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  5. "Ich lese die Zeitung der Fra…

"Ich lese die Zeitung der Frau."

Translation:I read the woman's newspaper.

January 28, 2014



How can you know that "der Frau" is not "Dativ"? meaning "I read the newspaper to the woman". Is it a different verb? I have not studied "Genitiv" in Duolingo yet, so I assumed it had to be "Dativ".


For "to read sth. to sb., to read sth. out loud", you would have to use a different verb: "vorlesen". "Vorlesen" is a separable verb, so "vor-" detaches itself from "-lesen" in the present tense.

"Ich lese der Frau die Zeitung vor." (I read the newspaper to the woman.)

You could also say

"Ich lese die Zeitung der Frau vor.", but this sentence would be ambiguous. It can mean either "I read aloud the woman's newspaper" or "I read the newspaper to the woman."

In real life, context will normally tell you whether "der Frau" is dative or genitive in a particular sentence.


I don't get it. How can I know there should be a separable verb for the sentence to be dative? (And when did separable verbs got involve??D: I didn't knew they existed )



You seem to have misunderstood the point being made about separable verbs.

Sentences are not dative. Some sentences have an indirect object. Some languages use the dative case to identify the indirect object. German is one of those languages.

Some languages sometimes attach prefixes to their verbs to to broaden or narrow their application. German does this. In German, some of those prefixes are sometimes separated in some sentences so that the prefix is removed from the root verb and placed at the end of the sentence.

Students will often see the results but not recognize it. They will see an apparently useless item like an sitting at the end of a sentence and just regard it as some kind of annoying quirk of German to arbitrarily add meaningless, word particles. Actually, it very often is the prefix of a verb previously mentioned in the sentence. The student sees the verb with it's slightly changed meaning without the prefix attached and just assumes the verb has multiple meanings. Meanwhile the prefix bestowing that particular meaning is sometimes pretty far away and not obviously related to the verb.

O.k. so what has all this got to do with this sentence. The issue is how does one know whether attaching der to feminine Frau means Frau is dative or genitive since der Frau could mean either case. Duo says that der Frau must mean genitive der Frau. Reading the newspaper that belongs to the woman.

Some students complain that der Frau could just as easily be indirect object/dative der Frau meaning reading the newspaper to the woman. But actually it can't.

Lesen means to read. If you are doing something narrower like reading aloud or reading to someone, German has another verb..... vorlesen. Since the verb in this example is lesen and not vorlesen, the newspaper is not being read aloud. You cannot silently read a newspaper to someone so der Frau must be the genitive form. The newspaper belongs to the woman. It is not being read to her because that would involve a different verb.

Of course, some students will be sure that they have seen lesen used to mean reading something to someone and they are sure it wasn't vorlesen as the verb. However, a complication for them is that vorlesen is what is called a trennbare verb. The verb prefix is often separated and put at the end of the sentence. This makes it harder for the casual observer to notice that the verb for reading aloud is vorlesen not lesen. The prefix vor is stripped from the verb and seemingly hidden.

Some German verbs are trennbare meaning the prefixes are separable. The only way you can get this example to mean reading the newspaper to someone and therefore is dative requires that you use vorlesen not lesen. If you do choose to use vorlesen it will allow you to include reading to someone in your usage. However, if you do use vorlesen it just happens to be a trennbare verb so the prefix will be separated and moved sometimes so far away as to apparently disappear. But that has nothing to with whether there is an indirect object in the sentence.

It is perfectly reasonable in both German and English to say.....I read the newspaper out loud. German has a verb that specifically says you are doing that sort of thing. English does not. English speakers see lesen and think that means read, silently, out loud, whatever. German speakers see lesen and think ...someone is quietly reading.

Separable verbs don't take any particular case any more than any other group of verbs. However attaching a prefix to a verb will sometimes narrow or broaden its usage and therefore narrow or broaden the cases that can reasonably be attached to it. With some verbs, the prefix conferring the altered status will sometimes be moved to the end of the sentence.

