"I put the cups on the table."

Translation:Ich stellte die Tassen auf den Tisch.

April 13, 2013

This discussion is locked.


Why would Tisch be in the accusative form here? Surely 'the table' is the noun benefitting from the action, whereas 'the cups' is the noun which the action is being dealt to. Shouldn't it be 'dem Tisch'?


Hello, sorry for activating such an old topic that you've shared the information sheet for, from what I see there is "Dative: Das Buch liegt auf dem Tisch. (The book's lying on the table.) The book is already at its destination and not moving. " So if, per say, this sentence was in past tense, would this be correct then: "Ich stellte die Tassen auf dem Tisch" ?


It wouldn't: it doesn't matter whether the object has reached its destination now or not, what matters is what "the table" represents in the sentence: is it the place where something is taking (or has taken or will take, depending on the time of account) place or is it the destination of a movement? Since, when you put something "on the table", you are moving from "not-on-the-table" having as a destination (the top surface of) the table―never used "table" so many times in a sentence before―, then you use "den Tisch". When something is on the table, the table is just the place where the action (or the state of existing, in this specific case) is taking place. I hope I was clear enough.


So... let me see if I have this right. If an object it moving towards the stationary table, the table is "den tisch." If, however, something is happening on the table, such as playing cards, the table is the place where the action is happening, and so it is "dem tisch?" Please tell me if this is right or if I've misunderstood (again...lol).



I'm not sure why you stress ‘stationary’ table though: the table doesn't move in either case and if it were to be moving, it wouldn't change anything in the usage of dative and accusative :P

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I think of it this way: is the table the location (dative), or the destination (accusative)?


Excellent info, thank you for the help. :)


Why "stelle" and not "stellte", since this is a Präteritum exercise?


Yes, it could be stellte - Ich stellte die Tassen auf den Tisch.


I think so, but it was not accepted


Accepted 7-22-2020


My point exactly n


Since this sentence could be understood as past tense, shouldn't "lag" be an acceptable conjugation?


It's a bit confusing in both languages, but no. English has various uses for the word "put" which is why it's probably confusing here. Keep in mind, I'm not a native, but here it goes.

setzen, stellen, legen, and liegen (where "lag" comes from) all have meanings roughing meaning to put something on something else, but in different ways. The same goes for English. But I'll explain the best I can. Also pay attention to the fact that some of these can be moved around and retain the same meaning (especially stellen and setzen).

This roughly means "to place", "to put", or "to set."
"I placed/put my foot on the stair." -> "Ich setzte mein Fuß auf die Treppe."

This means "to put" or "to place" vertically (the key word for stellen)."An example is this sentence. You are "putting down" the cups in a vertical fashion onto the table, so you "stellen" them. You don't put them down horizontally. (That would be weird, but I don't judge.)

This means "to lay down" or "to put" horizontally (the key word for legen).
"She had laid/put the plates on the table." -> "Sie hatte die Teller auf den Tisch gelegt."

This means "to lie (down)" in English and is intransitive (the key word for liegen) in both languages, meaning it cannot take an object such as "cups." It has the meaning to be still while being across/on something. Sounds weird, but here are two examples:
"We had lain next to each other." -> "Wir habe aneinander gelegen."
"I lie in bed the entire night." -> "Ich liege im Bett die ganze Nacht."

Hope this helps! It's all kinds of confusing; even in English. In fact, I had to look up using the correct "lay vs lie" when I was explaining this, just to be sure. From your end the confusion probably stems from the English "lay vs lie," while in German I've seen the "stellen vs legen" be more of an issue. It doesn't help that "lie" can conjugate into "lay" in the past tense or "lain" (which looks like it should be with "lie") for the past participle.


I'm sorry, but I think "liegen" and "sitzen" do not really have much in common with "to put"/"stellen". While saying that "to lie" is similar to "to put" is already a bit of a stretch, it is understandable because when used with "down" in English it can indicate a change of state, you could say if you lie down you are putting yourself in a lying position. "Liegen", however, doesn't work this way. Much like "sitzen" and "stehen" it only has a stationary meaning, when you liegst, there is no change of state: you are just lying (on the bed, on the sofa, etc.).

I would argue that there are three semantic categories in German: standing (being/putting something vertically) sitting, lying (as you say, being/putting something somewhere horizontally); all three have two verbs: one intransitive for position (stehen, sitzen, liegen) and one transitive for movement (stellen, setzen, legen), which can all be used reflexively.

