Subject - object

I was asked to translate "The woman sees the skirts." and the correct option was "Die Röcke sieht die Frau." doesn't eat mean that the skirt sees the woman?

May 1, 2012


Yes, there is. If "die Röcke" were the subject you would have to use the plural conjugation of the verb: 'die Röcke sehen die Frau'. If both of them were plural, 'die Röcke sehen die Frauen', then it becomes ambiguous. On first reading I would think the 'Röcke' were the subject, but since this doesn't make much sense, I'd end up interpreting the sentence in the other way. In such cases, German writers usually don't use the inversion.

May 3, 2012

javiernferraro, in English it is necessary to always have the subject before the object. Because German has noun cases (that's what Nominativ and Akkusativ are), it allows to swap places depending on what you want to emphasize. Nominativ means subject, Akkusativ means object. Wer sieht die Röcke? Die Frau sieht die Röcke. Wer sieht den Hund? Die Röcke sieht die Frau, nicht den Hund.

This is pretty hard to take in when coming from an English background, but you will get used to it eventually.

Also see another comment on emphasis:

May 1, 2012

Your analysis is correct. "If it was Rock it should have been "die Frau sieht den Rock" or "den Rock sieht die Frau", right?" Thats it. As a native german speaker I would like to add that the sentence "Die Röcke sieht die Frau." looks weird to me too. Without any context like "no, its not the trousers she is seeing" it feels wrong - though grammatically correct. If spoken (instead of written) the emphasis on "die Röcke" would avoid misunderstanding.

What might help you too: If I translate in the opposite direction I would translate like this: Die Frau sieht die Röcke. => The woman sees the skirts. Die Röcke sieht die Frau. => Its the skirts, the woman sees.

I hope that helped =)

November 20, 2012

ionuion is right. The most natural German sentence would be 'Die Frau sieht die Röcke' but you can use 'Die Röcke sieht die Frau' in order to emphasize that she's seeing skirts and not trousers. The complex German case system allows for considerable freedom in word order.

May 3, 2012

Röche is plural whilethe verb is third person singular ... otherwise (der Rock sieht die Frau) you may be right since the subject should come first ...

May 1, 2012

thanks for the answers.. i think what really messed me is the fact that die Röcke is a plural word, so its article is die for both nominativ and akkusativ, so as herrdoktor is saying.. if it was Rock it should have been "die Frau sieht den Rock" or "den Rock sieht die Frau", right? in the last case I understand "den" is akkusativ so the subject is die Frau and the object is der Rock... but in the plural.. is there a way to tell? die is the same in nominativ and akkusativ... or do I just have to think of the most logical answer?

May 3, 2012
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