I believe that in the sentence

Ich danke 'du/dir/dich'


  • ich = subject
  • danke = verb
  • du = direct object.

Wouldn't that mean that it would be "Ich danke dich"? I hear people say "Ich danke dir" frequently and it's a little confusing.

  • 2
    You can't say "Ich danke du / dich", it's just "Ich danke dir", can't tell you exactly why, but I'm a native speaker ;)
    – 23tux
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 19:59
  • 2
    It's tough for native speakers from languages without noun declension to get used to Dativ. English has only the vestigial "objective" case (who / whom) and the natural inclination of English speakers when learning German is to use Akkusativ. You'll get used to it, Darkenor :) ... btw I'd be surprised if this question hasn't been asked and answered already. Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 20:05
  • 6
    Basically, direct object and akkusative object are two different things. Just like reflexive verbs and reflexive structures are two different things. We just force our English concepts on German. Learning a language-agnostic grammar and applying it for each is a better way of learning, IMO. Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 14:56
  • @Anurag: I totally agree. Unfortunately there is not really awareness of the fact that grammatical definitions for Latin based terms vary a great deal from language to language. Even the definition of "transitive" is not the same in English, German and French... so one ought to be really careful with the jargon :)
    – Emanuel
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 17:25
  • The etymology of “danken” may also shed some light on why the dative is used instead of the accusative.
    – k.stm
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 21:46

5 Answers 5


Ich danke dir.

is the only correct version. Danken takes the dative case. You will never hear otherwise.

I would recommend to forget about the concept of direct and indirect object; or better, you should realize that the definitions of direct and indirect object in German and English are not identical. Neither is the use. So just because some verb takes a direct object in English doesn't mean that that is the case in German.

  • 1
    Memory hook: "Ich danke dir für XYZ" = "I thank you for XYZ". Here, XYZ is the direct object, as you can maybe "feel", so "dir" must be the indirect object.
    – Turion
    Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 10:30
  • (Ich) danke der Nachfrage takes the genitive, too... Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 20:47
  • "danke der Nachfrage" is the short form of "(Ich) danke (Dir) der Nachfrage (wegen)". Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 17:45

Emanuel already mentioned that Ich danke dir is the correct way of saying I thank you.

I just want to tell you how you can simply answer such a question with help of some online tools. Unfortunately, only a few sources mention the necessary information explicitly and, if they do, this information is sometimes a little hidden.

Starting with Duden, you'll find the following example to the entry to danken:

auch ohne Dativobjekt: er dankte kurz und ging

In this sentence no object is given and since the hint tells you that the dative object is missing, you can guess that the usual object following danken is dative.

On Wiktionary (and Duden, too) you'll find this information:

1 (jemandem für etwas) seinen Dank aussprechen

With a little knowledge of German, you know that the ending -m in jemandem hints that the object is dative. Accusative would be jemanden as in jemanden verfolgen.

Having a look on the entries to dir in Duden or du in Wiktionary, you'll find out that dir is dative:

du, Genitiv: dei·ner, veraltet: dein, Dativ: dir, Akkusativ: dich, Plural: ihr, Genitiv: eu·er, Dativ: euch, Akkusativ: euch

Finally, I need to mention that danken can be followed by dative, accusative and even genitive objects.
This information is provided on the danken entry on DWDS.de. Since coloring is not enabled on this site I used the sup and sub tags to distinguish dative from accusative (i.e. mit Dat./mit Akk.).

mit Dativ und Akkusativ:

niemand dankt dir deine Mühe
kein Mensch dankte ihr ihre Arbeit

mit Genitiv:

danke der Nachfrage (umgangssprachlich)


"Ich danke dir" = "I give thanks to you", not "I thank you". Maybe danke is acting like the accusative and the verb and dir is the dative.

"Helfen Sie mir" = "You give help to me", not "You help me". Likewise, maybe helfen is acting like the accusative and the verb and mir is the dative.

Ich = nominative
danke = verb action and the sense of "giving a thanks" so that would imply a accusative action too
dir = dative case, "to you", indirect object

More information about German Dative Verbs on about.com.


This is how I learnt it as a native speaker.

  1. Have a table of "die Deklination des Personalpronomens" ready. In this case we would look at the forms of "du". These are du, deiner, dir, dich (Nominativ, Genitiv, Dativ, Akkusativ)

  2. You've already identified the subject. The subject does things to the object, and is always in the Nominativ case. Ask a "wer?" question to identify the subject. "Wer dankt du/deiner/dir/dich?" Answer: "Ich", because that's the Nominativ case.

  3. The object can have 3 different cases: Genitiv, Dativ, Akkusativ. Genitiv is usually less common. You can identify the correct declination case, by rephrasing your sentence to questions, using the following question words: Wessen? Wem? Wen?

"Ich danke wessen?" Answer: "Ich danke deiner" - Genitiv case - similar to "I thank whos?"

"Ich danke wem?" Answer: "Ich danke dir" - Dativ case - similar to "I thank to whom?"

"Ich danke wen?" Answer: "Ich danke dich" - Akkusativ case - similar to "I thank whom?"

  1. At this stage you've probably narrowed it down to the Dativ and the Accusativ case, that is dir and dich. Unfortunately, it depends on the specific Verb on whether to use Dativ or Akkusativ. About 90% of verbs require the Akkusativ case, the remaining require the use of the Dativ or two objects. Usually, the Akkusativ case is more passive than the Dativ, the former is often used for things and the latter for people. There are plenty of lists and exerices on "Dativ-Verben". "Danken" is one such verb which does not have an Akkusativ form, thus the Dativ is used.
  • Before answering an old question having an accepted answer (look for green ✓) as well as other answers ensure your answer adds something new or is otherwise helpful in relation to them. Here is a guide on How to Answer. Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 10:29

There is no logical explanation. It should be dich. But it isn't because the following verbs always take the Dativ.

begegnen, danken, volgen, gelingen, glauben, gratulieren, helfen

  • 1
    Does this add anything to the existing answers?
    – RalfFriedl
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 10:57

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