jmdm. befehlen, etw.akk. zu tun

What appears above is reported by dict(dot)leo(dot)org. Nothing in that entry suggests that an accusative object might be used.

In Starman Jones, by Robert Heinlein, written in English, an officer illegally announces that he is taking command of the ship. A person later describing the incident says:

"The fool even moved into the [Captain's] cabin and sent for me."

A translation into German by Kurt Seibt and Rainer Schumacher, under the title Gestrandet im Sternenreich, says this:

"Dieser Narr zog sogar in die Kapitänskabine und befahl mich zu sich."

Certainly this pronoun is used in a different way from the one in the dictionary entry, but none of the other entries under that verb in the same dictionary have an example like this.

What is the whole truth of the matter?

  • 2
    A real dictionary helps: dwds.de/wb/befehlen
    – Carsten S
    Oct 8, 2018 at 6:08
  • 2
    The whole truth is that (1) verbs can have multiple frames and (2) crowd-sourced online resources can be incomplete. Oct 8, 2018 at 6:51

1 Answer 1


A general view on this odd phrase.
"Jemanden an einen Ort befehlen" means to call someone to a place.
The "mich" is not the "jmdm." in your german translation. "Jemandem befehlen..." (order someone to ...) is 3rd case (give order to...), but this word is completely missing in your german sentence.

"mich zu sich" is the order that was issued. This is 4th case (wen oder was an diesen Ort befehlen) It is a not colloquial form, I would say it is not even an official but more ancient way to talk.

Nothing in that entry suggests that an accusative object might be used.

Not even the "akk"? ;-)

  • 1
    +1. One will have difficulty finding this valence pattern - jemanden [direktionale Präpositionalphrase] befehlen - in pretty much all bilingual dictionaries simply because it is rather uncommon. DWDS includes it as meaning 2 in their entry on befehlen: dwds.de/wb/befehlen
    – johnl
    Oct 8, 2018 at 5:24
  • 1
    "acc." appears only for an object of the verb "tun", not for an object of "befehlen". Oct 8, 2018 at 5:57
  • Now guess what jemandem Winter befehlen means.
    – Janka
    Oct 8, 2018 at 9:53
  • @Janka. - Zeus sagte: »So geht's nicht weiter mit der Hitze hier«, wandte sich an Taranis und befahl ihm Winter. - (Sorry, ich musste auf einen keltischen Wettergott zurückgreifen, weil bei den Griechen Zeus diesen Job sonst selber macht.) Oct 8, 2018 at 11:38
  • 1
    @Janka. Hm... Der Generalstab befahl den Soldaten Winter? Da müsste ich mich sehr verbiegen, um das als Aufforderung zum Tragen von Winterkleidung zu verstehen. Außer der Kontext hätte mich schon gründlich drauf vorbereitet: - Hauptmann: »Was sollen wir bei der Übung tragen? Sommer oder Winter?« Major: »Der General hat Winter befohlen.« - So vielleicht, aber das ist schon ein bisschen am Pelz herbeigezogen... Oct 8, 2018 at 14:26

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