Some typical dative governing verbs in many IE case-inflecting languages are "help", "give" etc.. Are they mainly inherited from PIE or are they developed within each language? If the latter, is there any case where two IE case-inflecting languages have a highly non-coincident lexicon of dative requiring verbs?

1 Answer 1


It is natural for a language that has the Dative case to use this case after verbs that have their action addressed for / to[wards] somebody or something, like “to help” and “to give”. In Russian, the corresponding verbs помочь and дать are also dative-governing, although the verbs themselves are definitely not etymological cognates of the German “helfen” (to help) and “geben” (to give) that govern Dative, it is the semantics of the verbs that suggests using the Dative case with them.

Still, the meaning of the Dative case in some languages can be paired with actions for which quite different governing is used in some other languages. I can compare German and Russian – I can speak both of them, and both of them have dative-governing verbs.

This page on a language learning site lists 36 most common German verbs that require Dative. Out of these 36 verbs, 10 verbs require another case or use a preposition + a case in Russian. 10 out of 36 is 27.8% which is almost one third:

  • ähneln D (to resemble smb/smth*) — быть похожим на Acc.
  • beitreten D (to join organization) — вступать в Acc.
  • danken D (to thank smb) — благодарить Acc.
  • folgen D (to follow smb/smth) — следовать за Instr.
  • gehorchen D (to obey smb) — слушаться Gen.
  • gratulieren D (to congratulate, greet smb) — поздравлять Acc.
  • sich nähern D (to approach smb/smth) — приближаться к D.
  • passieren D (to happen with smb/smth) — случаться с Instr.
  • zuhören D (to listen to smb/smth) — слушать Acc.
  • zustimmen D (to agree with smb/smth) — соглашаться с Instr.

smb/smth = somebody/something

  • this answer doesn't really answer the question, which is too broad because, while "mainly" is not defined, I would take it either as in the majority of cases or, perhaps more interesting, as originally. Still it quenches some curiosity, but it should be expected that Russian with more cases available would have greater variety which collapsed in German, as most examples have Dativ following the prep. zu, obviously in the last 2, but also in zum Geburtstag gratulieren, dazu gehören whence gehorchen, maybe more, equivalent to English to, indeed "ähnlich … Englisch"? Or be-, bei-.
    – vectory
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:21
  • @vectory - Jemandem gratuliern – that's the Dative which is meant, it's explained in the word list (to congratulate, greet smb). Also, hör mir zu, but not gehören. What are you talking about?
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:34
  • danken is weird as refl. sich bedanken bei has redundant be-, cp. perhaps be thankful (but not * bethank by) and there's the usual Accusativ-Dativ alternation "danke dem Mann für den Apfel". *folgen has agreement with place, folge dem Mann zu dem Haus, but different depending on preposition, e.g. in das Haus. We can also see that dat. mir often translates to me w.r.t. possession, belonging, Ger. das gehört [zu] mir. However, the reflexive pronoun doesn't compare, Sie ähneln dat.sich. And what about help? In Latin adiuta, Fr. aide the ad- is right built-in!
    – vectory
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:39
  • what am I doing? I'm guessing at the diachrony of course. And about grammar, if agreement and distinction is relevant, e.g. geben "give" with the default accusative for the given thing, and dative only for the receiver, so that typically dative governing is questionable anyhow. Note though that geben has be- built right in, too, if I am not mistaken. PS: w.r.t. in das Haus note in's is more common and as such perhaps akin to into (~ *inz).
    – vectory
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:43
  • or from the proto-paradigm *so ~ *to
    – vectory
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:49

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