1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. "Der Hund gibt den Apfel eine…

"Der Hund gibt den Apfel einem Mann."

Translation:The dog is giving the apple to a man.

July 12, 2013



To me, this sentence seems to say "The dog gives the apple a man" ...


einem Mann is dative case which indicates the indirect object, often the receiver of some action.
den Apfel is accusative case which indicates the direct object, e.g. the item given away.

If you're concerned about the position of the objects with respect to each other:
There is a tendency that the indirect object is placed in front of the direct object when both are noun phrases. On the other hand, this tendency is overruled by another tendency to place definite phrases before indefinite phrases.


Is "Der Hund gibt einem Mann den Apfel." simply incorrect, or does it just give a different emphasis, or just not the order it it would most commonly be expressed in?


That's a tough one.
While I'm not aware of any rule that prevents this word order – i.e. I've only found mentions of “tendencies” that call for the other word order and no mentions of “rules” – it sounds rather strange to me. If both objects are at the end of the sentence, when none of them are pronouns I'd always put the definite object in front. I assume that this “tendency” has a rather high priority. But this is just my personal impression.


I've read on wikipedia a rule who says: "The Dative object should comes first and the Accusative object second". I am confused: should I completely determine it from the articles (den/einem) and forget about the positioning?


If the articles or endings show the case, that's always the most reliable predictor of meaning.

For example, Den Hund beißt der Mann. can only mean that the man is biting the dog.

Only in cases such as Die Katze beißt das Mädchen where die and das could both be either nominative or accusative is word order also important as a hint, especially in writing where you can't determine word stress.


My teacher in school says the same to thing, l am really confused


Vielen Dank binweg :)


Canoo's address has changed, so the link in binweg's post above about the position of the objects with respect to each other should be: http://www.canoonet.eu/services/OnlineGrammar/Satz/Wortstellung/Stellungsfeld/Mittelfeld/Objekt.html?lang=en


That's not the only strange sentence I found here too. One day I found a sentence saying like a "baby is showing the skirt to the aunt". How these can be real? Regardless being an exercise, it should of be more real. Perhaps they want us to get confused and answer correct whatever the sentence says? In any case, lol!


Agree.. same with the given example


Your explanation helped me until I came across this other example "Er gibt einer Dame den Apfel" where the definite phrase comes after the indefinite phrase. Now I'm confused. Can anybody help?


Thank you, this was a light bulb moment for me! I had a similar question regarding position of dative and accusative objects in the previous question and NOW it FINALLY makes sense! Normally dative goes before accusative, but now it makes sense when it gets switched for the definite, indefinite.


I think in the case of Dative, the Definite phrases comes first before the indefinite phrases Definite are Der, Das, Die, And indefinite are Ein, Eine, Ein.


The rule I learned for the ordering of direct and indirect objects is fairly simple: Indirect objects precede direct objects unless the direct object is a personal pronoun. Thus this sentence should be written Der Hund gibt einem Mann den Apfel. However if den Apfel were replaced by ihn the sentence would be written Der Hund gibt ihn dem Mann.

This information is comes from three older grammars but also appears to be consistent with the Dartmouth grammar review web site. Is this in fact incorrect?


In general this rule is fine, but there are some exceptions that it doesn't take into account. E.g. it's common to place the definite object (der etc. / the) in front of indefinite object (ein etc. / a).

„Der Hund gibt den Apfel einem Mann.“ – “The dog is giving the apple to a man.”
„Der Hund gibt dem Mann einen Apfel.“ – “The dog is giving the man an apple.”


Are you sure of that definite/indefinite object thing? Why didn't they include that among the tips?


However, DL has this sentence as well: "Er gibt einer Dame den Apfel."

Perhaps the word order is not so strict, or depends on what is to be emphasized?


If it helps, I think the definite/indefinite object thing might apply to English as well.

To me, "I'm giving the man an apple" sounds better than "I'm giving an apple to the man."

