"Er hat aufs Sofa geschrieben."

Translation:He wrote on the sofa.

January 31, 2013

This discussion is locked.


Does any one know if this means he was sitting on the sofa writing or that he was writing on the sofa itself?


It is the sofa itself. If we were sitting on the sofa, it would have been "Er hat auf dem Sofa geschrieben."


Thank you very much - I thought it meant onto. Must be an errant child they're referring to...


No reason it couldn't be an errant adult. ;)


maybe it's some sort of art installation with a sofa made out of paper, to showcase how we are all owned by our things.


Genau meine ist zehn Jahre alt


Oh, cool! In English, that distinction is not so clearcut.


I translated it as "He has written onto the sofa" in order to capture just that distinction but it was marked wrong... :-/


That doesn't work in English.



The real issue here (inasmuch as we're trying to learn German, not English) is what the German sentence means.

And what strikes me here is that it appears that German has an easy and natural way of expressing a distinction that - at best - is not so easily and naturally expressed in English: we don't have the cases and perhaps not the words for it.

Which does not mean, I hasten to add, that Bobby should get away with writing auf das Sofa.


I am a native English speaker, and I disagree. "Onto" generally indicates direction--you can move onto a sofa, but you would sit on it, stand on it, or write on it. See, for example, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/onto


@snbutler: I definitely wouldn't say "No, he has written onto the sofa". It just isn't correct English. Instead, I would emphasise the on - "No, he has written ON the sofa".


I'm English too :)

I know onto indicates movement but so does the use of the accusative case in this German sentence, which is precisely why I used it as a literal translation. The ink moves from the pen onto the sofa. As I said, I agree that it's not conventional English and not the way that you would usually say this in English. You can, however, resort to it to make the distinction clear.


-- "Bobby's been writing on the sofa again."

-- "So? He's probably more comfortable there than at his desk."

-- "No, I mean he's written onto the sofa."

It does work. Here, the German sentence wants us to understand that it's "auf das" not "auf dem". Using the slightly clumsier and more awkward English construction lets you demonstrate that in my opinion. As I said, I guess it depends on what you think Duolingo is asking you to do.


It does. It's just not terribly conventional because we usually make this distinction from context or with an extra qualifier (e.g., "He wrote on the sofa itself").

If you want to explain the distinction between "auf dem Sofa" and "auf das Sofa" to a native English speaker, however, it works pretty well.

The question is whether Duolingo wants to test whether the user understood the German or whether they can produce a good English translation. In the case of ambiguous translations like this, the two aren't necessarily the same.

My answer, I'd argue, demonstrates that I understood the case being used but it doesn't mean I would necessarily say it that way in English. I've frequently found that to the best approach to use when answering questions on here.


Definitely not! I censored the rest of that conversation for poor Bobby's sake ;)

Somebody else clearly disagrees though because my posts have been voted down and now our conversation is all out of order. Ah well!


Seriously :) if someone had written on my sofa, proper grammar would be the last thing on my mind.


It does technically work in english, but holds quite a different meaning. The implication being that writing was being done on another surface and has transferring onto the sofa.

Imagine someone writing on a piece of paper on the sofa and whatever they're writing is so long they continue writing off the page and onto the sofa.

Another alternative would be a similar situation but using thick ink on thin paper, where the next seeps through the page and onto the sofa.


Same! I like to do that too, just to remind myself it's the accusative form and accusative means direction.


For English, it's either 'He wrote while on the sofa,' or 'He wrote on the sofa.'


How do you know if he wrote about "a" sofa or "the" sofa?


Aufs = auf das (on the). Auf ein Sofa would denote on "a" sofa.


This discussion is now so long that the software will not let me append a comment below! Anyhow, my solution is simply "He has written upon the sofa". That is standard English and indicates that the writing was performed with the unfortunate sofa as the writing pad.


Hmm, interesting - but it doesn't sound right to me, and I don't find that distinction in either Merriam-Webster or Oxford. It would appear that one can translate this sentence from German to English, but not from English to German - at least not reliably.


is 'aufs' a new word ?


It's "auf das".

  • 2731

Lots of "on to" and "upon" comments. I'm an American English speaker and would handle it like this: "He wrote on the sofa." "You mean he wrote while sitting on the sofa?" "No, I mean he wrote ON the sofa!"


