"My uncle has walked on that street."

Translation:Mein Onkel ist auf der Straße gelaufen.

September 15, 2017

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Why does "auf" trigger dative in this case? Doesn't "laufen" count as an active verb?


auf takes the dative case here because it describes the location of the action laufen -- the walking took place entirely on the street.

auf + accusative is used for destination of motion, i.e. auf die Straße laufen = to run (out) onto the street.

So whether there is motion or not is irrelevant to dative versus accusative; it's whether the place is the destination or target of motion that's relevant for choosing accusative. Dative is used for location, whether it's the location of some movement or the location of something that is not moving.


  • Der Marathonläufer rennt ins Stadion. "The marathon runner runs into the stadium." (The stadium is the destination of motion; the motion started outside the stadium.)
  • Der Marathonläufer rennt im Stadion. "The marathon runner runs in the stadium." (The stadium is the location of motion; the motion takes place entirely inside the stadium.)


So, in German, how would the distinction be made between "My uncle has walked on that street" and "My uncle has walked on the street"?


In speech, by stressing the word das when it means "that", and not stressing it when it means "the".

In writing, you can't tell the difference, of course, but it's perhaps not that big a difference.

A bit more colloquially, you could also say (and write) auf der Straße da to mean "on that street", to distinguish it from "this street" or "the street". (Or auf der Straße dort for one that's further away.)


I'm confused. ist...gelaufen is using the conjugated present tense of sein, which makes it the Perfekt or conversational past, right? Which translates as "walked". Saying "HAS walked" is the Plusquamperfekt or PAST perfect which uses the conjugated PAST tense of sein, so shouldn't it be "Mein Onkel WAR auf der Straße gelaufen"?



Saying "HAS walked" is the Plusquamperfekt or PAST perfect

No, it is not -- "he has walked" is present perfect (formed with the present tense of "to have").

Past perfect would be "he had walked" (formed with the past tense of "to have").

"he has walked" = er ist gelaufen

"he had walked" = er war gelaufen

English past perfect (pluperfect) corresponds to German Plusquamperfekt, and vice versa.

English present perfect corresponds to German Perfekt, but not necessarily vice versa -- as you note, German Perfekt can also correspond to English simple past.

So Er ist gelaufen can be either "he walked" or "he has walked", depending on context.

(Sometimes, even English speakers do not agree on this -- for example, "Did you ever smoke a cigarette?" sounds wrong to me; I would expect "Have you ever smoked a cigarette?" with present perfect in connection with "ever". But I believe that some native speakers can use the simple past with "ever".)


mizinamo, "Did you ever [verb] [object]?" is a special class of expressions in English that can use the past in the form of did see, did taste, etc., instead of the present perfect. This usage is presumably classified as colloquial.

In Duolingo there is always this quandary, especially when taking a "skip level" test, whether to use laufen , gehen, or spazieren gehen for "walk." I think of gehen as either "go" or "walk," laufen as either "walk" or "slow run," and rennen as faster running. But Duo's responses have always seemed inconsistent and thus unpredictable.

Gehen vs. spazieren gehen seems to depend on whether it's one person just trying to get from A to B or someone (better yet more than one) exercising or having an experience. But whether getting from A to B on foot can be called gehen and/or laufen seems to depend on whether Duo is on his meds.

To assure Duo that I'm saying "walking" in German, I decided to re-introduce the possibly outdated expression zu Fuß gehen. I wrote and Duo rejected: "Mein Onkel ist auf dieser Straße zu Fuß gegangen." I expected rejection, since I have never seen zu Fuß gehen on Duolingo. (I'm near the end of the test and still have or had 3 hearts.) I reported that my answer should be accepted.

Should "Mein Onkel ist auf dieser Straße zu Fuß gegangen." be accepted?


I think not -- it sounds odd to me in that context.


Searching for examples online, I've found "Wir gehen lieber zu Fuß." and "Zu Fuß dauert der Weg ins Stadtzentrum ungefähr 20 Minuten."

I wonder if "zu Fuß gehen" used to be used more commonly to distinguish walking from other forms of going. Perhaps people who could say "Ich gehe zu Fuß nach Hause," today simply say "Ich gehe nach Hause."

Does "zu Fuß" strike you as a common or uncommon expression?


Searching for examples online, I've found "Wir gehen lieber zu Fuß." and "Zu Fuß dauert der Weg ins Stadtzentrum ungefähr 20 Minuten."

Those are fine.

Does "zu Fuß" strike you as a common or uncommon expression?

Reasonably common, if you want to specify walking -- Das Auto ist kaputt; wir müssen zu Fuß gehen sounds better to me than simply Das Auto ist kaputt; wir müssen gehen which sounds odd to me. Das Auto ist kaputt; wir müssen laufen could work, though.