But, "I'm giving a man the apple" sounds worse than "I'm giving the apple to a man."


I thought that the word order was: Subject -- Verb -- Indirect Object -- Direct Object (The dog) -- (is giving) -- (the man) -- (an apple) (Der Hund) -- (gibt) -- (einem Mann) -- (den Apfel)

I am a bit baffled by this as in this situation it appears to be: Subject -- Verb -- Direct Object -- Indirect Object (The dog) -- (is giving) -- (the apple) -- (to a man) (der Hund) -- (gibt) -- (den Apfel) -- (einem Mann)

Can anyone explain?


Please check the answer to the similar question by kfdaugherty above.


So, "einem" means "to a"?


No. ein is a indefinite article like the English a without any preposition to it. That article has to be inflected depending on the number and gender of the noun. In this sentence ein Mann is used as the indirect, dative object. Even the inflection doesn't enforce a specific preposition.

Often the indirect object is the „recipient“ of of an action, so you could often write to… in front of it. But the meaning really depends on the verb:

„Er stiehlt dem Mann den Hut.“ – „He steals the hat from the man.“


The notes say dative before accusative if both nouns are present. So why is this different?


The notes say dative before accusative if both nouns are present.

That is indeed the general rule.

So why is this different?

New information can be emphasised by putting it at the end of a sentence.

So sometimes you may see sentences with the dative at the end, if it's new information. Indefinite nouns are usually new, definite ones ("the X, my Y, ...") are usually old information.

So you may sometimes see sentences with the dative at the end -- and this kind of sentence teaches you to recognise them and translate them correctly.

When you form your own sentences, it's safest to put the dative first if both dative and accusative objects are noun phrases.


Mizinamo, I always appreciate your answers. They are thorough and clear. Danke!


I totaly agree with you! Mizinamo❤️


Could you not say "Der Hund gibt den Apfel zum einem Mann ?"


No, you can't.

First of all, zum is already the contraction of the preposition zu with the definite article dem. You don't have to add the second article einem to that. That means there are two possibilities left: „zum Mann“ or „zu einem Mann“.

IMO none of them can be used in the sentence. The recipient for the verb geben in German is an indirect object – in dative case but without a preposition in front. The answer to this question at StackExchance could be helpful for the problem of when to translate something like to a man as zu einem Mann or simply as einem Mann.


So, in this example of write what you hear, along with Aus einem Ei, normal speed you hear 'm' at the end of einem, but when you play it slow, dou very clearly pronounces an 'n' at the end of einem. I am reporting it here in detail since the new programing does not allow you to report it correctly.


Can the feminine equivalent 'einer' mean 'to a' as well? I only see 'einem' used that way in this lesson.


Yes -- for example, der Koch gibt den Apfel einer Frau for "the cook gives the apple to a woman".


Are the verbs that we use dative with countless or we can cover them?


So i guess the article turns dative IF its right after a noun like in this case "apple".


You may be quite lucky with this pattern but that's not a valid rule that you should apply.

The reason for this “rule's” apparent validity is that if a sentence contains nouns for both objects, direct object (in accusative case) and an indirect object (in dative case), then the direct object is often placed before the indirect object:

[subject] [predicate] [direct object] [indirect object]
„Der Hund gibt den Apfel einem Mann“ – “The dog is giving the apple to a man.”

But the direct object / indirect object order can vary based on quite a few factors. E.g. it's common to place the definite object (der etc. / the) in front of indefinite object (ein etc. / a).
„Der Hund gibt dem Mann einen Apfel.“ – “The dog is giving the man an apple.”

Another situation where the “dative after noun” rule fails is when the grammatical parts of a sentence are rearranged, e.g. for emphasis:
„Ich dressierte meinen Hund darauf, Obst zu verteilen.“ – “I trained my dog to distribute fruit.”
„Jede Frau bekommt eine Orange…“ – “Each woman receives an orange…”
[indirect object] [predicate] [subject] [direct object]
„…und einem Mann gibt der Hund einen Apfel.“ – “…and he gives an apple to a man.”

