Dative vs Accusative case with preposition auf

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petercolag

Member
English - Canada
I am not sure that I understand why an accusative declension is used in the following types of expressions:

Auf die frage
auf keinen fall
Auf jeden fall

I am aware that auf is a "two-way" preposition and that the general rule is that accusative case is used in the case where a "motion" is inolved whereas the dative case is used when there is no motion. However, in the above expression I am not sure whether this rule actually applies. There is not really any type of motion involved but the accusative case is being used.

Are these simply idiomatic expressions for which the case is to be memorised "as-is" and for which there is not really a rule governing why the accusative declension is involved.

Thanks for your help!
 
  • berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I am aware that auf is a "two-way" preposition and that the general rule is that accusative case is used in the case where a "motion" is inolved
    That is not quite correct. The accusative expresses direction/target/aim. This usually, but not always, involves motion but that is circumstantial. Unfortunately, many grammar books explain this badly.
     

    JClaudeK

    Senior Member
    Français France, Deutsch (SW-Dtl.)
    I am aware that auf is a "two-way" preposition and that the general rule is that accusative case is used in the case where a "motion" is inolved
    Das ist nur bei Ortsangaben der Fall. (wenn man die Frage stellen kann "Wo ...? / Wohin ...?)
    • nouns following the two-way prepositions (in, auf, unter, über, vor, hinter, neben, zwischen, an, entlang...) are
    But
    When two-way prepositions are used in combination with prepositional verbs, they no longer indicate motion or location, and so the motion/location distinction for deciding whether the preposition should be followed by a noun or pronoun in the accusative or dative no longer applies. Instead, you need to learn for each prepositional verb individually whether it will be followed by nouns or pronouns in the accusative or in the dative. (verbs that are typically used in certain prepositions, like "wait for" or "talk about" in English.)
    Similarly, when two-way prepositions are used in combination with certain adjectives, they no longer indicate motion or location, and so again you need to learn which case to use for each individual adjective + preposition combination.
    http://www.lsa.umich.edu/german/hmr/Grammatik/Praepositionen/Prepositional_Verbs.html
    I am not sure that I understand why an accusative declension is used in the following types of expressions:
    Auf die frage
    :warning: "auf die Frage" - hier wird der Akkusativ benutzt, weil "auf etw. (die Frage) antworten" ein "präpositionales Verb" ist, und immer mit Akkusativ gebraucht wird (siehe oben).
     
    Last edited:

    bearded

    Senior Member
    The accusative expresses direction/target/aim.
    Do you feel that in auf jeden/keinen Fall any direction/target/aim is involved? Or are these just idiomatic expressions and there is no specific reason for the accusative? I am thinking of in diesem Fall vs. auf jeden Fall (in other languages, like mine - albeit there are no cases here - we absolutely would not have any such distinction: in questo caso/in ogni caso/in nessun caso).
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Do you feel that in auf jeden/keinen Fall any direction/target/aim is involved?
    Aim.

    Yes, I sense a semantic difference between in jedem Fall and auf jeden Fall even if the two pragmatically amount to the same thing.

    "auf die Frage" - hier wird der Akkusativ benutzt, weil "auf etw. (die Frage) antworten" ein "präpositionales Verb" ist, und immer mit Akkusativ gebraucht wird.
    The helps us explaining prepositional objects like in Er wollte auf jeden Fall vorbereitet sein.
    But that does not help us towards explaining the adverbial phrase auf jeden Fall as in Er wollte auf jeden Fall kommen.

    Interestingly, I also thought of sentences with a prepositional object where auf roughly means für when starting to answer
    @bearded man's question but only while writing the answer realized that this is not what has been asked. Even if it might not be the etymologically correct answer, it at least shows what the shared intuition about this adverbial phrase is.

    Grimm hints that the modal meaning of auf+accusative may be an extension of the temporal accusative (as in er kam jeden Morgen). The question is really more complicated than I initially thought. Maybe there is no "logical" explanation for this modal meaning.
     
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