The dative case

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In addition to a direct object, many verbs in German can take a further object, the indirect object. The indirect object of a sentence is always in the dative case:

Wir kauften dem Kind einen großen Luftballon.
We bought the child a big balloon.

Er macht der Frau einen Vorschlag.
He puts a preposition to the woman.

To who/m or what is the action being done? → The child
Note that the indirect object in English is often indicated by the preposition ‘to’ as shown in the above example.

The dative after verbs

Some verbs in German require a dative object. The most common are: antworten ‘to answer’, danken ‘to thank’, folgen ‘to follow’, gehören ‘to belong to’, gratulieren ‘to congratulate’, helfen ‘to help’, schaden ‘to harm’, trauen ‘to trust’, wehtun ‘to hurt’:

Bitte antworte mir!
Please answer me!

Wir helfen der Frau.
We help the woman.

Er traute seinem Chef nicht.
He didn’t trust his boss.

The dative after prepositions

The dative case is always used after aus ‘out of’, außer ‘except’, bei ‘at’/‘by’, gegenüber ‘opposite’, mit ‘with’, nach ‘after’, seit ‘since’, von ‘from’, zu ‘to’:

Das Verkehrsbüro ist gegenüber dem Bahnhof.
The tourist information is opposite the station.

Was machst du nach der Arbeit?
What are you doing after work?

It also follows the so-called Wechselpräpositionen (such as an ‘at’, auf ‘on’ etc.) if the emphasis is on position and not on movement:

Sie machen ein Picknick im Park.
They have a picnic in the park.

Die Lampe steht neben dem Regal.
The lamp is next to the shelves.

Other triggers – with adjectives

The dative forms are also used in constructions with some adjectives when referring to the person/persons involved:

Sie ist ihrem Vater sehr ähnlich.
She is very similar to her father.

Das ist mir egal.
That’s all the same to me.

Geht es dir gut?
Are you well?

Es ist mir kalt./Mir ist kalt.
I am cold.

Other adjectives which are often used with the dative are: bekannt ‘known’, fremd ‘strange’, böse ‘angry’, dankbar ‘grateful’, gefährlich ‘dangerous’, schwer ‘heavy’/‘difficult’.

Dative case endings

Here is an overview of the most common determiners in the dative:

 MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Definite articledem Mann der Tochterdem Kind den Leute
Demonstrativediesem Manndieser Tochter diesem Kinddiesen Leute
Indefinite articleeinem Manneiner Tochtereinem Kind– Leute
Possessivemeinem Mannmeiner Tochtermeinem Kindmeinen Leute

Typical endings for determiners in the dative are:

-em with masculine and neuter nouns
-er with feminine nouns and
-en with nouns in the plural.

Don’t forget to add an extra -(e)n to the plural form of the noun itself whenever this is possible.