One of the reasons the beginners find German a challenging language is cases. German language works with cases such as Nominativ (nominative), Akkusativ (accusative), Dativ (dative) and the Genitiv (genitive). Each case carries a different meaning. Beginners might struggle to determine the rule to apply these cases and express their ideas correctly in German. Do not let the German cases discourage you. We will help!
Today, we will take a look at the uses of Akkusativ and Dativ with the questions Wo? and Wohin?.
Akkusativ – Wohin?
Akkusativ with a preposition is the answer to the question “Wohin?”. “Wohin?” means “where to?” literally. The transformation of the article indicates a movement. Akkusativ plus a preposition indicates your final destination. The readers or the listeners will understand where you will finally be after the movement. This is thanks to the preposition included.
What happens in the Akkusativ case? Simply, all the articles remain the same as they are in Nominativ. The only exception is Maskulin. Der turns into den. The example below will help you understand the Akkusativ case better:
Der Turm: the Tower
Nominativ: der Turm
Akkusativ: den Turm
1. Ich gehe an den Turm. – I go to the tower. However, this sentence means you go to the tower and will be beside it when you arrive.
2. Ich gehe in den Turm. – I go into the tower.
3. Ich gehe auf den Turm. – I go to the top of the tower. This sentence illustrates that you go to the tower and go to the top of it.
Dativ – Wo?
In contrast to Akkusativ with a preposition, Dativ with a preposition describes the location which is the answer to the question “Wo?”. By using Dativ with a preposition, you specify the current location. Despite the seems-to-be-less-complicated meaning, Dativ may be a headache for the beginners. How can you transform the article correctly? A good news is both der and das turn into dem. Just pay attention that die now turns into der. Below is another example so that you can tell the difference between the Akkusativ and Dativ cases.
Die Schule: the school
Nominativ: die Schule
Dativ: der Schule
1. Ich bin an der Schule. – I am at the school. This sentence basically means you are standing beside the school.
2. Ich bin in der Schule. – I am in the school.
3. Ich bin auf der Schule. – I am above the school. This sentence refers that you are standing on the top of the school.
Akkusativ and Dativ: Why bother? And “zu”?
As discussed above, cases play an important role in the German language. They help the speakers or the writers express their ideas highly accurately. Take, for instance, Akkusativ and Dativ with a preposition. They clarify the idea behind the sentence, whether it is a movement or a location. Without the cases, tons of confusion might be caused. The example below illustrates why:
1. Ich gehe auf die Straße. The sentence refers that you are going from elsewhere to the street. There is obviously a change in location, which we call a movement.
2. Ich gehe auf der Straße. The sentence shows that you are going on the street. According to German language, there is not such a change in the location although we are moving.
Another question those beginners may ask, because they speak English, is “How about “zu”?” or “Why don’t the Germans simply use “zu” to replace Akkusativ with prepositions?”. German is German, isn’t it? Akkusativ with a preposition describes the movement in detail and provides the final destination you will reach after the movement. “Zu” means “to” in English literally. And a sentence with this preposition only tells the place we are heading to. Last but not least, “zu” always goes with the Dativ case even it helps describing a movement.
The video below is all you need to recap Akkusativ and Dativ with prepositions.