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The Dative Case in German (der Dativ)

In this lesson, you will learn the dative case in German and how to use it.

The Dative Case in German

The German dative case is one of the four cases in the German language, along with the nominative, accusative, and genitive cases. It is used to indicate the indirect object of a sentence or the recipient of the direct object.

German cases describe a noun or a pronoun’s grammatical role in a sentence. First, take a quick look at the roles of the cases in German shown in Table 1.1:

CASESROLEDESCRIPTION
Nominative
(Nominativ)
subjecttakes action
Accusative
(Akkusativ)
direct objectreceives action
Dative
(Dativ)
indirect objectto/for whom action is taken
Genitive
(Genitiv)
possessiveindicates the owner of someone or something
Table 1.1

To make the dative case, you add certain endings to nouns and pronouns, depending on whether they are singular or plural and what gender they are. Table 1.2 shows how the German articles change in the dative case:

CASESMASCULINEFEMININENEUTRALPLURAL
Nominativeder
ein
kein
die
eine
keine
das
ein
kein
die
✖️
keine
Accusativeden
einen
keinen
die
eine
keine
das
ein
kein
die
✖️
keine
Dativedem
einem
keinem
der
einer
keiner
dem
einem
keinem
den
✖️
keinen
Table 1.2 – Articles in the dative case

As you know, in a sentence, the subject is the person or thing performing the action. The direct object is the person or thing receiving the action. The indirect object is the person or thing for whom or for which the action is performed.

-Meine Mutter kauft ein Handy.
My mother buys a cell phone.
Meine Mutter Subjekt (Nominativ) kauft ihrer Tochter indirekt Objekt (Dativ) ein Handy direkt Objekt (Akkusativ).
My mother buys her daughter a mobile phone.

How to Find Dative Case in German in a Sentence?

To find the indirect object in a German sentence, you can follow these steps:

❗ Identify the verb in the sentence. The indirect object is often associated with the verb, so it’s important to know what action is being performed.

❗ Determine whether the verb requires the Dative Case. Some verbs, such as “geben” (to give), “schenken” (to give as a present), and “zeigen” (to show), require the Dative Case to indicate the indirect object. Other verbs, such as “haben” (to have) and “sein” (to be), do not require the Dative Case.

❗ Identify the noun or pronoun that follows the verb. If the verb requires the Dative Case, the noun or pronoun that follows it is likely the indirect object.

❗ Check the ending of the noun or pronoun. The Dative Case is indicated by specific endings on nouns and pronouns, depending on their gender and number. For example, the article “der” (the) becomes “dem” in the Dative singular and “den” in the Dative plural. Similarly, the pronoun “ich” (I) becomes “mir” in the Dative, and “du” (you) becomes “dir.”

❗ Consider the context. In some cases, the indirect object may not be immediately after the verb but may be further in the sentence. In this case, consider the overall context and what the noun or pronoun refers to in order to determine its role in the sentence.

❗ Dative is also used with dative prepositions such “as, von, zu, seit, nach, ab, aus, mit, bei, gegenüber”.

Here are five examples of the German Dative Case

„Ich schenke meiner Mutter eine Blume.”
(I give my mother a flower as a present.)
„Ich zeige meinem Vater das Foto.”
(I show my father the photo.)
„Ich erzähle meiner Schwester eine Geschichte.”
(I tell my sister a story.)
„Ich schreibe meinem Freund eine E-Mail.”
(I write my friend an Email.)
„Ich gebe meinem Hund etwas Wasser.”
(I give my dog some Wasser.)
„Ich fahre mit dem Auto.”
(I’m travelling by car.)

In conclusion, the German Dative Case is used to indicate the recipient of the direct object in a sentence and is formed by adding specific endings to nouns and pronouns. It is also used with certain prepositions, but not always with indirect objects. Understanding the use of the Dative Case is essential for correct grammar and communication in the German language.

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