To the best of my understanding 'helfen' always governs the dative case. So when I saw 'die Umwelt zu helfen' in a sentence I guessed immediately it must be wrong. Is this true? Or is it an exception to the rule?

This is the complete sentence:

Ich werde Energie sparen, um die Umwelt zu helfen.

  • 3
    This question can not be answered seriously without more context. Please post the whole sentence, not just a fragment. Oct 13, 2018 at 6:07
  • Generally yes, except in communication services advertising.
    – tofro
    Oct 13, 2018 at 8:56
  • @User I think, Tofro refers to an advertising campaign a couple of years ago where a company in Germany deliberately used wrong grammar. Not relevant for your search of rules. Oct 13, 2018 at 10:09
  • @ChristianGeiselmann It's one good point worth mentioning IMO. It turned out to be that many marketers deliberately use wrong grammar or spelling in order to spread their products as far as it can. It's a trick to make people talk more about the product (grammatical or spelling mistake) and thus unconsciously later pay special attention to that specific product whenever they encounter it. A few examples: Da werden Sie geholfen and also Nicht immer, aber immer öfter; unkaputtbar; durchschnupfsicher; Das König der Biere among many others.
    – Abdullah
    Oct 13, 2018 at 15:22
  • @HubertSchölnast sorry if I was not thorough enough. The sentence was "ich werde energie sparen, um die Umwelt zu helfen'"
    – Jamie
    Oct 14, 2018 at 9:48

3 Answers 3


Yes, the verb "helfen" requires that its object be in the dative case.

You can also use a preposition like "gegen" oder "bei" with the verb "helfen", as in

Aspirin hilft gegen/bei Kopfschmerzen.

In this case the case is determined by the preposition, as with every other verb.

Moreover, "helfen" can be accompanied by an infinitve, as in

Er half aufräumen.

However, if "helfen" is used with an object, it has to be in the dative case.

That said, the sentence fragment you provided doesn't necessarily have to be wrong. If you have a sentence like

Um bei der Durchsetzung von Schutzmaßnahmen für die Umwelt zu helfen [..]"

"die Umwelt" is actually the object of the preposition "für", which requires the accusative case.

  • 1
    The OP provided an example sentence, which was wrong. You might want to mention it has to be der Umwelt helfen.
    – tofro
    Oct 12, 2018 at 21:27
  • @tofro The sentence fragment OP provided doesn't necessarily have to be wrong. I added an explanation. Oct 12, 2018 at 21:58
  • 1
    für requires the accusative case not nominative.
    – Eller
    Oct 13, 2018 at 9:09
  • 1
    It has to be accusative of course. My bad. Oct 13, 2018 at 16:07

The sentence you posted simply is wrong. This is the correct version:

Ich werde Energie sparen, um der Umwelt zu helfen.

It must be dative case.


Could it be that you misread what someone else actually wrote? Or that you misquoted what they actually wrote? Could it be that the sentence was:

Ich werde Energie sparen, um die Umwelt erhalten zu helfen.

In other words: Give us the source of your sentence, and we'll take it from there.


  • No this was actually a sentence that my teacher gave me. I queried it and he said it was correct because the environment is not a person. Thanks for your guidance
    – Jamie
    Oct 14, 2018 at 12:36

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