In the Tips section for this lesson it notes that, in dative case, the article change to einer/einem is how German includes the preposition "to."
"Ein Kind" is "a child." "Einem Kind" is "to a child."
Going back to the sentence: Sie zeigt einem Kind die Lampe. She shows (to) a child the lamp.
The other way around: Sie zeigt die Lampe einem Kind. She shows the lamp to a child.
"She shows a kid the lamp" is correct only because, in English, we presume the indirect object before the direct object - because English does not show case. While neuter and female nouns do not show accusative case, all nouns show dative case, which takes the pressure off of word order in German.
Notice that I didn't say eliminates the need for word order, just that there is room for flexibility that English does not have. (See the other comment, featuring "She shows the lamp a kid")
I'm taking a German class in Austria atm and the teacher is very strict about the word order, i.e. dative noun before accusative noun unless the accusative is a pronoun, and perfective verb form always at the end of a sentence. Is this just one of those things that they teach in classrooms but which is not very important in real life? (like 'ne.. pas' instead of just 'pas' in French maybe?
Not really. "Pas" on its own is colloquial, whereas the alternative ways of ordering the nouns (switching the objects or even putting either object in the first position) are all acceptable in standard German and are actually more common in formal language than in colloquial speech, as they generally turn up in longer sentences and need more context.
Switching the two objects around doesn't make a noticable difference in this particular sentence, but that's only because it doesn't contain any extra baggage like prepositions to cause a problem, but by putting it first, you are emphasizing the accusative object more, which can sound unnatural on its own in a lot of cases (e.g.: "sie geht ins Kino mit einem Kind". Even if it's grammatically correct, I would expect the sentence to go on or assume that whoever wrote it wasn't a modern-day native speaker).
This is why your teacher insists on the standard order. It's safer than messing around with all the other possibilites, which don't work in all cases and would only cause confusion. But just for the sake of it, the following sentences are all correct:
"Sie zeigt einem Kind die Lampe" - standard order
"Sie zeigt die Lampe einem Kind" - highlights "die Lampe"
"Die Lampe zeigt sie einem Kind" - highlights "die Lampe"
"Einem Kind zeigt sie die Lampe" - highlights "einem Kind"
The first two sentences can stand on their own, the latter two have to be part of something longer to work (like "die Lampe zeigt sie einem Kind, den Kulli einem Mann" = "she shows the lamp to a child and the pen to a man").
But don't worry about those. Using only the standard order limits the expressiveness of the language a little bit, but as I said, it's safer and also a lot easier :)
@TaillessSwing58: I'm assuming that by "a sentence like this" you mean one where there are two nouns that can be either nominative or accusative?
You would decide based on context and word order. When the sentence would be ambiguous like this, the speaker will most likely put the subject at the beginning before the verb and the object after, using the typical word order to specifically avoid the confusion.
My German teachers both native speakers emphasized that the dative noun normally is placed between the conjugated verb and a diect object noun, but it could come in first position followed by the conjugated verb then the subject and then a direct object noun. If the dative noun followed the accusative noun, it is wrong.
But in s previous lesson of duolingo it was reported as wrong to put the direct object before the indirect object, unless the direct object was a pronoun! And people in the comments confirmed that was the rule, although getting it wrong would still result in native being able to understand
Duo is (imo) very confusing on this. I'm pretty sure that if we were asked to translate "She shows the lamp to a child," into German we'd be marked wrong for ""Sie zeigt die Lampe einem Kind," because it violates the Dative before Accusative rule. But then we get something like this as an example which supposedly we're to imitate. If they're going to make people learn the Dative before Accusative rule to get the answer right, then they should follow it in example sentences.
Your concern is understandable, but please have a look at the other comments here, as it has been addressed several times, by igelchen, ilyes_ferchiou, and mizinamo.
Edit That is, the explanation for the correctness of the word order given here. As to whether the same word order might or might not be correct in other sentences, I would be cautious. German is subtle.
When I first learned German, 1981, I was taught that, among other things, dative case allowed for flexibility in word order since the dative case made it clear which was the direct and indirect objects. (I may be wrong, but I note that Duo doesn't seem to care about word order, either)
This is as opposed to English and Spanish. Neither shows case, therefore, word order becomes crucial since there is no way to tell which is which.
