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Plain English please

I'm really enjoying Duo-lingo, but it does seem to be targeted at people who already know language and grammar jargon.

For me phrases such as:

"The accusative object is the receiver of the action of transitive verbs."

go straight over my head.

What is an accusative object? What is a transitive verb? The very short explanation and examples don't really help me.

Is it possible that we could have a section that explains in simple language what some of these terms actually mean, and not just a couple of examples, because at the moment I'm sort of ignoring the grammar lessons and learning things with practice by trial and error, which I expect will come back to bite me at some point.

It's a little ironic that I'm on here to learn a foreign language, and I'm asking for help in translating my own.

April 12, 2013



When I see that stuff I just Google it. Always works.


You could also use google/bing/duckduckgo or a dictionary before asking a question. Learning how to look for information on your own can make some of the complexer aspects of a language more accessible.


LOL, why didn't I think of that


A transitive verb is a verb that can take an object. The object is the thing acted on by the verb. Like, in the sentence "I buy fruit" - FRUIT is the object of the verb. This is a direct object, which is directly affected by the action of the verb.

Then again, if you say "I will buy my father some fruit" then the fruit is still the direct object, but MY FATHER is also affected by the action, but more indirectly. He is the indirect object.

In German, the direct object takes the Accusative case and is called Accusative object. And the indirect object takes the Dative case and is called Dative object.

These concepts are very helpful when learning languages, you won't regret learning them.

  • 3101

I really understand how you feel, grammar is troublesome, but I'm not sure Duolingo can reasonably be expected to teach us our own grammar in a complete enough way as well as the basics of a foreign language. That's probably a lot to ask. They have to assume some level of knowledge in their users, like basic reading skills, and they can't make up for all the shortcomings in knowledge of every user. Duolingo can't be a magic bullet or a one-stop language learning encyclopedia for every individual learner as much as we all might like that. I think maybe you should get a book about English grammar and refresh yourself if it's really such a bother for you, like maybe one of those "for dummies" books or something. I'm planning on doing that myself since my grammar is kind of weak.


You're right, it's time to hit the books, and take responsibility for my own learning.


Yes, we are going into a direction where we are definitely simplifying Duolingo's grammatical explanations (including the "tips & hints"). In the meantime, the language community in Duolingo in the discussion forum and the moderator's (green circle with star around profile picture) are of great help. Also, you can search directly for a grammatical term in the discussion forum if you put it in quotes. For example, looking for "accusative object" (with the quotes around the search term) will present you with great hits.


Although I agree with you, when it comes to the mentioned sentence I think learning grammatical terms will benefit your language learning as a whole as they parallel with many other languages. It will give more understanding of structure. When you come across a foreign term in another language and someone told you the grammar term, you would at least have an idea of how the word is used. I thought I knew English until I started learning other languages..if that gives you perspective. Either way, Duolingo should definitely explain these terms more or at least link to information that would be helpful regarding it


I emphasize with pctrollbreath, especially since I haven't dealt with this type of jargon in 30 years. Also, if I recall correctly, I learned it as simply subject, object, verb, indirect object, etc... Either that or the whole daitive, genitive, accusative, nominitive crap left my little brain years ago. However, now that I've been doing this for a few weeks, and am getting more comfortable with the jargon (which is a language in itself), I do appreciate the value in terminology and agree with Arnauti that learning this "language" is helpful with understanding the concepts of German language. For me, what it boils down to is that when I do internet research on why things are being done the way they are, the jargon language is consistent.


I completely agree. I am learning more about English grammar in my retirement study of Spanish than I ever did in school! I suspect there are native Spanish speakers who are using DL in reverse to improve their English. ?Correcto?


I know for sure that there are French speakers using Duo French to improve their English.

They are a valuable asset on the comments sections.


transitive verb: needs to express a doable action such as eat, want, kick, buy... and has to have an object receiving this action e.g. "an apple" can be eaten, wanted, kicked, bought...

accusative object: the object (in this case the apple) that is being acted upon (eaten, wanted, kicked, bought...) by the transitive verb

if you're learning German this may help: http://duolingo.com/#/comment/246046 I've used stupid grammery phrases but there's a list of simple questions to ask yourself to help you figure out which case to use


This is really useful, thank you


Glad you like it :D I also made a list of all the main gender rules that you might find useful - it is longer though (genders are fairly random but various endings or other attributes often let you work the gender out) http://duolingo.com/#/comment/244220



writes ..."The accusative object is the receiver of the action of transitive verbs."

I am a third of the way through French and I haven't seen anything remotely like that. In fact, most of the comments on the related comments pages complain about the lack of any grammar instruction of the type you reference.

There are complex grammar comments offered by students in the comments sections. Really difficult grammar postings are usually explained by other students and links given to corroborate and expand on their views.

The thing that I find amazing about Duo is that it is almost entirely about teaching the grammar without ever really mentioning it directly. They let students find what grammar they need when they need it by providing the means for it be found.


You don't really need to think about cases and direct/indirect when learning French though because they don't use case like in German. It's not that French doesn't have cases, but like in English, you don't really have to think a lot about them. In German, you do. Agree with you on how Duolingo is great at teaching grammar without mentioning it.


Personally, I'm coming around to the idea that publicly funded education should not let students into language classes until they have learned the basics through Duo or something similar.

Use the teacher/class setting for what it can do, that Duo can't, which is direct personal contact in the language in question. Don't use it to teach grammar and basic vocab when Duo does it better and for free.


I agree it might be nice to have a little preparatory page about these kinds of things, because knowing grammatical terms really does help in learning a language. Maybe even if we just had a mouseover like we do for target-language words - ie, mousing over "accustative object" could give a plain English definition.


I feel comforted and privileged being in the company of so many intelligent folk. It feels like watching a good documentary and I love it. Keep the comments coming, some folk learn by osmosis.


i ignore that stuff.


I did the Michel Thomas Italian course a while ago and at one point I remember him saying that by studying a foreign language it improves your awareness of the grammar of your native language. I have certainly found this to be true myself as have others in this discussion forum. I agree that books and other resources are needed to supplement our learning. We can't expect Duolingo to do everything though what it does is already beyond superlative. (Oh, there I go again - grammatical term!!) Speaking of books mine is called "Easy learning Italian Grammar" - that's one of those oxymoron things!


:) I'm the new owner "Easy learning German Grammar" .... I will learn this stuff!!!


!Por supuesto! D'accord! Hmm? _____(I haven't tried German)


I ran into this years ago (not saying how many) when I first started Spanish in jr. high. I had excellent English literature/writing teachers and l had no English grammar past the basics. I learned a lot about English grammar from studying the textbooks with their conjugation tables for every tense. At the college level, they included tenses I had never heard of in English. Duolingo is using a different approach, which I think will push me back to conversational level more quickly, but it lacks some of the technical whys and wherefores that may help us understand the structure of the language.

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