gehorchen vs. horchen

wingman1985

Senior Member
Chinese
Fräulein Meier hat dem Briefträger gehorcht

I know the past participle of horchen is gehorcht, the same with the past participle of gehorchen. Therefore this sentence can either be rendered as Fräulein Meier has listened to the mailman or Fräulein Meier has obeyed the mailman. My question is why use "dem" in the second situation?

Danke!
 
  • Hutschi

    Senior Member
    The rule is following: "Horchen" is related to a sound, "gehorchen" is related to a command.

    Fräulein Meier hat dem Briefträger gehorcht.

    "Dem" is used to indicate that "Briefträger" is a dative object.
    This sentence is grammatically correct, but strange. Why should I obey the postman? "Jemandem gehorchen" with dative case means that you have followed his (or her) commands/orders in an hierarchy. You cannot give commands yourself to the other person without changing the rank.

    If you mean listening, you cannot use the dative alone. A preposition is requires:
    Ich habe nach dem Briefträger gehorcht. (You listened whether he is coming.)
    or
    Ich habe ihn gehört. (You heared him coming.)

    In
    Ich habe dem Briefträger gehorcht.
    the "listening" meaning is blocked by the "obeying" meaning.

    You can use a prepositional object:

    In "Ich habe dem Gesang gehorcht" the "obeying" meaning is blocked, and the listening meaning is meant. But the obeying meaning can be restored by context.
    Usually you say "Ich habe dem Gesang gelauscht." (The birds were actually singing and I heard it) or "Ich habe auf den Gesang gehorcht." (The same, but there may be interruptions of singing, I tried to listen and may be I was waiting for some time.)

    -------------------
     
    Last edited:

    wingman1985

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    First,thanks for your kind reply and please see my comment in red:


    The rule is following: "Horchen" is related to a sound, "gehorchen" is related to a command.

    Fräulein Meier hat dem Briefträger gehorcht.

    "Dem" is used to indicate that "Briefträger" is a dative object.
    This sentence is grammatically correct, but strange. Why should I obey the postman? "Jemandem gehorchen" with dative case means that you have followed his (or her) commands/orders in an hierarchy. You cannot give commands yourself to the other person without changing the rank.

    This is a sample sentence from German Quickly: A Grammar for Reading German by April Wilson. I am missing your point here. What do you mean by "You cannot give commands yourself to the other person without changing the rank"?What is the connection between the use of dem/den with the change of rank? Please kindly explain to me on this.
     

    Thomas W.

    Senior Member
    Deutsch
    ...
    In
    Ich habe dem Briefträger gehorcht.
    the "listening" meaning is blocked by the "obeying" meaning.

    You can use a prepositional object:

    In "Ich habe dem Gesang gehorcht" the "obeying" meaning is blocked, and the listening meaning is meant. But the obeying meaning can be restored by context.
    Usually you say "Ich habe dem Gesang gelauscht." (The birds were actually singing and I heard it) or "Ich habe auf den Gesang gehorcht." (The same, but there may be interruptions of singing, I tried to listen and may be I was waiting for some time.)

    -------------------
    I am quite sure that "Ich habe dem Gesang gehorcht" cannot be used in German. You would normally use "Ich habe dem Gesang zugehört" in this context. "Ich habe dem Gesang gelauscht" is also possible but a bit quaint and dated.
    You can use "horchen" in connection with "Gesang" only in sentences like "Ich habe an der Wand gehorcht, als im Nachbarzimmer der Briefträger gesungen hat"

    "Ich habe dem Briefträger gehorcht":
    <Dativ> + "gehorcht" always means "obeyed"
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Wingman,

    the problem simply doesn't arise. Horchen cannot take a dative object denoting a person to whom you listen, hence the verb Fräulein Meier hat dem Briefträger gehorcht can only be gehorchen and not horchen. If you want to translate to listen to somebody into German you cannot use horchen, you have top use a different verb which allows a person as an object, e.g.: Fräulein Meier hat dem Briefträger zugehört (to listen to somebody = jemandem zuhören).

