As an english speaker I think "Er passt in das Auto" means "He fits into the car".
It seems more likely. Since "in" can get the acusative when there is movement to a destination....
Yes, but I think that "into" is British English. This platform here usually uses American English.
(I am a German speaker)
"Into" is most certainly used in America. It often has a connotation of motion toward(s).
Are you a native American English speaker or a native German speaker? I ask because if you are a native German speaker, can you tell me if the sentence means a) "He is capable of fitting in the car" (i.e. he is is not too tall/fat) or b) right now he is getting into the car or c) ... something else?
I am confused. I was under the impression that in+accusative indicates the direction of motion (into) while in+accusative indicates location (inside). He either fits or he doesn't inside the car. Why is this direction and not location?
At first: My English is bad, sorry!
in+accusative indicates the direction < You are right!
Er passt in das Auto. That means the direction in general! He is not in the car yet. It means he could get into the car. The car is big enough for him. I hope I could express my opinion correctly.
Also it is about the verb, here "passen". It is indeed related to "to pass" which had originately the idea of A going past B. But this idea changed a bit to B letting A past, or better A fullfilling the criteria for being let past. In this case, A (he) has the right size to come past the obstructions set by B (the car). But you still have the grammatical reminder that the idea is him moving past this obstacle into the car, hence the accusative. "To fit" has a different heritage without a German brother so it works differently.
Anyway, the difference should not be "direction" vs "location" but "target of action" (accusative) vs "location of action" (dative). Your wording is not wrong but it might confuse in such contexts like here. The car is definitely his target for fitting inside and not where he fits around in (whatever that should mean).
I hope I could be of help.
Ja. Sie können es leicht mit der Frage überprüfen: "Er passt in wen oder was (= Akkusativ)?"
In der Lösung steht "das Auto" im Akkusativ. Dies ist korrekt, wie man mit der Testfrage "Er passt in wen oder was?" überprüfen kann.
Anders wäre es zum Beispiel im Satz "Er sitzt in dem Auto". Hier ist "dem Auto" Dativ. Dies kann man mit der Testfrage "Er sitzt in wem?" überprüfen.
The sentence or thought makes sense in both languages, if properly translated from one to the other. The sentence means he fits in the car. He is not too tall or fat, etc. Consequently, English-speakers learning German expect the German translation to use the dative "in dem Auto," because no action is happening. But the German idea of fitting in the car is that he is ABLE to fit INTO the car, the ACTION is possible, and thus Germans use the accusative: "in das Auto."
No, you can't say "Er passt im Auto". Like BrandonRemeika wrote, dative is used to say where you are (position), accusative tells you where you go (direction). (This is the general rule with many exceptions ...)
In this case the question is whether it's possible for him to go into the car, so you say "Er passt in das Auto" or "Er passt in das Auto hinein." Even if the person already sit in the car, you can't use the dative, because you think about the way how he went in.
(I hope my English is understandable ...)
Your English is perfect.
My German is not, and I keep thinking that the dative should be allowed here. I mean, you can say that the cup is on the table (which would be dative in German), but since tables do not generally come with cups on them, you would still imply that the cup had to arrive there (which would require the accusative case).
Or to speculate upon the original scenario, let's say he is able to cram himself into the car, but he can't sit comfortably because he is too tall and he has to hold his head sideways. Then he fits into the car (he can move from outside of it into its interior, and close its door) but he still doesn't fit once he's inside. Wouldn't that usage require the dative?
First of all:
I am a native speaker of German and also learn English with difficulty. Please forgive my mistakes! ;-)
The concrete facts are important in this sentence! (The context.)
"Er paßt in das Auto" can mean that he fits into the car, but also that he can sit comfortably in it!
If you want to use the dative necessarily, you have to say: "Er passt zum Auto." or "Das Auto passt zu ihm."
"Er passt im Auto" That is wrong!
This would mean something would fit in (inside) the car. A hat, for example. There's a man sitting in the car with a hat on. The hat fits him in the car. (Der Hut (Er) passt ihm im Auto.)
I hope I made myself clear.
I am no native but I believe this is correct. One can say this once the person is already in the car (ie Look, he fits in the car!), meaning no motion, meaning dative. One could also say this in general (ie, he is capable of getting in the car) but this still doesn't imply the actual motion of doing so. It's just a fact about him. The only thing that makes sense to me here is "in dem." If it was "he gets into the car" then yeah, it would be accusative and therefore "in das".
I made the same mistake (using the dative). Think of "passen" as a special case. The German point of view is that he is able to get into the car, to get or MOVE past the obstacles to his getting into it, and thus takes the accusative, even if the sentence is said after he is comfortably sitting in the car. This may seem illogical to us, but it's their language. We have to learn to use the accusative.