No, fortunately not. :) You can tell what's going on here by looking at the articles. "Einem" indicates the Dative case, which tells us that the child is an indirect object (i.e. not the thing being shown, but rather the one to whom it is shown). "Die Lampe" tells us that lamp is in the Accusative case. If we wanted to say "She shows a child to the lamp", we would say "Sie zeigt der Lampe ein Kind" (or "Sie zeigt ein Kind der Lampe"). The beauty of German is that its grammatical precision allows us to mix up the word order without changing the meaning.
igelchen's comment below is the most correct. The dative object (DO) should always precede the accusative object (AO) in standard german sentence construction. However, the order is flexible, but only to place emphasis on different parts of speech when deviating from the standard. Generally the later in the V2 portion of the sentence (following the first inflected verb) a speech part is, when outside of standard construction, the more emphasis is placed on that part. So in this case the speaker is emphasizing that she showed the lamp to a child, specifically. For even more emphasis the dative object can be placed in the V1 portion of the sentence, prior to the inflected verb (so; Einem Kind zeigt Sie die lampe). Remember this is all for emphasis, and something that german has that english doesn't, this flexibility in word order due to the differing cases. The key is to recognize which words take which parts of speech by the identifying the definite or indefinite article (der artikel oder ein artikel). And of course context. Hope this helps.
In this course, it's considered incorrect English to put the indirect object (the child, who is the "recipient" of the showing) first with "to".
You can have either "She shows the lamp to a child" (indirect object second, with "to") or "She shows a child the lamp" (indirect object first, no "to"), but not "She shows to a child the lamp" (indirect object first with "to").
"She shows a lamp to the child" would be Sie zeigt dem Kind eine Lampe.
The order Sie zeigt eine Lampe dem Kind sounds very strange to me -- the dative object usually comes before the accusative object if both are nouns. The dative object can be put at the end instead when it's new information, to emphasise it, but while "a child" (with the indefinite article) is new information, "the child" (with the definite article) implies that it's a known child and thus cannot be new information.
In English, the word order usually depends on what (the dative noun or the accusative noun) is the main focus of the sentence. Does it work that way in German?
For example, if I worked in a jewelry store, the jewelry (accusative noun) would be the focus, not the 1 out of 50 customers I helped that day, so you would say "I showed the jewelry to the customer." If, on the other hand, the dative noun was the focus (the CEO came to the store that day ), in English, we'd put that first. As an example, I showed the CEO the jewelry.
Genau. Although German sentences are usually structured [Nominativ] [Verb] [Dativ][Akkusativ] the positions of the nouns can be modified to provide emphasis (the verb remains in second position).
Auf Deutsch the reordering without losing meaning is easier than in English because the inflection of the articles identifies the case (der Fall oder Kasus). For example, "I gave the child the dog" means the child wound up possessing the dog. I could make it clearer by saying "I gave the dog to the child." Auf Deutsch, "Ich gebe dem Kind den Hund" would be the normal, expected order, but one could say, "Ich gebe den Hund dem Kind" to emphasize that it was a dog (and not, perhaps, eine Katze) that was given. The article makes it unambiguous. To be more emphatic, "Den Hund gebe ich dem Kind" could be used.
I am sure zengator is correct about the German, but I have to say that I am entirely unaware of the distinction lingeben makes in the English. I would not notice in the slightest if either of those English sentences were constructed the other way around, and, of the 4 people I have asked so far, none of them would, either.
Edit - also, English doesn't have dative case. You may be thinking of direct object vs. indirect object.
You're trying to make this into a word-for-word translation, and you just can't do that. German's structure for an indirect object is just "mir eine Lampe zeigen." There's not a "zu" implied because "Sie zeigt zu mir eine Lampe" is completely wrong. If it were implied, it could go there, but it can't, so it's not. "Zu mir" is simply not correct and not how German makes an indirect object.
"Mit mir" is just a completely different situation. German does use a preposition to express "with someone." It doesn't use a preposition for an indirect object.
Is Lampe the usual translation for light in the sense of the sort you would switch on with a switch? That is what I understood from an exercise earlier in the course but I'm now beginning to doubt it. Also is Lampe the usual translation for lightbulb? Not for this context perhaps, but in general?
Thank you for your help.
is Lampe the usual translation for lightbulb?
The most common word for "lightbulb" is Glühbirne ("glow-pear").
