I am a little unsure on how to write this with proper grammar:

"Wir erlauben uns Ihnen den Betrag gutzuschreiben" or "Wir erlauben uns den Betrag Ihnen gutzuschreiben".

I am inclined towards the 1st. The DO is usually next to the verb, thus the IO is one place further.

So which one is it? Best Regards,

  • 2
    Mind, in German there is no such thing as direct or indirect objects. That's constructs you find in English, but not in German. In German you have the different cases, like Akkusativ, Dativ and Gentiv and often an object in Akkusativ might correspond to an indirect object in English and a direct object to Dativ. But that is not a given. Apr 1, 2022 at 12:05
  • 2
    Question about direct and indirect objects (asked and answered in German): german.stackexchange.com/q/34000/1487 Conclusion: They exist in some languages, but not in German. German has accusative objects, dative objects, genitive objects and prepositional objects. But nothing like direct or indirect objects. These terms are misleading when talking about German grammar. They can be useful in 90% or 95% of all situations, but in 5% to 10% they are not helpful. Better think in the correct categories. Forget direct and indirect objects. Apr 1, 2022 at 12:47
  • @Hubert Schölnast: Yet "direct object" is a common term in linguistics, which is supposedly universal, for example. I'm often disappointed and confused because English grammatical terms, even ones that are supposed to apply to all languages, don't apply to German. It's like watching a baseball game where the announcer keeps talking about Fallrückzieher.
    – RDBury
    Apr 1, 2022 at 13:49
  • @RDBury: Vocative case, dual number and T–V distinction are also very common terms in linguistics. But does it mean that it makes sense to use them in any language's grammar? No, it doesn't. English for example has none of these features. And for this reason you can't find the terms "vocative", "dual" and "T-V distinction" in any textbook about English grammar. ... Apr 1, 2022 at 21:56
  • ... And for the very same reason you will not find the terms "direktes Objekt" or "indirektes Objekt" in any German textbook about German grammar. It just makes no sense to use these terms in German grammar, because these terms are not compatible with German grammar. Apr 1, 2022 at 21:56

1 Answer 1


Both is possible.

Generally, the first version is better:

Wir erlauben uns Ihnen den Betrag gutzuschreiben.

The second version

Wir erlauben uns den Betrag Ihnen gutzuschreiben.

puts the focus on "Ihnen", and would be appropriate if there were multiple possible recipients for the amount.

Additional remarks

"Wir erlauben uns" corresponds to the English "we take the liberty of" and implies that we made a decision here that we weren't totally entitled to make, e.g. the way of compensating wasn't settled beforehand, and we decided to do a refund instead of sending a replacement.

If this interpretation isn't intended, I'd simply omit that part and write

Wir werden Ihnen den Betrag gutschreiben.

And, although through the orthography reform it's no longer obligatory, I'd place a comma for readability reasons:

Wir erlauben uns, Ihnen den Betrag gutzuschreiben.

  • I don't think there's anything better in the first version. It's just more common and there might be situations where you exactly want the emphasis changed by the "uncommon" (and definitely, valid) word order of the second version. It, as always, depends: Wir erlauben uns, den Betrag Ihnen gutzuschreiben - und nicht Herrn Müller, weil den mögen wir nicht
    – tofro
    Apr 1, 2022 at 11:33
  • But even in that case "Wir erlauben und ihnen den Betrag gutzuschreiben - und nicht Herrn Müllen, denn den mögen wir nicht" would still sound more natural.
    – haxor789
    Apr 1, 2022 at 11:43
  • 1
    The rule of thumb is pronouns precede nouns, regardless of which is the direct or indirect object. There may be circumstances where either order is possible, but for learners it's probably best to learn and use the "default" order until you develop an ear for what "sounds" right or wrong.
    – RDBury
    Apr 1, 2022 at 12:09
  • @RDBury Agree, but it's still important to know there's nothing "better" or "more correct" with the more common way of saying it.
    – tofro
    Apr 1, 2022 at 12:42

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