I was given a gift

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Aranjuez

Senior Member
Hi,
Could you tell me, please, if an animate object can become a subject of a passive construction in German.

Mir wurde ein Geschenk gegeben => Ich wurde ein Geschenk gegeben.

Sorry if the question has already been answered, I'm not very good at finding existing threads :(
Danke :)
 
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  • Frank78

    Senior Member
    German
    Hi,
    Could you tell me, please, if an animate object can become a subject of a passive construction in German.

    Mir wurde ein Geschenk gegeben:tick: => Ich wurde ein Geschenk gegeben.:cross:
    Well, "mir" is an animate subject. ;)

    Er gibt mir ein Geschenk.

    Possible passives:
    Mir wurde ein Geschenk (von ihm) gegeben.
    Ein Geschenk wurde mir (von ihm) gegeben.
    Von ihm wurde mir ein Geschenk gegeben.
     

    Aranjuez

    Senior Member
    Thank you..So, German doesn't provide for the "double Passive", if compared with English where it's possible with verbs taking two objects?

    The gift was given to him=> Das Geschenk wurde ihm gegeben
    He was given a gift=>:cross:

    Or it's just because this verb (geben) doesn't allow it, and with some other verbs it may work?

    Thanks...
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Ihm wurde ein Geschenk gegeben.

    Since English has no cases it must be "he" and not "him" because the personal pronoun is in front of the verb.
    Well, English still distinguishes between objective case and nominative pronouns. But it doesn't distinguish between dative and accusative any more and, hence, the distinction between direct and indirect object has become somewhat arbitrary. Some English grammarians prefer to call verbs like to give bi-transitive because it has indeed two objects which both can be used to form passives. In German, only direct objects can be used as subjects in passive sentences. The syntactic equivalent to ihm wurde ein Geschenk gegeben would be to him was given a gift where the preposition to replaced the missing dative marker. This word order is still theoretically possible in English (And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom. Daniel 7:14, New American Standard Bible, not King James) but is extremely rare.
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Ihm wurde ein Geschenk gegeben.

    Since English has no cases it must be "he" and not "him" because the personal pronoun is in front of the verb.
    Well, English still distinguishes between objective case and nominative pronouns.
    Right. And syntactically the "he" in "He was given ..." is a real, functioning, nominative subject:
    He was given a gift.
    They were given a gift.
    I am given a gift (whenever I visit ...)
    English is not quite at the stage where case marking is determined entirely by position: "Him I don't want to ever see again!"

    But [English] doesn't distinguish between dative and accusative any more and, hence, the distinction between direct and indirect object has become somewhat arbitrary. Some English grammarians prefer to call verbs like to give bi-transitive because it has indeed two objects which both can be used to form passives.
    Going a bit further, note that the two "objects" of "give" are not really on a par: "I gave John a book" but "I gave a book to John." That is, while English never inflects a noun or pronoun as dative (as opposed to accusative), only in some constructions can the logical dative look like an accusative, i.e., stand without "to".
     
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