Technically, it should be Glühlampe ("glow-lamp") but that's the sort of thing only electricians care about. (Similarly to how a screw-driver is supposed to be a Schraubendreher "screw-turner" but just about everyone calls it a Schraubenzieher "screw-puller".)
Whether to use "to" or not depends on whether the indirect object is before or after the direct object:
- She shows a child the lamp. - OK
- She shows the lamp to a child. - OK (though in my opinion not as good as the first one)
- She shows to a child the lamp. - not OK
- She shows the lamp a child. - not OK
Ah man, this language drives me mad. I've been learning it for a while. And I just always find myself again and again stuck to the wall by its grammar.
My teacher said it's a "stiff structure", and now here you are saying it isn't. Im confused. Could you tell me where did you learn german?
There are certain aspects that are "stiff". The one that seems most invariable to me is that in a declarative statement, the verb takes the second position and auxiliary verbs (if any) go to the end. After that, there are "rules"--and here we must remember that "the exception proves the rule"--that are flexible, unless they are not.
I've tried to learn and study German for many years using various courses and speaking with friends who know German. None really seemed to work except DuoLingo (I started in August 2013). I think the consistency is the key: I've missed no more than 30 days total during that time. (Boy, oh boy, was I aggravated when I realized I mis-remembered things and dropped a 1,000+ day streak.)
Here is another example that differs from everything that I have learned. If you have two nouns, usually the indirect object comes before the direct one. In this case, To Whom is it being shown...to a child. This is the indirect object of the sentence and should come second, not last as the translation has it. Very hard to learn a language when the rules keep changing for no apparent reason.
The rules aren't really changing. As you said, "usually the indirect object comes before the direct object", not always.
Because the objects are switched from their normal, expected ordering, it emphasizes the d.o.. In a sense, "She didn't show the child a chair; she showed him a lamp."
Thanks for the response!
I would agree with that; however, we both know that there is flexibility with the sentence. As such, Duolingo should accept both translations. I entered it correctly from a grammatical standpoint, but Duolingo marked it wrong because it is trying to show an alternate way of writing it. Unless I am missing something, it should accept both translations, but provide an alternate means of writing it.
It very much depends on what you wrote as your answer.
- "She shows a child the lamp." <= should be correct
- "She shows the lamp to a child." <= should be correct
- "She shows the child a lamp." <= should be wrong
- "She shows the lamp a child." <= should be wrong
The key is, we're speaking about a specific lamp (the) and a non-specific child (a).
I do not remember now, but I do remember it had to do with the word order. Normally the indirect object would come before the direct object. In this case, I likely would have written "She shows a child the lamp". The answer provided I believe was "She shows the lamp to a child". This is what caused the confusion because of the noun rule. It should have accepted both answers, but it technically chose the incorrect sentence based on the noun rule. Thanks for taking the time to answer!
I like your answer, especially the “usually,” since word order ought to be flexible. One thing I really enjoyed when I learned German the first time was the dative case, in that it forces clarity between objects even if there’s an unusual word order.
Another issue would be, what was Duo trying to teach here? (It’s been a few weeks, so I don’t exactly remember) If it was simply dative case, I can see many of these suggested answers being accepted. If it was strict word order (with no context demanding alternate emphasis), then I can see how these other answers might not be acceptable.
German teachers are unfortunately not always experts on the German language (as goes for any language teachers). Dative nouns most certainly don't come before accusative pronouns, for instance. ("Sie zeigt einem Kind es" is very wrong.) German direct and indirect objects can often be switched around to switch emphasis, and definite nouns (using "der/die/das") often go before indefinite nouns (using "ein") regardless of each one's case. Another common ordering is that long objects (using lots of modifiers, or just extra-long words) often are placed after shorter objects regardless of case.
Dative before accusative is a commonly-cited rule, but it just doesn't hold in all situations. It can be a decent guideline sometimes, but don't expect it to always be true.
I noticed that the male voice has on occasion said "Kind" with a long "i" like it would be spelled "Keind". He can be inconsistent. So, I agree with you... he messes up quite a few words like that; either that or maybe he's from some part of Germany with a thick, hardly ever heard accent that only Germans get to hear, except now us! lol Or maybe he's actually American, and just forgets, or that's how most Americans say it! :-o
What I really think is going on is that there is a "bank" of audio recordings for each of the words, as well as composed sentences. This is most noticeable in those "type what you hear" exercises, where the words in the sentence don't always sound like the words from the "word bank." (Lacking a keyboard with the appropriate accent marks and special characters, I find myself using the "word bank" a lot)
At any rate, in the sentences to be typed, "Kind" is pronounced correctly; from the "word bank," "Kind" is pronounced incorrectly.
