Understanding a German Sentence
STEP #1: First, you need to look up the meaning of the words that you do not understand.
STEP #2. : Find the verb in the sentence. It is usually in the second position of the sentence.
STEP #3: Find the subject. It is the noun or pronoun that is "doing" the verb- the action. It is in the Nominative Case. The question to ask is "who" or "what" is doing the action?
STEP #4: If there is another noun or pronoun that is not preceded by a preposition, ask the question, "whom or what" after you have you have determined the verb and the subject. This is the direct object and is in the Accusative Case in German. It "receives" the action of the verb. Some verbs that might "need" a direct object are: kaufen, haben, brauchen ,besuchen, spielen,
verkaufen, sehen, etc.
STEP #5: If there is another noun or pronoun that is not preceded by a preposition, ask the question "to whom or for whom." That is the indirect object in German. The indirect object in German is in the Dative Case. It usually "receives" the direct object.
If the verb in the sentence is a form of sein in either the present or simple past tense, there can be NO direct object. "Sein" is an intransitive verb. Some other verbs like this which indicate that there isn't a direct object are: wohnen, leben, stehen, liegen, stehen, etc.
A "complete" sentence requires a subject and a verb. Once you have determined what they are in the sentence, don't believe that you must find a direct object! There might be a direct object in the sentence, but a sentences does not require it.
There can be multiple elements in the sentence that are in the accusative case, as there can also be multiple elements in the sentence that are in the dative case. There are some verbs that require the use of the dative case.
A sentence can contain the nominative case, the accusative case and the dative case. A sentence is not in a certain case.
I have been discussing nouns and pronouns that are used as objects in the sentence. Nouns and pronouns can also be objects of prepositions and be either in the accusative case or dative case. (There is another case that shows possession called the genitive case.) The prepositions that require either the accusative case or the dative case should be memorized.
The biggest mistake that I have seen students make over the years, is that they don't take time to first figure out what the sentence means in English! That is so important!
TAKE THESE STEPS AND IT WILL BE EASIER TO UNDERSTAND A GERMAN SENTENCE