Coincidentally, all three position verbs are strong (stehen-stand-gestanden, sitzen-saß-gesessen, liegen-lag-gelegen) and all three movement verbs are weak; this conjugational peculiarity, being Germanic in origin, exists in English too (stand-stood, sit-sat, lie-lay-lain). As a matter of fact, all these verbs except for stellen have an English cognate with similar meaning: lie-liegen, lay-legen, sit-sitzen, set-setzen, stand-stehen, but the English position forms can be used as phrasal verbs with prepositions to indicate movement: lie down (sich legen, but also sometimes used to just mean liegen to differentiate it from the lügen-lie), sit down (sich setzen), stand up (aufstehen, breaking the pattern, sich stellen doesn't indicate coming to a standing position, but simply positioning oneself somewhere in a standing position).

I hope I didn't come off as overbearing, I just meant to expand on your considerations.


I think you're trying to think a bit deeper than you should; but that's not necessarily a bad thing. You bring up some good points, but there are some things you have to keep in mind.

"All position verbs are strong...and all movement verbs are weak." This is purely coincidental from the examples I chose, but this is incorrect. For example, gehen (to go) is a movement verb, but is strong (Ich gehe, Ich ging, Ich bin gegangen); fahren (drive) can also be a movement and is strong (Ich fahre, Ich fuhr, Ich bin/habe gefahren); as well as all movement verbs that end in -ieren.

And although you touched up on it, a lot of these verbs go from stative to movement by turning them reflexive, e.g. setzen is stative, but sich setzen is a movement verb.

I personally wouldn't quite focus on trying to categorize German verbs in the way you did, but that's just me. This is simply just my opinion, but I would focus more on strong/weak or stative/movement (for the auxiliary verb and participle usage). But these just become natural over time.


(In response to your answer below)
I'm afraid I fail to see how setzen is focused on the end state any more than sich setzen is. If I say "Ich setze die Puppe auf den Tisch", am I not referring to my action that will bring about a change in the state of the doll? I would see the emphasis on the result if the sentence were "die Puppe sitzt auf dem Tisch", but as it is I don't see a different emphasis in "ich setze mich auf den Stuhl" and "ich setze die Puppe auf den Tisch", it seems to me that they are both referring to an action that changes the doll's state or mine from not-sitting-somewhere to sitting-somewhere.

About the perfect formation, I would like to argue that it is not so much about an instantaneous–continuous distinction. Rather, I believe verbs that use sein are the ones describing a change of state (or a movement, which is ultimately just a change of position) for the subject―like einschlafen, aufstehen, sterben, schwimmen, fahren, gehen and so on―, as opposed to verbs that indicate either a change/movement for the object―töten, erheben, stellen, fahren when used transitively, putzen―or that don't imply change at all―like schlafen, stehen, sitzen. Of course, as you say, that is the usual picture, but there are exceptions (like bleiben or sein, which, while both indicating a state, use sein for the perfect).


I see now how my words could be misleading, and I apologise, but I wasn't trying to make a broad categorisation of all German verbs, I was talking about these six verbs of "putting" and "staying" in particular (I have now tried to make it clearer in an edit).

To answer to your second point, while many German stative verbs might become achievement verbs under certain circumstances, "setzen" is clearly not one of them, in the sense that it isn't a stative verb to begin with. "Setzen" always—or at least in the most common acceptations, and I am sure there are some others which are not known to me—implies movement or change of state: if I put something somewhere, it wasn't there before, but now I've moved it there, if I "set words to music" ("einen Text in Musik setzen", Collins Dictionary example) the words weren't "in music" before but now they are, it is still a metaphorical movement.

This isn't my categorisation, by the way, this is the way that these six verbs are generally taught to English and Italian foreign learners (but I suspect also to most other European-language speakers), only the specific phrasing and some considerations are of my own conception. The list generally also includes the pair hängen (hängte, gehängt, "put" something in a hanging postion) – hängen (hing, gehangen, be in a hanging position), but I didn't mention them because they are more about the position of the recipient surface than that of the object being placed and English has the same verb too (although it doesn't make the weak-movement – strong-position difference that German does). Ultimately, though, which categorisation to focus on depends on the personal preference of the learner and as you say, with time it will come natural anyway.

I'm also curious as to what participle usage you are referring to.


No need to apologize. I understood what you were trying to get at. I'm all for debating languages and their intricacies, so it's fine by me.

I believe I misspoke when I was talking about verbs like setzen or rather didn't properly explain what I meant. You are correct in saying that they all imply movement at some point, whether that event is happening now or not. It's mostly about the transitivity of the verbs. I.e. setzen is transitive and sich setzen is intransitive. But the verbs also have different emphases. Setzen focuses on the final state of being placed or sitting while sich setzen focuses on the actual movement--which is what I think you were trying to get at.

