Dative Case in German

Learn all about the dative case in German in this free online German lesson with easy-to-follow examples. So, once again, let's get straight to it. You now know that the subject of a sentence is in the nominative case in German and the direct object is in the accusative case , right? Good!


Dative Case in German

Here are the answers to a few questions you might have about the dative case in German:


1.) How can I identify the German dative case?

The indirect object of a sentence is always in this case. The indirect object (a person or thing) is essentially indirectly affected by the verb.


2.) How can I identify the indirect object in a sentence?

By asking 'to whom' or 'for whom' with the subject and verb of the sentence.


3.) Why is it important to know about the dative case in German and be able to identify the indirect object?

Because all German nouns used as indirect objects in a sentence make a 'declensional' change, i.e. they all change their form.

4.) What do these 'declensional' changes look like?

Let's take a look at these changes with the help of the following four tables.

I will highlight where necessary the declensional changes in blue.


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Dative Case in German: Section 1

Definite articles 
(i.e. the various forms of 'the')

All definite articles change their form as detailed in the following table:

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
dem der dem den

Examples:


Ich habe dem Mann meine Telefonnummer gegeben (I gave my telephone number to the man). 
'To whom' did I give my telephone number? 'The man' (dem Mann) is the indirect object of the sentence. 'Der' changes to 'dem' for a masculine noun.


Er hat der Frau einen Strafzettel gegeben (He gave the woman a parking ticket). 
'To whom' did he give a parking ticket? 'The woman' (der Frau) is the indirect object of this sentence. 'Die' changes to 'der' for a feminine noun.


Wir senden dem Krankenhaus einen Brief (We are sending a letter to the hospital). 
'To whom' are we sending a letter? 'The hospital' (dem Krankenhaus) is the indirect object of the sentence. 'Das' changes to 'dem' for a neuter noun.


Ich kaufe den Mädchen Eis (I buy the girls ice cream) 
'For whom' do I buy the ice cream? 'The girls' ('den Mädchen') is the indirect objectof the sentence. 'Die' changes to 'den' for a plural noun.


Dative Case in German: Section 2

Indefinite articles 
(i.e. the various forms of 'a' / 'an' in German)

All indefinite articles change their form as detailed in the following table:

Masculine Feminine Neuter
einem einer einem

Examples:

Ich gebe einem Bettler das Geld (I give the money to a beggar). 'To whom' do I give the money? 'A beggar' (einem Bettler) is the indirect object. The indefinite article for a masculine noun changes to 'einem'.

Sie leiht einer Freundin ihr Auto (She is lending her car to a 'female' friend). 'To whom' is she lending her car? 'A 'female friend' (einer Freundin) is the indirect object. The indefinite article for a female noun changes to 'einer'.

Wir haben einem Pferd einen Apfel gegeben. 'To whom' did we give an apple? The indefinite article for a neuter noun changes to 'einem'.


Dative Case in German - Section 3

Personal pronouns
(i.e. small words which replace nouns)

I am afraid to say all personal pronouns change in the dative case. Don't worry too much though.

Just take your time and be patient. Of course, you won't be able to memorize all the changes at once, but you will, over time, start to get a feeling for these different forms.


N.B. 'To' is normally omitted as a separate word and instead the dative pronoun detailed below is used for both words. See below the table for some examples.

Pronoun English
mir to me
dir to you (informal singular)
ihm to him
ihr to her
ihm to it
uns to us
euch to you (informal plural)
Ihnen to you (formal singular and plural)
ihnen to them

Examples:

Gibst Du mir das bitte? (Can you please give that to me?). 'To whom' should you give that? 'To me' (mir) is the indirect object.

Ich gebe Dir meine CD (I am giving my CD). 'To whom' am I giving the CD? 'To you' (Dir) is the indirect object.

Ich kaufe ihm ein Hemd (I buy him a shirt). 'For whom' am I buying a shirt? 'For him' (ihm) is the indirect object.


Dative Case in German - Section 4

Possessive pronouns in the nominative case
(i.e. small words which replace nouns and establish possession)


Unfortunately, all the possessive pronouns have different endings in the dative case, too. But, don't worry, all is not lost ;) The pattern here (the endings to be specific) is identical to that which you learned above in the indefinite article table and, furthermore, all the possessive pronouns follow the same pattern.

You just need to add an 'em' to the end of the masculine possessive pronoun, an 'er' to the end of the feminine one and an 'em' again to the end of the neuter one.


Masculine Feminine Neuter English translation
meinem meiner meinem my
deinem deiner deinem your (informal singular)
seinem seiner seinem his
ihrem ihrer ihrem her
seinem seiner seinem its
unserem unserer unserem our
eurem eurer eurem your (informal plural)
Ihrem Ihrer Ihrem your (formal singular and plural)
ihrem ihrer ihrem their


Once you have understood how the nominative, accusative and dative cases work, you are now ready to progress to the genitive case.


Next, my Genitive Case in German lesson. 


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