Lesson 4 - Dative Case

The German dative case is generally used for the indirect object. The indirect object is often the receiver of the direct object. Take this sentence for example:

  • Der Bäcker gibt den Armen kein Brot - The Baker gives no bread to the poor

In that sentence there are two objects, a direct one, 'bread', and the indirect one 'the poor'.
To identify which of both is the indirect object, you could simply ask yourself 'To whom or for whom is the action being done?'. In most cases the indirect object is a person, but sometimes it could be an inanimate object as well.

Endings in the Dative case

Unlike the accusativ case discussed in the last lesson, the dative case not only affects the ending of the words linked to the noun, but it affects the noun itself as well.

Article Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Definite dem Mann der Frau dem Kind den Tieren
Indefinite einem Mann einer Frau einem Kind - Tieren
Negative keinem Mann keiner Frau keinem Kind keinen Tieren
Possessive meinem Mann meiner Frau meinem Kind meinen Tieren

Note that in the German dative case, an '-en' or a '-n' is added to the plural of the noun unless if that plural already ends with a '-s' or a '-n'.

Personal Pronouns

All of the personal pronouns change from the nominative case to the dative case as shown in the next table:

Singular Pronoun Definition Plural Pronoun Definition
mir me uns us
dir you - informal euch you - informal
ihm/ihr/ihm him/her/it ihnen they
Ihnen you - formal Ihnen you - formal

Dative case after certain verbs

The Dative case comes after certain verbs no matter what role the noun/pronoun plays, and even if there is no direct object in the sentence.

Verb Definition Verb Definition
antworten to answer gratulieren to congratulate
danken to thank helfen to help
drohen to threaten nutzen to be useful
fehlen to be missing passen to suit
folgen to follow schmecken to taste
gehören to belong to verzeihen to forgive
glauben to believe zuhören to listen to

Dative case after certain prepositions

Certain prepositions always take the dative case no matter their position in the sentence, and even if there will be more than one dative noun within the sentence.

Preposition Definition
aus from, out of
außer apart from
bei at, near
gegenüber opposite
mit with
nach after, to
seit since, for
von from
zu to

Interrogatives in the Dative Case

In the dative, the interrogative pronoun 'wer' becomes 'wem', and the interrogative 'welcher' is declined according to the noun it's attached to.

Case Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Dative welchem welcher welchem welchen

Impersonal Expressions

Numerous German expressions often use 'es' as their subject. They are called 'impersonal expressions' becuase they don't identify a specific person or object as their subject. Often these expressions require a dative object.
For example:

  • Es fällt mir ein - It occurs to me
  • Es kommt dir vor - It appears to you
  • Es scheint ihm - It seems to him
  • Es gefällt dem Mann - It appeals to the man


Here are a few example sentences in which the dative nouns/pronouns are pointed out:

  • Ich gebe meiner Schwester einen Hut - I'm giving a hat to my sister
  • Wir folgen den Kindern - We are following the kids
  • Sie kommt aus dem Museum - She is coming from the museum
  • Wir fahren mit dem Zug - We're riding the train