"The knife cuts the bread."
Translation:Gearrann an scian an t-arán.
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The direct object of a sentence is in the accusative, not the dative, and Irish doesn't have a separate accusative form (with the exception of some pronouns) - both the nouns themselves and the rules for initial mutation are the same in the nominative and the (essentially theoretical) accusative.
The dative is used after a preposition. Most nouns don't have a separate dative form (with some well known historical exceptions, and some dialect exceptions), and the Dative form of the noun is the same as the nominative. But the rules for initial mutations are not the same in the Dative as they are in the Nominative.
arán is theoretically in the accusative in this exercise, but as there is no practical difference between the accusative and the nominative, the accusative is almost universally ignored, and all explanations given will be in reference to the nominative (not just on Duolingo - just about everyone only refers to the nominative and genitive forms of nouns).
If arán was in the dative, it wouldn't "undergo T-prothesis" - cuirim subh ar an arán.