German grammar question.


In the following question "Was wächst in deinem Garten? Is there a dative ending in “deinem” because of the preposition (which could be either accusative or dative) or is it because “wachsen” takes the Dative case (which I’m not sure of). Why “deinem” (dative) and not deinen (accusative)? I look forward to your feedback.

I’ll wait for an expert to come in, but from what I remember, the “in” preposition takes the dative case when designating a location. (“In” can also take the accusative when describing a motion towards something, as opposed to a stationary statement of location.)

Actually, you can find it under item #4 here.

Thanks but the problem is precisely that “in” can take the dative or accusative, so is it the verb “wachsen” that is determining the dative in the “Was wächst” in deinem Garten?"

From what I understand, it’s the stationary sense of “in” here. You are describing a location, not movement towards a location. “Into” would be more like the accusative “in” in German.

Thanks pulykamell.

But if I said “Ich wachse mir lange Haare” then it’s the verb that is determining the dative ending of “mir”. In my first example the preposition " in " is determining the dative ending of “meinem”. Is that correct?

Yes, that is correct, the verb has nothing to do with it in that sentence. Typically, where there is a preposition, that gives you enough information. When there isn’t, you need to look to the verb, and then a noun phrase that might look like a straight forward object in English can take another case than accusative. For instance, “help me” is “hilf mir” because helfen takes the dative.

Thanks Švejk. I haven’t been able to locate any links telling me which case “wachsen” takes. I can find lots of Dative verbs lists but none with “wachsen”.

Yes. If I’m remembering my high school German correctly, you’d say “Wer lauft in deinem Garten?” (dative case) to mean “Who’s walking around in your garden?” but “Wer lauft in deinen Garten?” (accusative case) to mean “Who walked into your garden?”

I think pulykamell explains it perfectly in the first answer. “In” in this case designates a location not a motion. You could conceivably come up with the sentence “Was wächst in deinen Garten?” if you’re talking about a vine creeping in from the neighbor’s property.

The reason you don’t find any information on which case the verb “wachsen” takes is that it’s an intransitive verb. Intransitive verbs can only take a dative object and never an accusative object. As a result, a construction like “growing the economy” wouldn’t work in German. A phrase like “es wächst mir über den Kopf” (literally “it’s growing over my head”, meaning “it’s getting too much for me”) on the other hand, is grammatical because “mir” is a dative object.

“Ich wachse mir lange Haare” doesn’t work either, but I think that’s more a case of semantics rather than grammar. You’d have to say “ich lasse mir die Haare wachsen”, which still has the dative object.

(And of course all this only applies to “wachsen” in the sense of “to grow” and not to the homonym with the sense of “to wax”.)

Is there a different, transitive German verb for grow, as in “I grow corn and tomatoes in my garden”?

Offhand I’d say “anbauen”. This seems to work best for large-scale operations, like a farmer growing corn. If I grow a couple of tomato plants in my garden I’d probably just use “haben” or the present perfect form of"anpflanzen" (Ich habe ein paar Tomaten or ich habe ein paar Tomaten angepflanzt).

Language becomes trickier the more you think about it.

An example I was wondering about, but didn’t want to give, since my German is elementary:

The weeds are growing in the garden.
The weeds are growing into the garden.

Would both be identical sentences in German, taking wachsen, but the first being in the dative, and the second in the accusative?

Almost. But since the articles change with the case, the sentences differ slightly:
The weeds are growing in the garden. - Das Unkraut wächst im Garten. (“im” is a contraction of “in dem”)
The weeds are growing into the garden. - Das Unkraut wächst in den Garten.

Thanks. Yes, that’s what I was thinking.

I won’t say this is the perfect rule, but I was taught that if “in” is or can be translated by “into”, then use the accusative, otherwise the dative. I imagine that if your tree growing into my garden, you should use the accusative. Native German speaker, anyone?

I would take “Wer laeuft in deinen Garten?” more like “Who’s walking around your garden (on an ongoing basis)?” but I’m not a native speaker.

No, in that case, it’s definitely the ‘into’ translation of ‘in’—“Who’s walking into your garden (right now)?”, since ‘läuft’ is present tense; “Who walked into your garden?” would be “Wer lief in deinen Garten?” (although all of that is somewhat odd phrasing to my ear).

If you want to decide whether to use dative or accusative, a quick check is how you’d phrase a question: “Where to (German ‘wohin’) is he walking?” means you have to use the accusative, while “Where (‘wo’) is he walking?” asks for the dative case—accusative gives a direction, dative a location.

Hari Seldon: Exactly. Above, I used the example of a vine growing into the garden but a tree works just as well (if roots or branches are encroaching on your property).

ALOHA HATER: What Half Man Half Wit said. The question of accusative or dative isn’t related to habitual/non-habitual actions. You’re probably thinking of the progressive form in English which is a feature German doesn’t have. So for the English phrase “I walk in the garden” (habitual), German would have to use an adverb like “Ich laufe immer im Garten”. And the progressive “I’m walking in the garden” (one-time, current) could be translated into “Ich laufe gerade im Garten”

Half Man Half Wit: I agree. These phrases are examples and there probably are more idiomatic ways of expressing them.