Help with German translation

Fep127
Posts: 2
Joined: 2016-05-26, 17:45

Help with German translation

Postby Fep127 » 2016-05-26, 17:59

Hello,

I hope someone can help me! The sentence is
Was weiß Herr Schmidt über den Toten?

I know that the corpse is that of a man. I know that 'über' being a two-way preposition, takes either the Dative or the Accusative Case. As there is no movement involved here it should take the Dative. Why then is it 'den'' suggesting the Accusative?

Danke im Voraus!

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linguoboy
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Re: Help with German translation

Postby linguoboy » 2016-05-26, 18:52

Fep127 wrote:I hope someone can help me! The sentence is
Was weiß Herr Schmidt über den Toten?

I know that the corpse is that of a man. I know that 'über' being a two-way preposition, takes either the Dative or the Accusative Case. As there is no movement involved here it should take the Dative. Why then is it 'den'' suggesting the Accusative?

The movement/no movement rule of thumb only works in concrete contexts (i.e. where you have physical entities that actually could move). But when the verb is abstract--when it relates to mental processes and the like--then things get idiomatic and you basically just need to memorise which case to use. So wissen über takes the accusative just like reden über or denken an. (I think most if not all abstract verbs take the accusative with two-way prepositions, but I don't want to tell you that only to remember an exception later.)
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

h34
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Country: DE Germany (Deutschland)

Re: Help with German translation

Postby h34 » 2016-05-26, 20:53

I think that's right, idioms combining a verb with "über" are used with the accusative*. Some more examples:

über etwas/jemanden nachdenken - to think about something/somebody
sich über etwas/jemanden ärgern - to be annoyed about sth/sb
über etwas/jemanden lachen - to laugh about sth/sb
über etwas/jemanden urteilen - to judge
sich über etwas aufregen ~ to be upset about sth
...

* Hesitating to write "always". Never say "always" when it comes to German grammar...

http://germanforenglishspeakers.com/prepositions/two-way-prepositions/

Fep127
Posts: 2
Joined: 2016-05-26, 17:45

Re: Help with German translation

Postby Fep127 » 2016-05-28, 18:44

Thank you both for your very helpful explanations. I now understand the difference between the concrete and the abstract which has been puzzling me. No doubt as I get deeper into German grammar I'll come across similar puzzlers. I have to say I'm greatly enjoying the journey though!

Vielen Dank,

Pat


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