    An ambiguity exists for object-less uses:
    Ich habe gehorcht = I (have) obeyed
    Ich habe gehorcht = I (have) listened

    There is also etwas horchen = to listen to something (not somebody!) which on a purely syntactic basis could create an ambiguity:
    Ich habe dem Befehl gehorcht = I (have) obeyed the order
    Ich habe dem
    Befehl gehorcht = I (have) listened to the order
    But here the first meaning blocks the second, as etwas[DATIVE] horchen is relatively rare. Only in contexts where gehorchen would be semantic nonsense or at least unlikely, you would understand Ich habe etwas gehorcht as I (have) listened to something; e.g:
    *Ich habe der Musik gehorcht = *I (have) obeyed the music
    Ich habe der Musik
    gehorcht = I (have) listened to the music
     
    Last edited:

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I am quite sure that "Ich habe dem Gesang gehorcht" cannot be used in German.
    Er horchte dem Klang seiner Stimme
    Er horchte dem Ruf
    Those are quite normal German sentences and well attested in literature.

    PS: Noch vor wenigen Tagen hatte Wilhelm seinem Gesang gehorcht und folgende Zeilen wohl bemerkt: ... (Goethe)
     
    Last edited:

    Thomas W.

    Senior Member
    Deutsch
    @berndf

    You too?
    In my understanding, "Ich habe der Musik/dem Gesang gehorcht", or "Der Musik horchen" is totally wrong. You would have to use "lauschen" or "hören/zuhören".
     

    Thomas W.

    Senior Member
    Deutsch
    Er horchte dem Klang seiner Stimme
    Er horchte dem Ruf
    Those are quite normal German sentences and well attested in literature.
    I am not sure about (old) literature, but "horchen" is not used in such a way in contemporary German.

    I made the test and entered "horchte der Musik" into Google - I got 38 hits. With "lauschte der Musik" i got > 25000 hits. This kind of disparity indicates that "horchte der Musik" is wrong (there are always 38 people who make an error)
     
    Last edited:

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It is not wrong but certainly obsolescing (in #5 I said "relatively rare" which is, admittedly, a rather cautious description). You are indeed unlikely to hear it from a modern speaker except in certain frozen expressions two of which I quoted above.
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    First,thanks for your kind reply and please see my comment in red:


    The rule is following: "Horchen" is related to a sound, "gehorchen" is related to a command.

    Fräulein Meier hat dem Briefträger gehorcht.

    "Dem" is used to indicate that "Briefträger" is a dative object.
    This sentence is grammatically correct, but strange. Why should I obey the postman? "Jemandem gehorchen" with dative case means that you have followed his (or her) commands/orders in an hierarchy. You cannot give commands yourself to the other person without changing the rank.

    This is a sample sentence from German Quickly: A Grammar for Reading German by April Wilson. I am missing your point here. What do you mean by "You cannot give commands yourself to the other person without changing the rank"?What is the connection between the use of dem/den with the change of rank? Please kindly explain to me on this.
    I try to sharpen it:
    When the postman comes to me and gives me a kind of military command - it might be possible that I obey. But the situation is strange.

    "Gehorchen" means "to obey", but it is not a symmetric verb. Ein Kind gehorcht der Mutter. Die Mutter gehorcht nicht dem Kind. Ein Soldat gehorcht dem Offizier. Der Offizier gehorcht nicht dem Soldaten. Ein Arbeiter gehorcht dem Vorgesetzten. Der Vorgesetzte gehorcht nicht dem Arbeiter.
    There may be situation where the rank is reversed (umgedreht), for example when playing.

    If the rank is symmetrically, usually I would not say "gehorchen", but "auf ihn hören" or "tun, was er gesagt hat" or similar phrases which do not have the rank connotation.

    gehorchen:
    1. A person with a higher rank (it may be as well a formal or an informal higher rank) gives a command to a subordinated person.
    2. The subordinated person obeys.

    The English "to obey" seems to be neutral considering ranks, because I found "folgen" as translation.

    Example
    Er folgte seinem Rat.
    He obeyed his advice. (It this idiomatic?)

    Er gehorchte seinem Rat. (This would be possible - without hierarchy, too, but the idiom is "er folgte seinem Rat".)
    Er gehorchte der Person. (Here a subordinate relation is usually required.)

    At your service
    Hutschi
     
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top