Dative Verbs

There are certain verbs in German that always put their object in the dative, even when there’s no preposition and it seems to be a direct object. In the Perfect Tenses section, we mentioned a few that take sein, but most of them actually take haben. Here are a few more examples:

antworten – to answer Ich antworte dir [not dich] Morgen.
I’ll answer you tomorrow
danken – to thank Ich danke dir für deine Hilfe.
[I] thank you for your help.
gefallen – to please Es gefällt mir [not mich].
It pleases me / I like it
helfen – to help Kann ich dir helfen?
Can I help you?
raten – to advise Ich habe ihm [not ihn] geraten, es nicht zu tun.
I advised him not to do it.

Sometimes you’ll see verbs like schreiben (to write) identified as dative verbs, because they commonly take a dative (indirect) object in addition to an accusative (direct) one, as when you write a letter [accusative] to a friend [dative]. That’s not what we’re talking about here, though. A “true” dative verb is one that takes a dative object without an accusative object, and there are only about 50 of them. If you look closely, what’s going on with most of them is that an implied direct object is being dropped, often because it’s being used as the verb itself. You answer someone by giving them an answer, help them by giving help, advise them by giving advice, and so on.

Click here for our full list of dative verbs.