Forum Rocket German German Grammar Dative vs. Accusative Strategies

Dative vs. Accusative Strategies



Are these words dative verbs?


Hallo RexV!

If you're trying to figure out whether a verb exclusively takes the dative (or another case), then the best strategies are to either a) check lists of dative verbs, or b) look in a dictionary like Leo ( - for many verbs, Leo includes the case that the verb takes in superscript, so that you know what case to use in what situation.

If neither of these avenues help, though, you can try asking yourself these questions:

1) The Motion Question

Telling whether a verb takes the dative or the accusative can be tricky. A good question to ask yourself is this: Is there motion towards (something)? If your answer is "yes," then you probably need to use the accusative case. If your answer is "no," then you probably need to use the dative case. This isn't a 100%, always-right kind of rule (every language has exceptions), but it can often help you out with more literal sentences.

Let's apply it here. Ausgegangen is actually the past participle of ausgehen "to go out." Is there motion towards with "to go out" in the sentence you're using? If your sentence is something like "I am going out of the house," there isn't any towards anything in that sentence. So it will be dative: Ich gehe aus dem Haus.

2) The Direct Object Question

In less literal sentences, the motion towards question often isn't any help. In these situations, we'll have to get more grammatical - you can try asking yourself: Is there a direct object here? If "yes," then you should use the accusative. If "no," then you should use the dative.

For example, if we use ausgehen to talk about running out of things, such as paper, then this isn't a very literal sentence like our previous example was. So, we ask ourselves: Is there a direct object in our sentence? There isn't in the German version: things run out for people in German. So the things should be in the nominative and the people should be in the dative: Uns geht das Papier aus "We are running out of paper."

Thanks to the strategies above, we can conclude that ausgehen does indeed normally take a dative object - if it needs to take any object at all.

How about bleiben "to stay" and ausrichten "to position / to aim"?

If we look for dative verb lists, bleiben comes up on some ( It also gets concrete results in the two question tests: If you or something is staying somewhere, is there motion towards? No - so it should be dative. Is there a direct object when a person or object stays somewhere? No - so, again, it should be dative.

For ausrichten, it doesn't come up on dative verb lists. If we check Leo, we can see that there are a number of situations where ausrichten will be followed by the accusative - and some where it will often have an object in the dative too ( Ausrichten has a variety of different meanings, but you can also apply the two questions to whatever sentence you're using it in to double check as well. For example, if the sentence is "I am organizing an event," then is there motion towards? No. But this isn't a very literal sentence. Is there a direct object? Yes - the event. So this object should be in the accusative: Ich richte eine Veranstaltung aus. So from our research, we can say that ausrichten is not a dative verb.

I hope that these strategies will be useful for you, and that this has cleared up your questions!

Viel Erfolg!


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