My suggestion is to stick to the following scheme to form sentences:

First you should determine the inflection of a grammatical building block (subject, each object, etc.) based on the meaning. I.e. direct objects (the entity acted upon) are in accusative case. Indirect objects (entities indirectly affected by an action, usually some kind of recipient) are in dative case. And for prepositional objects you have to select the grammatical case based on the preposition.
The grammatical case applies to the whole building block which might consist of an article or a possessive determiner, some number of adjectives and the noun. You don't have to determine the inflection of the article independently. E.g. in „Mein kleiner Hund gibt den roten Apfel einem älteren Mann.“, einem, älteren and Mann are all in dative case while den, roten and Apfel are all in accusative case and mein, kleiner and Hund are all in nominative case.

Once you have the building blocks' inflections you have to arrange them in a suitable order. When you select the order you might have to keep in mind such rules as the mentioned “definite before indefinite”. But the words' inflection doesn't change anymore.


Is it correct "Der Hund gibt dem Mann einen Apfel" ? In Dativ, is it important where the indirect object is located in the sentence?


Generally, if the dative is before the accusative if both of them are nouns.

But if the dative object is indefinite ("a/an") rather than definite ("the, my, that, ..."), then it can also come at the end.


Correct answer redlisted. Is it my phone or the system?


Please be more specific.

What answer did you give? (Please quote the entire sentence exactly.) What response did the system give? Was there an error message? One or more suggested corrections?

Did you have a listening exercise but instead translated, or vice versa?


Why not 'The dog gives the man an apple.' or 'The man gives an apple to the man'?


Because you used "the man" (definite) and "an apple" (indefinite), but the German sentence has einem Mann (indefinite) and den Apfel (definite).

"the man" is not the same thing as "a man", nor is "an apple" the same thing as "the apple".


the dog gives an apple to a man ...is essentially the exact same translation. There is no reason why it would be marked wrong.


"the apple" is not the same thing as "an apple".


Sounds like he says "Gibst".


Why am I wrong in saying The dog gives the apple to the man?


Because einem Mann means "to a man", not "to the man".


the dog gives the man the apple, marked wrong. Shouldn't be.


einem Mann means "(to) a man", not "(to) the man".


you're right. I was moving very quickly through this simple lesson and got caught up on DL's switching between "a" and "the"


I translated this sentence as "The dog gives a man an apple" but it was incorrect.What's wrong with this?Can't we say "gives" instead of "is giving" ?


den Apfel = the apple -- not: an apple


word order is pretty confusing; do i put the dative object in front or the accusative object?


In general: put the dative object first unless the accusative object is a pronoun.

Sometimes, a dative object can be placed at the end of a sentence for emphasis, particularly if it is indefinite -- but I would recommend that as a learner, you follow the general word order rule yourself but recognise sentences that use an alternate word order.

The "rules" (such as they are) for when a dative object may come last are hard to put into words and often have to do with "what sounds better" -- something which comes naturally to a native speaker but is hard to put down into a list for a learner.


What is wrong with "The dog gives the apple to a man." ??? There needs to more leeway with translations.


Why oh why is the order that I have been learning in this lesson, now reversed? What am I missing. I got the idea that einem mann comes straight after the verb but here the man, who is in the dative case is at the end of the sentence. is this one of Germans 'exceptions'? I just wrote what I heard and when I looked at it i thought it was wrong 'The dog is giving the apple to a man'. Der Hund gibt den apfel einem mann??????


To me, it sounds like the speaker is saying "gibst" not "gibt".


"einer Mann" was accepted as correct for my entry, but it is wrong. It should be "einem Mann." Correct?


Correct -- it should be einem Mann (masculine dative), not einer (feminine dative).


