The dative (3rd case)

(Purpose of the dative case in German grammar)

Table of contents – dative

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Explanation of the term dative
  2. Further explanations and exercises

What is the dative?

The dative (in German: Dativ) is the third of the four grammatical cases in German grammar. It usually designates the indirect object in a sentence and can be determined with the question “Whom / to whom?(Wem?). Consequently, the dative may also be called the whom case.

Compare the usage of the dative in the following examples:

  • Certain verbs require the third case (dative). Some of these verbs are:
    • geben (to give), gehören (belong), schicken (send), empfehlen (recommend), zeigen (show), helfen (help), sagen (say), zuhören (listen), etc.
      • Example sentence: „Die Gitarre gehört mir.“ (The guitar is mine.)
        • Checking question: Wem gehört die Gitarre?“ (Whose guitar is it?)
        • Answer: Mir.“ (Mine.)
  • The dative is also needed if an utterance contains specific prepositions. Some of these are:
    • bei (at), von (from), mit (with), zu (to), seit (for), gegenüber (opposite), entsprechend (corresponding), nahe (near), etc.
      • Example sentence: „Vorhin war er mit den Hunden draußen.“ (He was outside with the dogs earlier.)
        • Checking question: „Mit wem war er draußen?“ (With whom was he outside?)
        • Answer: „Mit den Hunden.“ (With the dogs.)
  • Combinations with individual adjectives and phrases demand the dative as well, for instance:
    • warm sein (to be warm), treu sein (be faithful), etc.
      • Example sentence: „Ist dir warm?“ (Are you warm?)
        • Checking question: Wem ist warm?“ (Who is warm?)
        • Answer: Dir.“ (You.)

Information: In colloquial language, the dative case is frequently used with some prepositions that require the genitive according to formal grammar rules. Typical examples of such prepositions are ‘wegen’ (because of) and ‘während’ (during). Similarly, compare the explanation of how to use the genitive.

Further explanations relating to the ‘Dative in German grammar’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘The dative or third case of the four German grammatical cases’ and may be interesting as well: