Frequently Used German Dative Verbs

Friends apologizing
"Das tut mir leid" (I'm sorry) is one of the most common German expressions where the verb is followed by the dative case, (mir). NicolasMcComber / Getty Images

In the following chart you'll find those German verbs that take a "direct" object in the dative case rather than the normal accusative case. 

The "dative verbs" category is a rather loose classification because almost any transitive verb can have a dative indirect object. But in general, a dative verb is one that normally takes an object in the dative case—usually without any other object. The list below does not include such "normal" verbs, as  geben (give) or zeigen  (show, indicate), that commonly have both a direct and an indirect object (as in English): Er gibt mir das Buch.

—mir is the indirect object (dative) and Buch is the direct object (accusative).

In addition to the single-word English translation, many dative verbs can be translated with a to-phrase: antworten, to give an answer to; danken, to give thanks to; gefallen, to be pleasing to; etc. This favorite grammar trick of many German teachers does not always hold up (as with folgen, to follow). But this "to" aspect does have some basis in the German grammar of some dative verbs, in that they are not actually taking a true direct object. Ich glaube dir nicht. (I don't believe you.) is short for Ich glaube es dir nicht—in which es is the true direct object and dir is a sort of "dative of possession" that could be translated "of you" (i.e., "I don't believe it of you.").

However, even if you are one of those rare people who find all this dative grammar fascinating, it is best to simply learn the more common dative verbs.

Thus, the chart below, which lists the most common dative verbs—those that you should learn first.

Note that many dative verbs also have an accusative be- prefix variation: antworten/beantworten, danken/bedanken, etc. 

Most Frequently Used Dative Verbs

antwortenanswerAntworten Sie mir!
Antworten Sie auf die Frage!
Beantworten Sie die Frage!
dankenthankIch danke dir.
Ich bedanke mich.
fehlenbe missingDu fehlst mir.
Was fehlt dir?

Also see befehlen, below.
folgenfollowBitte folgen Sie mir!
Ich bin ihm gefolgt.
Ich befolge immer deinen Rat.
gefallenlike, be pleasing toDein Hemd gefällt mir.
Also negative, missfallen, to not like
Dein Hemd missfällt mir.
gehörenbelong toDas Buch gehört mir, nicht dir.
glaubenbelieveEr glaubte mir nicht.
helfenhelpHilf deinem Bruder!
Ich kann dir leider nicht helfen.
Leid tunbe sorryEs tut mir Leid.
Sie tut mir Leid.
passierento happen (to)Was ist dir passiert?
verzeihenpardon, forgiveIch kann ihm nicht verzeihen.
wehtunto hurtWo tut es Ihnen weh?

Below are additional dative verbs that are less common, yet still important German vocabulary words. You'll also find a few genitive verbs listed below the dative chart.

Less Common Dative Verbs

befehlencommand, orderglückenbe lucky
begegnenencounter, meetlauschenoverhear
dienenservenützenbe of use
drohenthreatenpassenfit, suit
einfallenoccur to, think ofratenadvise
geratenturn out welltrauen
genügenbe enoughwidersprechencontradict
geschehenhappenwinkenwave at/to
gleichenbe likezürnenbe angry with

Zuhören (listen to), zulächeln (smile at), zujubeln (rejoice), zusagen (agree to), zustimmen (agree with), and other verbs with a zu- prefix also take the dative. EXAMPLES: Stimmst du mir zu? (Do you agree with me?); Ich höre dir zu. (I'm listening to you.)

Genitive Verbs

bedürfenrequiresich vergewissernascertain
sich erinnernremembersich schämenbe ashamed

Note: Verbs used with the genitive tend to be found in more formal writing (literature) or informal expressions.

They are rare in conversational German. For some of these verbs, the genitive can be replaced by a prepositional phrase. 

Genitive Examples

  • Ich bedarf deiner Hilfe. | I need your help.
  • Sie schämen sich ihres Irrtums. | They are ashamed of their error.
  • Wir treffen uns um jenes Mannes zu gedenken, dessen Werk so bedeutend war. | We meet to commemorate the man whose work was so significant.

For reflexive verbs (sich), see our Reflexive Verbs glossary.