Dative is used for indirect objects. But the theory about the transitivity is interesting at first glance.
If I'd use the accusative case it would be "Они меня́ помогают" what doesn't make sense since the verb is intransitive.
The same is for "Я иду к нему́" ("Я иду к него" is meaningless, "идти" is intransitive), "Я иду по улице" (not "Я иду по улицу").
But, I don't know how many examples I can remember, and maybe it's just a pure coincidence.
It's much easier to think of the dative as a grammatical case intended to use with the indirect object:
- он даёт мне де́ньги (he gives me money)
- он говори́т мне о рабо́те (he is talking me about his job)
- он верит мне (he believes me)
- он мне нра́вится (I like him)
- мне принадлежи́т заво́д (I own the factory)
Thank you so much for the explanation! I got confused by the fact that in my native language, French, "aider" (to help/помогать) has evolved to become transitive direct, which is why I expected помогать to take a direct object.
Interestingly enough according to Wiktionary it wasn't always the case, and back in the days of the Encyclopédie in the 18th century "aider" used to take an indirect object ("j'aide à cette personne" instead of nowadays' "j'aide cette personne"). I guess I should have been born in the days of Kings, it would have greatly improved my intuition in Duolingo's Russian course. Oh, wait...
7 months late...
While your examples are helpful and good English phrasing I've always found it's easier, from my native English-speaking perspective, to think of the dative or indirect object as some action happening (most often) to that object, but also "in" or "on" or "by" etc.
I suggest, just to illustrate the dative case to English speakers, though I could be wrong. (Also this is simplified and for English speakers, native Russian speakers should absolutely not phrase English this way) The bold parts below aren't meant to have a Russian word equivalent, they serve as a clue to indicate that the dative case is required for the pronoun:
- он даёт мне де́ньги (he gives money to me)
- он говори́т мне о рабо́те (he is talking to me about his job)
- он мне нра́вится (He is pleasing to me (I like him))
- мне принадлежи́т заво́д (The factory is owned by me (I own the factory))
If this is wrong, I'll delete.
It doesn't though. This is something that might take you a while to become comfortable with, but non-accentuated vowels in Russian sound very much alike -- and that's fine. The point is, you hear они first so you automatically induce помогают, because помогает simply wouldn't make sense.
But this was my point. (At least on my computer and to my ears!), the voice clearly said помогает AFTER они. Since I've heard other strange sounding audios, and evidently this has happened often enough elsewhere that it is a category in the "report problems" section, I thought I'd report it. I have lived in close contact with many native speakers for decades, but checked my (mis?) hearing with a couple of them. They agreed that it sounded like a singular, not a plural form. Thanks for your comments and taking the time to post them, though.
I apologize if my message sounded dismissive, it wasn't my intention! What I wanted to say was that oftentimes (though not always, depending on the speaker, the pace of speech, general care towards enunciation and other contextual cues) е, я, ю, and и can be nearly impossible to distinguish when they don't carry the tonic accent. It's especially true when they follow a vowel, and even more true when said vowel carries the tonic accent. This sentence on Forvo is a good example, using the same word as our sentence here, of that phenomenon. In my opinion it certainly indicates that the way it is pronounced here does not constitute a mistake in Duo's software.
Also keep in mind that the expected sound of a non-accentuated ю is not /ju/ but /jʊ/. That ʊ symbol is called a near-close near-back rounded vowel, it's the sound you find in English words like "foot," "wolf," and "could." It's possible that this may have conflicted with your expectations of what помогают should sound like and made the matter even worse.
While it most definitely is confusing at first glance, what I meant by my rather clumsy "and that's fine" is that there will come a time in your learning when you won't even notice that problem, as your brain hearing они first will automatically parse the following word as помогают. And that time isn't as far in the future as you may think. Truth is, about a year ago I was the one getting hung up on matters similar as this, and in hindsight I wish I could tell myself to focus on other problems as this particular one tends to solve itself with practice. :-)
Thank you for your generous and lengthy reply. And no, I did not think your original post sounded dismissive. Forgive me if anything in my replay made it seem so. But, having said that, let us agree to disagree. My "expectations of what помогают should sound like" ae based on decades of Russian usage, at times including daily interaction with monolingual native speakers. Again, to repeat something I wrote earlier, it was precisely the "они" that made the "помогаЕТ" so jarring. I ran this by a friend who is a Muscovite and professional translator. She agreed with my assessment of the pronunciation. Perhaps there is something about the computer interface? In any case, thanks again for your observations. Please take 5 lingots.