversations. It seems to me that every sentence requires a long and tedious analysis that I can rarely remember the result of anyway. I had originally hoped that eventually something would just click, as it eventually did with basic articles, but so far there is no sign of this happening anytime soon. It certainly looks like it will be pidgin German for the foreseeable future for me.




Hi Fred,  glad to be of some help.  The resident German expert, Paul, could elaborate in more detail I'm sure.

Rocket doesn't provide a lot of grammar instructions, just the basics.  Overall, I think that's a good approach because it's more important to learn vocabulary and idioms than the fine nuances of grammar which can be terribly tedious and just about the best way ever to discourage anyone from learning a language.  However, there are times when to the analytical mind sentences just don't seem right.  What you can do then is browse the web for information.  For example, look up German cases and you'll get way more information than you probably ever need to know.

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