As far as the participle usage, I was referring to how to properly form the past participle and the associated auxiliary verb. (i.e. haben or sein). Forming the participle is usually based on if it's a weak or strong verb and the auxiliary verb is usually based on if the verb is one of direct, instantaneous action (haben) or actual continuous movement (sein).

I hope this explains it better. Just be happy this isn't a language like Japanese where transitive/intransitive and action/stative is difficult to understand from a western language perspective.


That is excellent work to explain the subject to us and it is very much appreciated. If only our teachers could take the time and do that. Thank you!


why is "ich habe die Tassen auf dem Tisch gestellt" not correct?


Because two-way prepositions (which contain most prepositions indicating a position, like auf, an, unter, über, neben, in, hinter, vor, zwischen) take the dative (dem Tisch) when indicating the location where something is happening and the accusative (den Tisch) when indicating the destination of a movement. Since you are moving the cups from "not-on-the-table" onto the table, auf takes the accusative.


very helpful, thanks. so "die Tassen sind auf DEM tisch, weil ich habe die Tassen auf DEN Tisch gestellt." Richtig?


Stimmt. However, remember to put the conjugated verb at the end with subordinating conjunctions: "... weil ich die Tassen auf den Tisch gestellt habe". I have heard that weil and da are also being used with the main-clause order colloquially, but the prescribed form is still verb last.


Hinten is an adverb (hinter is a preposition). Just an observation.


Oops, sorry. Well spotted! “Hinter” is what I meant of course. “Hinten” looks so similar that it excaped a cursory review. Thanks for the correction.

Edited! :)


This is one of those sentences that in English could either be past or present.


The word "put" is both present and past tense, so either answer should be correct

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It has been reported here that "Ich stellte die Tassen auf den Tisch" was accepted as of 22Jul20.


In English, "put' can be used in the present OR past tense. Therefore, my translation was correct. I should not have been marked wrong!

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It has been reported here that "Ich stellte die Tassen auf den Tisch" was accepted as of 22Jul20.


Hooray - it's been a while since I had a problem with this, so I'm glad it's sorted


I've had exactly the same thing. It came up in a section on the past tense, so I put the translation into the past tense, only to be marked wrong! Who on earth puts a present tense sentence in a lesson on the past tense?!


German is very particular about the way things are "put" somewhere. Because the cup is perceived as being put vertically on the table (it's being put "standing" on the table) you use "stellen". If something were being put horizontally—like, say, a fork—you would use "legen" ("ich lege die Gabel auf den Tisch" = "I put/lay the fork on the table"). I've only personally seen "setzen" used when literally meaning "putting in a sitting position" ("ich setze das Kind auf den Tisch" = "I sit the child on the table"), but, looking it up in a dictionary, I see it can also refer to putting words down and positioning chess pieces. In any case you couldn't use it in either of the previous examples, because it would conflict with the objects' "standing" and "lying" positions, implying they were somehow "sitting".


Why "ich stelle die Tasse auf den Tisch" is not acceptable?

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Because the sentence calls for "cups," plural. "Die Tasse" is "the cup," singular. It should be "die Tassen."


Then in which way could this sentence be formulated in the singular? I wasn't able to understand why it does calls for "cups", necessarily.


The goal of the exercise is to translate the English sentence, and the English sentence unequivocally uses the plural ‘cups’, this is why the German translation needs to be in the plural too.

The singular version would be, as you say too: ‘I put the cup on the table’, ‘ich stelle die Tasse auf den Tisch’.


Some observations: 1. put can mean stelle/setze OR stellte/setzte 2. Both "stellen" and "setzen" mean "put" in this context and should be accepted.


Just one question - in a section dealing with the past tense, why does it suddenly jump to the present tense? I put 'Ich stellte' (past tense), only to be told it should have been 'Ich stelle' (present tense). As the whole lesson is about the past tense, it seems very odd to be marked as wrong and told I should have used the present tense!


I put 'ich stellte' and was marked correct, but told I could also have been correct if I put 'ich stelle'. Weird, as you say!


Perhaps it's been corrected in one of the recent updates, I hope! As there's no way of telling which tense it's in with no context, either should be right, as in your case.


2 way prepositions >_


This is not a preterite question although came to me in such category. I believe it is because "put" is also present in addition to preterite


This is exactly what tripped me up. I translated it as preterite and was told it should have been present tense. Odd in a section on preterite tense.


I was always taught at the university that AUF was followed by Dativ.

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If so, you should ask for your money back. Auf is a two-way preposition, which is a pretty basic concept.

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