And what I think is happening is that the editor happens to be picking the wrong "kind" for the "word bank"! (As in, it's picking the "kind" for the English exercise)
I don't think these are recordings. I seem to recall a moderator or someone with more insight into the inner workings of DuoLingo than a standard user commenting that the voices are computer-generated. This fits in with the occasional wholesale changes in female/male voices. If recordings of actual people or voice actors were in use, one would expect that if a new set of female recordings were added, the old ones would not be discarded in their entirety.
That said, your observation about the perceived mispronunciation of "kind" in isolation could be due to mistakenly applying the rules for English speech synthesis when German rules need to be used.
Worst aspect of Duolingo is the female speaker. Yes I've read all the business about the audio compression etc, still, roughly half of my mistakes are because I miss hear what she says; here she clearly says "einen" - and even though I know damn well it should be "einem" - at the speed I work the exercises I've submitted the wrong answer before my brain says "Whoa! Wrong!" Saumensch!
I heard the dative, indirect object comes before the accusative, direct object?
That's the basic, unmarked word order.
Here, the indefinite einem Kind is moved to the end to show that it's new information -- perhaps the answer to the question "Whom is she showing the lamp to? -- Oh, a child; I didn't know that!"
Such movement is not always possible, so it's best to recognise it but not attempt to do it yourself until you have a firm grasp (from reading and hearing many, many correct sentences) on when it works and when it doesn't.
In this specific example, are the accusative and dative cases able to move around?
Yes. The direct object is definite and the indirect object is indefinite in this sentence -- there, you can often move the indefinite indirect object to the end if you want to emphasise it, because indefinite nouns are likely to be new information, while definite nouns are almost always something you have spoken about already.
When are the dative and accusative allowed to have a flexible order?
As a learner, I would recommend that you always go with the rule of thumb "dative before accusative" and merely be aware of the fact that native speakers may something use other orders.
New information can be "showcased" by moving it to the end of a sentence, after old information.
In general, nouns with the indefinite article ein, eine, einen, einem (etc.) are new information and nouns with the definite article der, die, das (etc.) are old information.
So die Lampe (definite) + einem Kind (indefinite) sounds more acceptable to me than Wasser (indefinite) + den Frauen (definite).
But rather than being black-and-white rules, it's more of a continuum of acceptability -- some sentences are more acceptable than others when rearranged.
To be safe, just keep the dative before the accusative except when the accusative is a personal pronoun.
what I wrote is THE SAME PRINCIPLE as you wrote. What is wrong with yr vocab??
what I wrote
When you have a question about a sentence that was not accepted, please always quote your entire answer.
Ideally by copying and pasting (do not re-type the answer, as this might introduce new typos or correct ones you made the first time) or by taking a screenshot, uploading it to a website somewhere, and including the URL of the image in your comment.
I'm not quite sure what you mean. "Einem Kind" is going to have the same meaning no matter where you put it in the sentence. In English we can phrase this sentence as "She shows a child the lamp" or (better I would say) "She shows the lamp to a child."
The German sentence can be ordered as "Sie zeigt die Lampe einem Kind" or "Sie zeigt einem Kind die Lampe," but that doesn't affect the translation to English.
I know both sentences are correct. But I believe there is a little nuance between them. The focus of the sentence can change by how we order the sentence.
Like, there is this magical, special Lamp, say the Lamp of Aladdin. And no one is allowed to see it. "She shows a child THE LAMP" focuses on the importance of the lamp. "She shows the lamp TO A CHILD" focuses on 'to a child'. As everyone else allowed to see the lamp except children. I know this is a very odd example but I hope you understand me now :)))
I read this focus thing from one of the moderators on some other topic the other day but I can't seem to find the comment.
Yes, in general putting something later in the sentence gives it more emphasis or stresses it as the main point of what you're saying. So "Sie zeigt die Lampe einem Kind" is more like "She shows the lamp to a child" and "Sie zeigt einem Kind die Lampe" is more like "She shows the lamp to a child."
This is only partially true. Case endings are not the only factor. You may find this article educational: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~deutsch/Grammatik/WordOrder/WordOrder.html