https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoieB54

Struggling with when to use "den"

I've just completed two questions in the same German lesson and I'm confused. The two sentences are: "Die Frau isst den Apfel" (The woman eats/is eating the apple.) "Du isst das Brot" (You eat/are eating the bread.)

I understand that this has to do with accusative case, but what I don't understand is that in the first sentence, the apple (if I understand correctly) has an "action" from the woman eating the apple, and therefore, you use "den" instead of "der."

But in the second sentence, it seems to me that the difference is only in who is acting on what: "You are eating the bread," so why isn't it "Du isst den Brot" instead of "Du isst das Brot"?

I hope someone will help with this - I have struggled so much with this one problem from the time it was introduced. Thanks in advance!

November 30, 2018

21 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/npLam

der words (like Apfel) become den in the accusative, but das words (like Brot) remain das.
:)

November 30, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoieB54

Oh! Okay - thank you so much!

November 30, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Andu444

In both cases it's accusative. The difference is that the first word is masculine, the second word is neuter. So the accusative of 'der Apfel' is 'den Apfel', the accusative of 'das Brot' is also 'das Brot'. For a feminine word like 'die Suppe' it would also stay 'die Suppe'.

November 30, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/germannnoob

Only masculine words change to 'den'

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Daniel828637

I just wanted to add that you will also use "den" for plural nouns in the dative. Zum Beispiel:

Ich habe den Männern den Apfel gegeben. I gave the men the apple.

Ich werde meinen Mitarbeitern helfen. I will help my coworkers.

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/npLam

Ich habe den Männer den Apfel gegeben

I think that's Männern in the dative plural.
: )

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AdamKean

For anyone mistaking npLam's modesty for uncertainty -- it is "Männern" because it is the dative plural.

If a plural doesn't end in "s" or already end with an "n", you can put a thick wedge of notes on it getting an "n" stuck on the end in the dative.

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/npLam

: )

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Daniel828637

Vielen Dank. Ich habe meinen Fehler total übersehen. (Offenbar muss ich die n-deklination mehr üben.) Ich werde den Satz korrigieren. :-)

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sea-mist

I may be wrong but I think "only" the masculine changes in the accusative. I'm still too getting my head around the cases.

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GrottenOelmi

I mean absolutely no offense here, but that seems like a rather basic question for someone at level 21 in the tree. Do you use any outside sources like course books or grammar websites to study German?

November 30, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sea-mist

I'm at level 18 here and still learning basic case stuff. They say at this site that one doesn't need the tips and notes but I found that certainly was not true and I wish I had used them from the start as I then probably would be far further ahead at understanding the cases. I've only been reading the tips and notes for about the past month.

To start understanding these better I've also gone to studying up on these from other places too but it takes me longer than most to absorb new info so dublingo did not do me a favour by suggesting not to be using the notes from the tips and notes start and suggesting not to do that.

It's probably going to take me another 4-6 weeks to catch up on what I should know by now as I just did not pick this up how this all worked through doing the exercises AT ALL.

This is cut and pasted what Duolingo says right at the start of their notes and tips and now why I'm so far behind my understanding of things.

"Skill: Basics-1 Welcome to German :) Welcome to the German course! We will provide you with tips and notes throughout the course. However, be aware that these are optional. Only read them when you feel stuck, or when you are interested in the details. You can use the course without them.

Often, it's best to just dive into the practice. See how it goes! You can always revisit the Notes section later on."

I had been doing the lessons by memorizing them but with no understandings of what was going on at all with the cases, cause I was just going by memory of certain lines I had learnt, I did even realise what I was lacking and needing to know. It was not till I tried to chat in German to others did I realise I understood nothing on cases.

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Gail616867

OMG. I just went back and found the "tips and notes". I never realized what that button was!! banging my head on my keyboard

December 2, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fehrerdef
Mod
  • 1063

congrats

February 26, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AdamKean

Da möchte ich dir zart zustimmen.

Zwar darf man hier natürlich jede Frage stellen, aber wie gesagt, sollte man mittlerweile mit Level 21 (A) idealerweise diese Frage selber beantworten können oder mindestens (B) einige Quellen gefunden haben, die einem mit so einer Wissenslücke helfen können?

Canoo, Duden, Deutsch für Euch & Easy German sind u.a. die wichtigsten und besten online Quellen, denen ich begegnet bin und die mich am weitesten gebracht bzw. mir am meisten weitergeholfen haben.

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoieB54

Hello and thank you, GrottenOelmi, sea-mist and AdamKean and all the others who have so graciously answered my question (and in advance to those who may do so after I post this)!

I should explain that I have had the "tree" switched a few times since I began, and in the beginning, I didn't feel the need to completely finish one set of lessons without jumping into the next set of lessons - so even though I didn't have a strong grasp of the nominative, dative, and accusative, I moved on to more lessons.

GrottenOelmi, you're right, it IS a basic question, but although I did say that I've been struggling with this since the beginning, I definitely understand why you'd ask this! I think that the fact that I went from one lesson to the next in the beginning without getting a good grasp on it did not do me any favors in the long run. Since then, I have gone back to the beginning, even though I had made it into the fifth tier of the tree in lessons. I've now gone back into tier 1, going one by one through the lessons so that I can completely finish all lessons in one subject before I move on. It's slower, but I'm doing better. Sea-mist, thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement and yours too, AdamKean. I have also been studying two other languages, and so I have not been spending as much time on my German as I should have in order to get this memorized. And I also have just begun to look more closely at the tips and notes, and I go to as many websites as I can to try to learn as much as possible. AdamKean, I have bookmarked all the dictionary/grammar sites you mentioned, and subscribed to the two YouTube sites. I have lots of pages bookmarked already, but I had none of those. Vielen Dank!

I have to say that, embarrassing as it is to be at level 21 and have such a basic question, I'm really glad I asked it, as there are some wonderful explanations here and some great examples. Just from reading what I've seen here, I'm already realizing when to use den, and not making as many mistakes. I really appreciate everyone's help! Thank you all for all the great tips and examples! I've given lingots all around!

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GrottenOelmi

I have to say that, embarrassing as it is to be at level 21 and have such a basic question

It was certainly not my intention to make you feel embarrassed. I'm just saying that, while Duo is a great tool to practise language and specifically vocabulary in context, I don't think it's paticularly great at teaching grammar. A well structured, well paced course book is a worthy investment for any language you want to get serious about. I'm sure I would be at a complete loss in the Polish tree if I had no prior knowledge about the grammar from a course I did a few years back.

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoieB54

Oh no, please - it wasn't you that embarrassed me, I'm just embarrassed that I've gotten to such a level and still am feeling unsure of something so basic. While I can't really afford to get a book, I have many sites bookmarked online - I just need to utilize them better! :-)

December 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Katie-LR

It's so nice to see such friendly and respectful interactions on the internet! Joie I took German lessons while living in Germany a few years ago and never go the hang of the cases and tenses! It's not necessarily a simple thing. But I am learning that it's more important to ask and feel silly than not ask and be silly, so thank you for helping me with that lesson in such a gracious way!

December 2, 2018
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