The Dative Case

What is the Dative Case?

  • We use the dative case after certain verbs and prepositions.
  • It is also known as the indirect object.
  • The indirect object is normally the noun that receives something (normally the direct object, which is in the accusative case).
  • The question for the dative case is „Wem?“ or „Was?“

Dative Case – Examples

  • „Das Auto gehört dem Mann.“

Who does the car belong to? – Dem Mann!

The verb „gehören“ always requires the dative case

  • „Der Junge schenkt einer Freundin die Blumen.“

To whom does the boy give the flowers? – Einer Freundin!

„Freundin“ is the indirect object. She receives the flowers!

Declension in Dative Case

The article must match the case:

Definite Article
Indefinite Article
Masculinedem MannMasculineeinem Mann
Feminineder FrauFeminineeiner Frau
Neuterdem KindNeutereinem Kind
Pluralden ElternPlural- Eltern

Special Characteristics:

When the plural form doesn‘t end in „s“ or „n“, the plural form in dative requires an extra „n“.

  • die Fahrräderden Fahrrädern
  • die Bilder den Bildern
  • die Tische den Tischen
  • die Autos – den Autos ⇒ kein „n“
  • die Frauen – den Frauen ⇒ kein „n“

Use of the Dative Case

Use: Dative Object

After certain verbs (= Verbs with dative complements), the dative is always used. For example, „helfen“, „gehören“, „zuhören“.

  • „Ich helfe dem Mann
  • „Das Auto gehört einem Kollegen.“
  • „Ich höre meiner Freundin zu.“

These verbs require dative case. The object is still the “direct object” but the verb works only with the dative. ⇒ dative case because the verb wants it like that.

More information about verbs that require dative: Verbs with dative complements.

Use: Indirect Object

In sentences with more than one object, the indirect object is always in the dative case, unless the preposition requires the genitive or accusative case to be used.

Tip: The noun in the dative case is usually the person who receives the thing that is in the accusative case.

  • Er gibt dem Mann die Schlüssel.“

The acting person(„er“ he ⇒ Subject ⇒ nominative case) „er“ gives something.  („die Schlüssel“ the keys ⇒ direct object ⇒ accusative case)  to a receiver. („Der Mann“  the man gets something. ⇒ indirect object ⇒ dative case)

More information about the indirect object in lecture: 4.13.4 Verbs with dative and accusative complement.

Use: After Prepositions

The prepositions  „aus“, „bei“, „gegenüber“, „mit“, „nach“, „seit“, „von“ and „zu“ are always followed by a noun in the dative case.

  • „Er kommt aus dem Haus.“
  • „Du bist bei einer Freundin.“
  • „Der Mann geht zu dem Bahnhof.“

Info: Like in the accusative case: if there is a preposition the rule of the preposition applies, no matter which case the verb requires without a preposition. (More about that: Verbs with complements). They will use their own case. ALWAYS! (More about that in Chapter 6: Prepositions)

Remember: If you have a preposition in front of a noun, none of the other rules apply anymore. Only the rule of the preposition remains valid.

Further Information:


The Genitive Case
Cases │ Genitive case │ Usage, Declension, examples and an easy explanation about genitive case. │ When do we use genitive case? │ Irregularities?
Accusative Case
Cases │ Accusative Case │ Usage, Declension, examples and an easy explanation about accusative case. │ When do we use accusative case? │ Irregularities?
Nominative Case
Cases │ Nominative case │ Usage, Declension, examples and an easy explanation about nominative case. │ When do we use nominative case? │ Irregularities?

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