And to avoid the question in the other sense: "He was on the sofa writing." Not the same tense, but still in the past and clear that he wasn't writing on the sofa... "He wrote on the sofa," can clearly go both ways with context necessary to make the distinction. Idn't dis fun?


The upside of this ambiguity is that somewhere a pun is lying in wait, waiting to be discovered :)


Puns: nature's little gut punchers. Without them, some folks would get no abdominal exercise. ^.^


Perhaps it was meant to suggest that he wrote the phrase 'on the sofa' . .?


So the difference is between "auf das" and "auf dem"? Whew!


Could anyone explain why we use Akk. here instead of Dat.? I thought that auf required accusative with movement only, and we're not going anywhere here, are we...?


See the first two comments in the discussion. They answer your question, I think.


Unfortunately, I still don't understand how Schreiben auf implies movement, hence the accusative..


Because in this case, ink is being transferred from the pen onto the sofa. "Schreiben auf dem Sofa" still implies movement of ink, but not to the Sofa.


A way of checking whether it is dative or accusative: If the preposition can be used with just the subject, it is dative, if it can't it's accusative. For example: "The sensible adult has written their report on the sofa"– you could say "the sensible adult on the sofa". But… "The naughty child has scribbled graffiti onto the sofa" – you can't say "the naughty child onto the sofa", it doesn't make sense.

This is only a rule of thumb so naturally there are exceptions. (Für is one exception – you could say "the letter for the Prime Minister" which would be der Brief für den Premierminister)


It's not just movement in itself but movement towards something, that calls for the accusative case. So, graffiti being written on the sofa would be 'aufs Sofa' but writing a letter, say, whilst on the sofa would be 'auf dem Sofa' as the sofa is not the recipient of the movement of the writing implement.


Why akk ? Wo hat er geschreiben? Wouldnt that fit better than wohin?


Wo hat er geschrieben? would also work and would ask where the person was when the writing took place.

Worauf hat er geschrieben? asks for the destination of the writing, as it metaphorically moves from your mind through your hand onto a surface.


Perhaps it was meant to suggest that he wrote the phrase 'on the sofa' . .?


does that mean he actually wrote on the sofa like he ruined it or he sat on the sofa to write?


It means that the ink/graphite/whatever crayons are made from etc. from his pen/quill/pencil/crayon etc. ended up on the sofa. He may have been sitting on the sofa or not, and he may have ruined it, or he may have improved it; all we know is that the ink etc. from his pen etc. ended up on the sofa in the shape of letters (or some other writing system), and this was the intention of an unidentified male.

  • 1053

Why "aufs" and not "an das"?


I suppose a couch is considered one surface that you write "on", even though parts of it are not horizontal but rather vertical.


This sentence is very confusing. There is no physical movement for himself though. Why is it accusative here? I understand there is movement for the ink to be on the Sofa from the forum discussions. However, there is always movement for the ink if there is any writing.


Because the 'movement' the sentence is capturing is the transferral of ink to the sofa, specifically. If it was "auf dem Sofa" the 'action' the sentence would be capturing is the action of sitting in one spot, on the sofa, whilst writing (but the writing is not the point of the sentence, the thing the speaker is pointing out is that the subject immobile, sitting, and happens to be writing). But since it's "aufs (split into 'auf das') sofa," we know that the information the speaker is trying to portray is in the Akkusativ case, which means whoever is doing the writing is indeed NOT just sitting there, immobily writing, he is, in fact, writing auf das Sofa (his writing utensil is leaving marks on the sofa.)


I think that the sentence is written with the direct object (auf das sofa, which received some action) not as as an adverb (auf dem sofa, as a place). Those endings make a big difference!


Warum nicht: Auf dem Sofa?


what aufs supposed to mean? auf das?


Yes, aufs is a contraction of auf das.


I put, "He had written on the sofa", could somebody explain why this is wrong please.


I put, "He had written on the sofa", could somebody explain why this is wrong please.

Because you used the wrong tense -- "he had written" would have been er hatte geschrieben, but this sentence has er hat geschrieben = "he has written / he wrote".


He has written on the sofa

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