In German, some verbs use the dative case for the object (e.g. Ich folge dir). In lists about these, I've seen mention of jemand and etwas. Does the case change depending on whether the object is a person or thing?

  • maybe this is bad stackechange form, but basically, my question is "what is this page (and the linked pdf) talking about!?" mein-deutschbuch.de/liste-kasusergaenzungen-der-verben.html
    – perpetual
    Aug 20, 2018 at 17:03
  • @perpetual Is your confusion, because they print jdm = Person + Dativ and s. = reflexives Pronomen im Dativ is red, but jdn = Person + Akkusativ, _s. = reflexives Pronomen im Akkusative is red, AND etw = Sache + Akkusativ in black - which looks as if there were no Sache + Dativ?
    – Arsak
    Aug 20, 2018 at 17:13
  • 1
    my confusion is that they seem to care about jemand vs etwas. Why not just "nomen"? Do I really need to care about Person vs Sache? If I write a story about a Robot, does it matter if the robot is an IT or a HE? (I know it matters for es vs er, but will it matter for the cases). Thanks.
    – perpetual
    Aug 20, 2018 at 19:43
  • @perpetual English dictionary entries can look like "to follow so./sth." as well. This is unrelated to cases, but it is mentioned, as some verbs can only be applied to a person OR a thing - you can help someone, but you can't help something
    – Arsak
    Aug 20, 2018 at 20:20
  • @Marzipanherz, I accept your answer. As an aside, I am not as accepting of the idea that some verbs only apply to people. "I helped the house become more beautiful." Would helfen be the wrong verb for that? Sometimes it requires more poetry or fiction (e.g. talking cars that get stomach pains), but I don't think it's a function of the grammar as to which verbs would be wrong to use with objects. Thanks.
    – perpetual
    Aug 20, 2018 at 20:36

2 Answers 2


No, the case does not depend on whether the object is a person or a thing.

One can say:

Ich folge dem Mann. [jemandem, Dativ]

Ich folge dem Auto. [etwas, Dativ]

This is similar to English dictionary entries, for example:

to follow so./sth.

where the distinction between someone and something is unrelated to cases as well.

The distinction between a person and a thing is made, because there are some verbs that usually do not make sense with a person or a thing. This is rather about word usage, less about grammar.

Consider the German verb weh tun, for example:

Dem Mann tut der Bauch weh. [jemandem, Dativ]

Dem Auto tut der Bauch weh. [etwas, Dativ]

The second example is perfectly fine from the grammatical point of view. However, it does not make sense in a standard environment, since cars usually do not have a belly that might hurt them. (In a non-standard environment, like a fictional writing or TV show, a sentence like the second might be valid as well. For example, in a story where toys are "alive", the doll might tell the teddy bear Dem Auto tut der Bauch weh., referring to the toy car.)


In German, it is a trait of a verb what case (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, all are possible) it rules. This does not change depending on the object's gender:

Ich folge dem Mann

Ich folge der Frau

Ich folge dem Kind

(all dative).

  • Gender war aber nicht gefragt, sondern jmd. oder etwas. Aug 22, 2018 at 1:29
  • @userunknown und was ist das anderes als Gender?
    – tofro
    Aug 22, 2018 at 5:23
  • Das hatten wir aber schon 100 Mal: Der Löffel, die Gabel und das Messer sind 3 unterschiedliche, grammatische Geschlechter aber alles Sachen, nicht Personen. Während der Mensch, die Person und das Mitglied alles jemanden bezeichnen, nicht etwas. Aug 24, 2018 at 3:44

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