What is the difference between order of words in these two sentences: "der hund gibt den apfel einem Mann" AND "Der hund gibit einer frau den apfel". Is something wrong with sexism(؟) or some grammatical note?


What is the difference between order of words in these two sentences: "der hund gibt den apfel einem Mann" AND "Der hund gibit einer frau den apfel".

The default word order is with the indirect object first:

  • Der Hund gibt einem Mann den Apfel.
  • Der Hund gibt einer Frau den Apfel.

Sometimes, the indirect object can be placed at the end for emphasis, so you will occasionally see sentences with that order so that you will become accustomed to them and understand them correctly.

However, it's not always possible to do so, so in your own translations, it's best to keep the indirect object first rather than learn the rules -- which are rather fuzzy since they have to do with old information vs. new information and I'm not sure it's possible to give a clear-cut distinction; there can be gray areas that need not concern a learner.

Also, please pay attention to the spelling: Hund, Apfel, Mann, Frau are all nouns and therefore should all be capitalised. Duolingo, unfortunately, does not check this and so you may acquire bad habits.


This sentence is wrong. When a sentence has both dative and accusative, the reference to the person comes always first: Der Hund gibt einem Mann den Apfel. Only when the direct object is replaced by a pronoun comes it first: Der Hund gibt ihn einem Mann


When a sentence has both dative and accusative, the reference to the person comes always first

That is not true.

The dative noun phrase usually comes first, and that is the default (most basic, neutral) word order.

The dative noun phrase is often a person, but not always.

The dative noun phrase can sometimes come last, for particular emphasis.

I would recommend that learners be able to recognise such sentences but not try to produce such sentences themselves; the rules for when this rearrangement is possible are complex and there's no need to learn them now. Wait until you're fluent in the language and you pick them up naturally from listening to native speakers a lot.


'Der Hund gibt einem Mann den Apfel' is this incorrect? Duolingo marked this wrong. Please, explain.


Duolingo marked this wrong.

What kind of exercise did you have? Seeing a screenshot would be extremely helpful here -- upload it to a website somewhere, please (e.g. imgur) and tell us the URL Of the image.

If you came to this discussion page, then the most likely kinds of exercises are:

  • a listening exercise ("type what you hear") -- then you have to type the words in the order that the voice says them, not in any other order, even if that would be grammatical
  • a translation exercise from German to English -- then you have to type your answer in English, not in German


Most of the exercises put the dative before the accusative. Then suddenly they call this wrong and put the accusitive before the dative. Now we are told that there is a "tendency" to put accusitive before dative and another tendency to put the dative before the accusitive. If this is a tendency then either answer should be listed as correct as it obviously is not a rule. German is hard enough without the "tendency" to confuse the issue with preferences ruling what the correct answer should be.


Note: As relates my other post. In the previous exercise "The guests showed the kitchen to the man" they put the dative einem mann before the direct object the kitchen but here the put the apple in front. Inconsistent!


I fond it really tougj to distinguish between dem and den. Is there anyway i can use context here? Many hearts lost


Don't know why it doesn't accept Der Hund gibt einem Mann den Apfel. Cause the dative is usually prior to accusativ.


I'm not good at english because im from Slovakia but that's not important


Ha! Duolingo is telling me "mann" is a new word (font in purple). Learned that on day 1.


When do we say einer and when do we say einem?


When do we say einer and when do we say einem?

einer before a feminine noun (einer Frau, einer Katze, einer Gabel)

einem before a masculine noun (einem Mann, einem Hund, einem Löffel) or a neuter noun (einem Kind, einem Pferd, einem Messer).


It is an apple not a


Can it also be said as " Der hund gibt einem mann den apfel" ?


Can it also be said as " Der hund gibt einem mann den apfel" ?

Yes -- that is the more neutral word order.

Do remember, though, that nouns such as Hund, Mann, Apfel have to be capitalised in German.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.