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Dartmouth German
    Studies Department

In English:

In standard English, the direct object is marked either by word order or by certain forms of personal pronoun (me, us, him, her, and them). Thus the difference between "Dog bites man" and "Man bites dog" is clear, as is the difference between "I see her" and "She sees me."

  Some things you can't explain in two or three sentences. Up to 15 hours of phone time. The new Gigaset C340.

In German:

The accusative case has several functions in German. It is marked in a variety of ways, with word order being the least important. The accusative personal pronouns are:

 mich = me   uns = us
 dich = you  euch = y'all 
   Sie = you 
 ihn = him
 sie = her
 es = it
 sie =them 

There are accusative forms for other pronouns: man becomes einen, keiner becomes keinen, and wer becomes wen. In colloquial speech, jemand is usually the same in both the nominative and the accusative, but jemanden is possible. The reflexive pronoun "sich" can indicate either the accusative or dative form of er, sie (= she), es, Sie, or sie (= they).

Articles and adjective endings also mark the accusative case. Note that the adjective endings depend not only on gender, but also on whether they follow a "der-word", an "ein-word", or no article at all:1

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural

den roten Stuhl  die neue Lampe  das alte Buch  die roten Stühle 
keinen roten Stuhl keine neue Lampe  kein altes Buch  keine neuen Lampen 
roten Stuhl neue Lampe  altes Buch  alte Bücher 

  Please keep this area open for arriving and departing hotel guests. Many thanks.

There is also a class of so-called weak masculine nouns that take an "-n" in the accusative case (as well as in the dative and genitive cases). Among these nouns are those that end in "-e" (except Käse [cheese]):

 der Mensch
 den Menschen
 der Nachbar
 den Nachbarn
 der Herr
 den Herrn
 [lord; gentleman] 
 der Held
 den Helden
 der Name
 den Namen
 der Kunde
 den Kunden
 der Junge
 den Jungen
 der Experte
 den Experten
 der Glaube
 den Glauben
 der Wille
 den Willen
 der Gedanke
 den Gedanken
 der Türke
 den Türken
 der Jude
 den Juden
 der Russe
 den Russen
 der Kollege
 den Kollegen
 der Riese
 den Riesen

Other endings of weak nouns are "-ant," "-arch," "-ege," "-ent," "-ist," "-oge," "-om," "-oph," and "-ot." Some examples:

 der Buddist
 der Katholik
 der Protestant
 der Pilot
 der Student
 der Komödiant
 der Astronom
 der Patriarch
 der Philosoph
 der Fotograf
 der Enthusiast
 der Anthropologe

Again: note that all of these nouns are masculine. Furthermore, their plural forms are the same as their accusative forms: e.g., den Studenten; die Studenten. ("Herr" is an exception: den Herrn; die Herren).

Typically, dictionaries identify weak nouns by giving not only the plural but also the weak ending: "der Bauer (-n, -n) farmer, peasant." This first ending cited is actually that of the genitive case, but with weak nouns the accusative and the genitive are usually identical.

  Do you know all of our pharmacy's services? We have a telephone service for our customers. Support hose made to measure. Devices for caring for the sick at home. We measure your blood pressure. We rent out electric breast pumps. We rent out baby scales.

Uses of the accusative case:

1) To designate the direct object of a verb. This includes the expression es gibt:

Es gibt noch eine Menge zu tun. There's still a lot to do.

Sie sucht einen reichen Mann.
She's looking for a rich husband.

Arbeit macht das Leben süß.
Work makes life sweet.

Er schreibt ihr einen langen Brief. 
He writes her a long letter.

Er trifft den Nagel auf den Kopf. 
He hits the nail on the head.

Denn wen der Herr liebt, den züchtigt er wie ein Vater den Sohn, den er gern hat. 
For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth, even as the father the son in whom he delighteth.

2) A great many verbs distinguish their direct and indirect objects through a combination of the accusative and dative: "Sie gibt es mir"; "Er schenkt seiner Mutter ein Buch." One would expect fragen, kosten, and lehren to follow the same pattern, but they do not; both objects are accusative:

Darf ich dich etwas Persönliches fragen? May I ask you something personal?
Das hat mich eine Menge Geld gekostet.  That cost me a bunch of money.
Sie lehrt mich die deutsche Sprache. She's teaching me the German language.

3) The so-called "cognate accusative" marks a noun that completes or specifies the idea of the verb, even when it is not necessarily a direct object:

Wir fahren am liebsten Rad. We prefer to bike.
Sie läuft Ski. She skis.
Wir schliefen den Schlaf des Gerechten.  We slept the sleep of the just.
Er starb den Tod eines Helden.  He died a hero's death.
Sie fährt nur erste Klasse.  She always travels first-class.
Meine Großmutter spielt sehr gut Tennis.  My grandmother plays tennis very well.
Wir laufen Gefahr, den Zug zu verpassen.  We run the risk of missing the train.