There aren't that many trennbare verbs and it will just come naturally through repetition in conversation to use them appropriately. It will not come naturally to have them singled out and removed from supporting context and still use them appropriately as is the necessity in language courses.


Danke! I understood perfectly now, you are a terrific teacher :)


Indeed an excellent explanation. You perfectly outline the pitfall which makes it seem to be illogical to a learner.


Thanks northernguy for this excellent explanation. I am fairly new to the German language (having tried years back to study it but gave up very quickly as it was too difficulty for me), and only just recently started studying it again on Duo, I have not come across these trennbare verbs, and your explanation will enable me to understand them when I encounter them. Thanks once again and have a lingot


When learning a language through osmosis, where you are in the language using it all the time to do what you have to do, you adopt all kinds of language practices you are unaware of. Sometimes, you come across some grammar rule and say...oh, so that's why I do that all the time.

Here it is the other way around. All sorts of rules, procedures, exceptions, behaviors are presented to you so that you can incorporate them into learning the language.

When students feel they can't get a foreign language and give up, it is usually because they have chosen the wrong goals or they are using the wrong method to achieve them.

Often students approach learning a foreign language as meaning it produces a certain result. They assume that all methods of learning the language will take them to that preconceived notion.

I once watched a French language film without subtitles. This was after a couple of years on Duo. I did not understand a single word. I was quite surprised and a little disappointed. But I was not upset. That is because I knew from the outset that I wasn't prepared to do what was necessary to learn to be fluent speaking the language. I also understood Duo wouldn't help me much in getting there even if I wanted to.

But I can read it to a level I am satisfied with. That is all I wanted and Duo was a good way to get there.

Other goals require a different focus. Less time on Duo and more on something else. Of course, spending some time building a matrix to hang your language acquisition on is always a good thing in itself. That is what Duo does.


Enjoy your lingot!


Thanks.. Very helpful


Very interesting. I'm still wondering why this sentence appears in the lesson for the Dative case, not the Genitive. That is confusing...


what is "sth." and "sb."? (one of many non-native English speaker here)

  • sth. is short for something
  • sb. is short for somebody


I also think we should use here separable verb "vorlesen".


Katherie perfect response


Could one phrase it: "Ich lese die Zeitung vor der Frau"?


Unfortunately, no. The separable portion must be placed at the end of the sentence.


This one also threw me for a loop because DuoLingo hadn't introduced genitive yet.


In addition to the verb (vorlesen being required for reading something out loud), as mentioned in a post below, the correct word order in this case (no pronouns) would require a dative to come before the accusative case. So, if it were dative, it would be "Ich lese der Frau die Zeitung vor." I got caught off guard by this sentence as well, since I regularly get so confused about proper word order in German, and I never thought about "vorlesen" being required for reading to somebody.

[deactivated user]

    Have you been told that German is learnable?

    IT'S A LIE!

    Fact: German language courses were the last ones to be published in the whole history of language learning literature. Why? Because of GREED. The publishers knew it couldn't be learned, but once they were left out of languages to print they decided to cross the border of dishonesty and started to publish "German language courses". Some went even lower, choosing names like "Easy German for All". No, there's not such thing. Even the contents of these books are made up. The words are not the same in any two different courses. The grammar rules are made up and vary from one book to another. No German speaker (some might rightfully doubt their existence) has ever provided advice (to say the least) on writing such a book.

    You now have the facts. Advice, I can't offer, as I'm mindlessly trapped in the same pointless pursuit of an illusion.


    Red's in a Sackerl und stell's mir vor dir Tür! If you say the German language is a conspiracy theory, then why do you learn it? Note: Suppose German did not exist, neither would English or Dutch. The only thing I can agree on is that German might not be the easiest language to learn for native English speakers, because it is quite different, but some have managed. Also: Think of all the German native speakers, who learn english. It is also not easy for them.


    Finally, someone has the guts to say it! Also... Jet fuel can't melt steel beams. If it could then why wouldn't it melt the jet engines.

    [deactivated user]

      Huh, trying to be funny, Les_Aspirinistes? We still don't like you, you know?