Perhaps people who could say "Ich gehe zu Fuß nach Hause," today simply say "Ich gehe nach Hause."

The difference between those sounds to me like that between "I'm walking home" and "I'm going home" -- the first of those explicitly says that you are using your feet, the second one focusses on the destination, and the means of getting there is not considered important there.

So you could use zu Fuß when the "walking on foot" aspect is relevant.


mizinamo, Vielen Dank! Your input gives me a much better sense of how to incorporate "zu Fuß"into my repertoire of conversational German.

I have a fondness for the expression, because it seemed quite prevalent in my first semester of college German. My initial reaction to the ambiguity of laufen also lingers. The difference between running and walking is simple: in walking at no time are both feet off the ground, so in my view, there is no ambiguity between the two, and yet German, sterotypically a language of precision, manages to blur the line.

Laufen would add to our ability to readily make distinctions, if it meant alternating between walking and running, as one might do when on foot and about to be late. But that's not what it means, though it may include that.


Does German distinguish between walking in the area of the street where cars drive or walking on a sidewalk/pavement?


Why is [walked] on the beach "am [an dem] Strand", while [walked] on the street is "auf der"?


I believe it is the difference of how specific both sentences are, your example being 'the beach' (am Strand) and this one being 'that street' (auf der Straße) [dative]?


Is "Mein Onkel ist auf der Straße spazieren gegeangen." correct?


Okay, sorry, I don't quite get why it's not 'hat' rather than 'ist' - this does have something to do with the motion verb right?

I also don't understand why it's 'der' rather than 'das'. Surely it's a demonstrative right? It's not a definite article?


German doesn't make a distinction between demonstratives and the definite article.

Those used to be the same word in English as well, but split up into "that" (from the neuter form þæt) and "the" (from the masculine form se, with the initial consonant influenced by other forms such as þæt). German still has them the same, and so der, die, das can all mean "the" or "that" or even "this".

As for hat versus ist - while English uses "have" as the helping verb for the perfect tenses of all verbs, German uses haben for some but sein for others.

Generally, it's sein for intransitive verbs (those that can't take an object), in particular verbs of motion and verbs of changing state (become, die, be born, etc.).

Occasionally, which helping verb to use will vary; for example, stehen (to stand) has the past tense ich habe gestanden for me but people in the south might say ich bin gestanden instead. Or it may depend on whether the verb indicates deliberate movement from A to B or not (ich bin ans andere Ufer geschwommen "I swam to the other shore" versus gestern habe ich ein bisschen geschwommen "I swam a bit yesterday").


why is not "Mein Onkel ist auf DEN Straße gelaufen"?


Why do you think it could be den?

den is either masculine accusative singular or dative plural, but Straße is neither masculine nor plural, but feminine.

And since he walked "on" that street (location) rather than "onto" that street (destination of movement), you need the dative case after auf here, and so it's auf der Straße with feminine dative singular der.


Why is it "der Strasse" and not "die Strasse?"


dative case after auf indicating location (rather than destination of motion).


"the" or "that"?? Shouldn't it be "dieser"?


"the" or "that"?

Yes, der, die, das can mean "the" or "that".

Shouldn't it be "dieser"?

That would be "this" rather than "that".


Why is only "laufen" accepted for "walk" here, and not "gehen"?

Edit : Technically, "gelaufen" and "gegangen", but you know what I mean.


you know what I mean.

No we don't.

For all we know, you could have guessed that since laufen has gelaufen, gehen forms gegehen.

So please always ask about entire sentences.

There are accepted translations that include the word gegangen.

What exactly did you write that was not accepted?

If you have a screenshot, that would also help (you'd have to upload it somewhere and copy the link to it here.)


Well, I didn’t take a screenshot, and I’ve long since closed the browser window, but, unless I made a typo that I never saw, the sentence I typed was “Mein Onkel ist auf der Straße gegangen.”, and it told me I used the wrong word and presented the sentence with “gelaufen” instead of “gegangen”.


Auf der straße isn't just «on the street»? I thougth that we should use «auf diese straße» to correctly translate« on that street»


Auf der straße isn't just «on the street»?

That's right: it isn't just "on the street"; it could also be "on that street" or "on this street".

"the" (originally masculine) and "that" (originally neuter) split up into separate words in English, but in German, der, die, das still mean both "the" and "that" -- and sometimes even "this".

Also, Straße is a noun and has to be capitalised.

I thougth that we should use «auf diese straße» to correctly translate« on that street»


  • dies is "this", not "that"
  • auf to indicate location requires the dative case, not accusative: auf dieser Straße
  • Straße still has to be capitalised


Would the following sentence work also?

"Mein Onkel ist auf der Straße zu Fuß gegangen."

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