4) To indicate specific time (when no prepositions are involved):

Was machst du nächste Woche? What're you doing next week?
Jeden Samstag essen wir auswärts. We eat out every Saturday. 
Letztes Jahr sind wir ans Meer gefahren.  Last year we drove to the ocean.

5) To express a measurement:

Er ist zwei Meter groß. He's two meters tall. (= 6' 6.7")
Er ist einen halben Kopf größer als ich. He's half a head taller than me.
Das Mädchen ist ein Jahr alt. The girl is one year old. 
Er geht einen Schritt zurück. He goes one step back. 
Der Ort liegt eine Stunde von der Stadt. The place is an hour from the city. 

6) As the case for certain standard greetings and wishes. The implication is that the speaker is wishing the other something (e.g. "Gute Nacht" is short for "Ich wünsche dir eine gute Nacht." Other examples:

Guten Morgen. Good morning.
Schönen Tag noch. Have a nice (rest of the) day. 
Herzlichen Glückwunsch!   Congratulations!
Vielen Dank. Many thanks. 
Gute Besserung. Get well.
Guten Appetit. Bon appetit. 

With prepositions:

  On which one will you decide?
1) As the object of the following prepositions: bis, durch, für, gegen, ohne, um, and wider:

Er bleibt bis nächste Woche. He's staying until next week.
Die Liebe geht durch den Magen. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. 
Er tut alles für sein Kind He does everything for his child.
Was hast du gegen ihn What do you have against him?
Ohne mich!  Count me out!
Es geht mir nicht um das Geld For me it's not a question of the money.
Seine Handlung war wider das Gesetz.   His action was against the law.

  Decide yourself when it's a question of your health.
2) Under certain circumstances with the following "two-way" prepositions: an, auf, hinter, in, neben, entlang, über, unter, vor, and zwischen. When these prepositions delineate a spacial area, and the verb indicates movement that crosses the border into that area, the preposition takes the accusative (if the action is entirely with the area, then it takes the dative case):

Sie geht an die Tür. She goes to the door.
Er wirft sein Buch auf den Tisch. He throws his book onto the table.
Sie fährt hinter das Haus. She drives behind the house (into the area behind the house).
Bringen Sie den Stuhl in die Küche Bring the chair into the kitchen. 
Er legt die Bestecke neben den Teller. He puts the silverware next to the plate (into the area next to the plate). 
Er tritt vor das Haus. He steps out the door (in front of the house).
Der Hund läuft zwischen die Häuser. The dog runs between the houses (through or into the area between the houses).

These prepositional phrases are often contracted (if the article is "das"):

Er geht ans Fenster. He goes to the window.
Sie setzt sich aufs Sofa. She sits down on the sofa. 
Ein Fremder kommt ins Haus. A stranger comes into the house.
Wir fahren heute aufs Land. We're driving to the country. 
Die Brücke führt übers Wasser.   The bridge leads across the water. 

3) When these two-way prepositions define time, rather than space, they take the dative. The exceptions are auf and über:

Er geht auf (für) ein Jahr nach Mainz.   He's going to Mainz for a year.
Der Vortrag hat über eine Stunde gedauert.   The talk lasted over an hour.
Was machst du übers Wochenende? What're you doing over the weekend? 

4) These two-way prepositions take the accusative case in many idioms, as well. A few examples:

  Why think about age already now?

Sie denkt oft an ihre alte Lehrerin. She often thinks of her old teacher.
Er glaubt an mehrere Götter. He believes in several gods.
Wir erinnern uns gern an unsere Kindheit. We like to remember our childhood.
Ich kann mich nicht an seine schreckliche Stimme gewöhnen. I can't get used to his terrible voice.
Ich warte auf meine Freundin. I'm waiting for my girlfriend.
Das geht dich nichts an. That's none of your business.
Können Sie auf meine Frage antworten? Can you answer my question?
Wir hoffen auf besseres Wetter. We're hoping for better weather.
Es ist kein Wunder, dass sie auf dich böse ist. It's no wonder that she's mad at you.
Wir haben keine Aussichten auf eine bessere Zukunft. We have no indications of a better future.
Leider müssen wir auf den Film verzichten. Unfortunately we'll have to do without the film.
Unsere Kinder sind verrückt auf ihren neuen Coach. Our children are crazy about their new coach.
Er hat gar nicht auf meinen Vorschlag reagiert. He never reacted to my suggestion.
Du kannst auf dich stolz sein. You can be proud of yourself.
Er hat sich total in sie verliebt. He's totally fallen in love with her.
Wir sind glücklich über das neue Haus. We're happy about the new house.
Ich freue mich auf deinen Besuch. I'm looking forward to your visit.
Wir sprechen gerade über die politische Situation. We're just now talking about the political situation.

1 The so-called "der-words" are the articles der, die, das; dies-, jed-, jen-, manch-, solch-, welch-. The "ein-words" are ein, kein, and the possessive pronouns: mein, dein, sein, ihr, unser, euer, Ihr, ihr
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