      When you have the nouns (Zeitung, Frau, as opposed to substantive like she, it), the proper order of the sentence should be NDA - Nominativ, Dativ, Akkusativ. Thus, this can give you a tip that here der Frau is not Dativ but Genitiv.


      Interesting, I believed that in German you could show possession in the same way as English, minus the apostrophe, e.g 'Ich lese die Fraus Zeitung'. Is this a correct way of saying the same thing, and if so, which way is more commonly used?


      No, you can't say that... At least not with "die Frau" and its article. If the woman was named (and therefore didn't need an article), it would be possible: "Ich lese Lizzies Zeitung." - absolutely correct and commonly used. But with "die Frau", it has to be "Ich lese die Zeitung der Frau."


      Why is my translation "I read the wife's newspaper" wrong? If I understood correctly, both wife and woman can be translated to "Die Frau".


      I put the same thing and I reported it. Although I know "woman" is the better translation here, I like to practice working out alternate translations in my head, so that when I hear "frau" I don't AUTOMATICALLY hear it as "woman" in my head.


      Der Frau? I thought Frau was feminine.


      Der Frau because its genetiv


      I thought this was an exercise to practise the Dative


      Little things like this are why I have a love and hate relationship with the German language. I mean come on man! You'd think they could make their language a little less picky? It's a cluster for crying out loud!


      Why is "I am reading the woman's newspaper" not a correct translation?


        This should be an accepted answer. If it isn't, check that your spelling is correct then report it.


        Is 'Frau' here in genitive?


        Yes. Die Frau - nominative and accusative ; Der Frau - Genitive and Dative


        Frau is feminine but why is the correct answer 'der' which is 'the' for a masculine noun?


        Because "der" is not only used for masculine nominative but also for other declensions. In this case, it is the feminine singular genitive (possessive here): der Frau = of the woman = the woman's.


        Does German differentiate between women's (belonging to a specific group of women) and women's (referring to - theoretically - to ALL women) or is it like English where you need to determine based on context? Eg: women's magazine, women's issue, or women's store.


        Could I say I read the newspaper from the woman?


        not really, that is wrong english and the german translation for "from the woman" is "von der Frau" and not "der Frau"


        English and German have to be capitalised in English.


        Is the pronunciation on "lese" incorrect here? It sounds like "liese".


        There are a plethora of instances where Duo's Frau doesn't pronounce words correctly or where the audio is unintelligible. It is almost impossible to distinguish between her "ihr" and her "er".


        Can someone help me? How do you know that this doesn't mean something silly like "I read the newspaper the woman."?


        The woman by itself is die Frau. The presence of der as the article introducing Frau in this Duo example indicates that something else is involved. Your job is figure out what that something else means.


        If I want to say "I read the wife the newspaper" do I say "Ich lese die Frau der Zeitung"?


          If you specifically want to say "wife" without saying whose wife it is, you need to use Ehefrau. And, as mentioned in other comments already, you need the verb vorlesen to mean "read to". The resulting sentence is: Ich lese der Ehefrau die Zeitung vor.


          Guys can you tell me how many verbs take the Dative case?


          Are you asking how many verbs (if any) require the dative case wherever that verb is used?

          Or how many verbs allow the dative case when the speaker/writer wants to use the dative? If this is what you mean, a better question would be how many verbs (if any) prevent the use of dative since most verbs allow its use.

          A confusing aspect of English for non native speakers is the practice of sometimes dropping to when introducing the dative. I gave Tom the book. should read I gave the book to Tom but English speakers routinely drop the preposition to in these circumstances. So routinely that they forget that they do it.

          Some students on this page were wondering if this was an example of a case where the dative was used but the preposition to was dropped. The use of der could be translated as either genitive or dative and the absence of to is irrelevant in English. But the nature of silent reading prevents you from doing it to someone. It does not prevent silently reading for someone (preposition required in English) or with someone (preposition required in English) The only possible uses of dative following lesen require the preposition in English.

          It is not that lesen cannot take the dative case. It is that its nature means that it cannot take the one type of dative case that permits dropping the preposition in English.

          In most cases, it is the speaker's/writer's intent that determines the use of dative not the choice of verb.


