Ich kann dir das nicht verraten.

I'm given to understand that if the subject in the accusative case is a pronoun, (as in the sentence above?) it precedes the dative case. Otherwise, the dative comes first. Is this a grammatical rule that must be followed or just some sort of a trend?


Ich kann das dir nicht verraten

just as grammatically correct and understandable?

Why or why not?

2 Answers 2


You already stated the rule: The dative object precedes the accusative object (not subject), except if the accusative object is a personal pronoun. In this case the pronoun goes first.


Ich verrate dem Anwalt ein Geheimnis.

Ich verrate ihm das.

(Because the demonstrative pronoun is usually emphasized, it would often be at position 1: Das verrate ich ihm.)


Ich verrate es dem Anwalt.

If both the dative and accusative object is a personal pronoun, accusative goes first:

Ich verrate es ihm.

But in most cases the order can be changed for emphasis. For example, one can say:

Ich verrate das Geheimnis dem Anwalt.

but only if you want to put emphasis on whom you are telling the secret. Otherwise, the sentence would sound odd.

  • 1
    Thank you, My book pointed out that if BOTH are pronouns then accusative comes first. But isn't das a demonstrative pronoun here thus it must precede dir? Jun 19, 2018 at 8:46
  • 3
    You're right. Das is a demonstrative, the personal pronoun neuter singular is es. I've edited the answer.
    – RHa
    Jun 19, 2018 at 9:03

Let's take the example, "I give him the book."

The verb always goes in the second position. The dative can go in the first, third or fourth position. Examples follow:

Ihm gebe ich das Buch. The dative is in the first position for emphasis. So it precedes the accusative.

Ich gebe ihm das Buch. The dative is in the third (usual) position, and precedes the accusative.

Das Buch gebe ich ihm. The dative is in the fourth position, following the nominative in the third position. The accusative is in the first position for emphasis. This is the only time when the dative would not precede the accusative.

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