So according to my grammar book, when a sentence consists of two pronouns objects the accusative pronoun always precedes the dative pronoun:

Ich kaufe dem Mann die Uhr.
Ich kaufe sie ihm.

Is there any way to make this intuitive? Does there exist any reason for this rule or it just exists?

2 Answers 2


If it makes you feel any better, similar rules exist in English. An indirect object precedes an direct object if they're both nouns and 'to' is not used: "I'm giving the dog a bone." If 'to' is used the the indirect object comes first, and you'd always use 'to' if there are pronouns: "I'm giving a bone to the dog." "I'm giving it to him". You wouldn't say "I'm giving him it." Actually the word order is similar to English if you think about it; English is a Germanic language after all. The big difference is that in German you use case endings to tell what is being given and what is receiving; in English you have to use a preposition. Because German uses case endings, word order is more flexible, and the rule given is more the "default" word order than the required word order. Grammar books don't usually mention that kind of thing because it's easier for learners to just follow some relatively simple rules rather than try to grasp the complex interplay of emphases and custom which a native speaker uses to arrive at a word order used in a given sentence.

If you explain it out as a set of "rules" then it does seem unnecessarily complex and confusing, but native speakers just know the correct word order by intuition without having to think about it. The point of grammar is so you can learn what is correct without going through time consuming process of trial and error that you went through as a 1 year old; young children basically spend their entire day learning language, so they don't seem to mind trial and error. With enough practice you can probably gain an "intuitive feel" for correct word order as well, but it does take practice.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that for the purposes of a person learning German it's better to just accept that the rule "just exists". I'm sure that an expert in the history of German could give you a more detailed historical reason, but my feeling is that learning another language is difficult enough without trying to learn the entire evolution from prehistoric roots.

  • Thanks i got the rule better after you gave the English's example Jan 12, 2023 at 21:50
  • As a native British English speaker I would like to comment that I would actually say something like "I'm giving him it" and it doesn't sound strange to me, whereas "I'm giving it him" sounds completely wrong, of course you rightly state that you need a preposition with that ordering.
    – rooms
    Feb 4 at 13:10
  • @rooms - Thanks, I didn't realize it was different in British English. Of course there are varieties within both American and British English, so I wonder if there isn't actually a more complex pattern. Would, for example, "I'm giving it him" be said by someone from Yorkshire, Cornwall, Maine, or Texas? And I guess Canada might go either way. Perhaps this is a question for the English language SE.
    – RDBury
    Feb 4 at 21:05

This is not just the default order for two pronoun objects but also for a pronoun accusative object and a noun dative object.

I posted the default word order a while ago. Use that recipe. It's almost always at least correct.

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