          Isn't der masculine? Why would you use it with Frau?


          Your question has already been dealt with extensively on this page.

          If after reading the previous answers to your question you still have some confusion, you can post its details.


          Dieser Satz ist Genitiv, oder?


          Look: A sentence can not be Genitive, a noun can be. Every sentence needs to contain at least a Nominative and a verb. Ich lese.

          Then you can ask "wen / was lese ich?" to ask for an object (Note: only works with specific verbs). Answer: "Die Zeitung"

          Now you can add modifiers like adjectives or possessors (=attributes) to the nouns: "Ich lese die Zeitung der Frau" (Wessen Zeitung lese ich?)


          Der vs des in this context?


            The der in the der Frau part of this sentence is expressing genitive case. As you know already, Frau is a feminine noun. If you used a neuter or masculine noun instead, you would need des (and to add -(e)s to the end of the noun). For example: Ich lese die Zeitung des Mannes = "I read the man's newspaper".

            The declension pattern for articles just needs to be memorised. You can find it in tables in many places on the internet or in books.


            A lot of detailed explanations here, everything ok, but I have another bug: Duo requires 'Zeitung' to be translated as 'gazette' -?? What does it have to do with genitiv case? And since when are nesspapers and gazette so different??


              "Newspaper" is the top translation for Zeitung. When you make a mistake (like with your spelling just now), Duo seems to suggest a correct answer at random from its database - not always the top translation. Because other people like to suggest and report obscure yet correct translations, you may sometimes be offered an alternative that seems illogical.


              Does anyone here know of a good site to learn dativ and genenetiv cases with follow up exercises?


              Why doesn't Duo allow I'm for I am


              is it the same as i read the womans newspaper? as in her newspaper?


              I have typed in the correct answer twice and Duo insists on saying 'Oops. That's not right'


              Copy and paste your answer into your comment so there is a possibility we can see what the problem is.


              The exact translation shown above generated an error message for me. and in previous parts of this lesson I was marked wrong for using the correct apostrophe placement in English. In one case I was told that "grandparent's house" and "grandparents' house" would both be wrong; the correct translation is "Grandparents House" (which is impossible in correctly punctuated English. I understand being lenient about apostrophes, but marking correct answers wrong is a problem.


              Does 'Ich las die Zeitung der Frau' translate the same?


              Why can't it be "the newspaper of the woman"


              'Ich' is not pronounced clearly for woman voice in ori speed.


              I read the wife's newspaper was not accepted


              Why does Duo not allow "the newspaper of the woman"?


              who has programmed this course? another correct solution rejected


              Your answer was incorrect.


              How do you know this is supposed to be vorlesen and hence the dative?


              It is not vorlesen and hence is in the genitive case.


              This sentence literally means "I am reading the newspaper the woman" and it should have both translations (reading her newspaper [belongs to her] & reading it to her)


              Der Frau could be either dative or genitive case when standing by itself. But it isn't standing by itself. There is a verb in the sentence which determines what the action is. The action is reading (lesen) not reading aloud (vorlesen).

              Since the subject is reading silently, he cannot be reading to her (dative). Therefore der Frau must be genitive feminine. He is reading the newspaper that belongs to her. He is not reading it to her because the verb is lesen not vorlesen.


              Why is it der and not die?


              See my explanation above.


              Why I read the wife's newspaper is wrong?


              That has already been answered.

              If you specifically want to say "wife" without saying whose wife it is, you need to use Ehefrau.


              Can this mean "I read the newspaper to the woman?"


              As mentioned in a previous post, the verb for reading aloud is not lesen but is vorlesen. That means that even though the form of article allows reading to the woman, the verb itself does not. Thus the dative option is eliminated.


              it cannot be ''i read the woman's newspaper''. I mean the exercise is about dativ. so it should mean: i read the newspaper to the woman. Right?


              The lesson is about understanding the dative case. It is not simply a bunch of examples that obviously use the dative case. This example requires you to understand the dative case both in German and English enough to realize that it is not actually dative even though it looks like it might be.

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