Does anyone know of an (online) authority that will indicate if a given verb takes dative direct objects?

I've seen lists, but they don't seem to be exhaustive. If I learn a new (rare) verb, where can I look up what case it takes for its direct object(s)? Thanks.

  • 5
    For the very limited applicability of the terms direct and indirect object in German, see this question. Apart from that I have some difficulties to understand the difference between authoritative and standard dictionaries.
    – guidot
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


As guidot already wrote in his comment, there is nothing like direct or indirect objects in German. See also this answer to another question.

The only authority that is able to define what is right or wrong in German language is the crowd of almost 100 million German native speakers. Only their actual usage defines what is right or wrong, like in any other living language too.

A special aspect of language is orthography. This is the skill to find the right sequence of letters to write words. There is an official authority to unify German orthography, named »der Rechtschreibrat«. This is a group of 41 highly qualified experts of German language from seven countries where German is spoken. But this Rechtschreibrat only defines orthography, i.e how to write single words. This council doesn't care about any other aspect of German language.

There is no similar official authority for any other aspects of German language. This means: vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, style, typography and everything else is defined only by the actual use of the native speakers.

What the producers of grammar books and other guides in fact do, is to read what native speakers write, and to listen what they say, and then, from this never ending flow of authentic German language they try to extract rules, and to write them down.

This means: There is no official list of verbs that need objects in dative case (in the sense of being produced and approved by an authority), and there never will be such an official list.

All you can do is to google for Verben mit Dativ or similar search terms, and browse the results.

  • The Rechtschreibrat would probably not be very happy with the limited competencies you seem to apply to them: They very well look into punctuation, vocabulary, even pronunciation and sometimes even style.
    – tofro
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 19:29

If you look up a verb on http://www.duden.de you will usually find several examples for its usage which can help you figure out what kind of object(s) it takes.

(Duden is the most authoritative German dictionary. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duden)

  • I think you're right that the only solution is looking at examples. Looking at examples is a hard way to reverse engineer if the dative or accusative was used. Consider the Duden example from fördern: solche Komplimente fördern seinen Hang zur Eitelkeit.
    – perpetual
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 20:24
  • @perpetual In this case "seinen" indicates the accusative case. Generally, I think the best way to get the hang of case usage is by exposure to the language. Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 20:40

Please forget the idea German accusative objects resembled English direct objects and German dative objects resembled English indirect objects, and some German verbs are just wacky. It's wrong!

And instead of consulting a list, there's a simple rule to identify those verbs. (For two short lists you should learn, see the bottom of this answer.)

Dative objects appear as soon someone or something is on the receiving end of an action. They become the only object to a verb if the thing "moved" (the typical use for the accusative object) is already included in the action described by the verb or if it's the subject which moves.

Jemand gibt mir eine Antwort.

Geben takes an accusative object (the thing given) and an optional dative object (the person who receives something).

Jemand antwortet mir.

The object die Antwort is already included in the verb antworten.

Sie gibt ihm die Hilfe, die er braucht.

Sie hilft ihm.

Sie hilft ihm auf die Sprünge.

Helfen is one of the most prominent examples of verbs which never take an accusative object. Because it's already included in the verb. Of course, there may be additional objects, e.g. the prepositional object auf die Sprünge.

Er nähert sich der Lösung.

Tricky. Die Lösung is a thing. How can a thing be a receiver? A concept, to complicate it even more. Because the reflexive verb sich nähern means the subject itself moves. No need for an accusative object. (You could argue sich is the accusative object, though. Well, we are back at the general idea the accusative object is part of the verb already.)

Please understand there are also rare verbs which take genitive objects, as erinnern, bedürfen, schämen and anklagen (most common ones), and the extremly rare (but commonly used) verbs which take two accusative objects, nennen, lehren, kosten et al.

If you want to learn from a list, learn those. It's only two dozen.

  • This is exactly the conversation I need to get a handle on some of these concepts. I appreciate the caution of drawing strong parallels across languages. However, I would present this as a reason for needing some official guidance outside common usage or common sense: Consider a set of synonyms, all of which imply the same sort of action with the same sort of giving/receiving. fördern, assistieren, beistehen, un­ter­stüt­zen, die­nen, fruch­ten, frommen, helfen. (omit any that I added in error). For these words, If I construc the german sentence "I ___ you", will they all use "dir"?
    – perpetual
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 20:07
  • The list you are looking for is long, boring and incomplete. German speakers also invent verbs on the spot. It's more useful to learn the exceptions from the above general idea, when such an object-including verb becomes transitive despite what you do is essentially giving something to someone. E.g. Ich wässere die Blumen. (accusative).
    – Janka
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 20:12
  • Fördern means moving something forward → verb takes accusative object. There's a word Förderung, but as you can see from the -ung ending, it's made from the verb, not vice versa. There's no word "Förder" someone could receive. Same with unterstützenAssistieren means someone receives die Assistenz → verb takes dative object. Same with beistehen, there's a noun der Beistand, dienen means someone receives den Dienst.
    – Janka
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 20:21
  • We got helfen already. Forget the verb frommen please. Never heard of that, I had to look it up. The verb fruchten does not take an object at all: Es fruchtet is somewhat a fixed phrase – It's bearing fruits.
    – Janka
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 20:24
  • 1
    I understand this may confuse you a lot, but this part of German grammar is what German speaking children do not learn from a list. Because it automatically becomes clear as soon your vocabulary grows. It's only the very few irregular exceptions as wässern you have to remember separately. Please relax and simply use the dative if you see the verb includes a noun you know. People will tell you there's no noun Bestech if you accidentally jemandem bestichst.
    – Janka
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 20:53

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