The German Dative Case

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German Cases

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What is the German Dative Case? (Dativ)

  • The Dative Case (Dativ) is one of four German cases. They are also called "Kasus".
  • It is also known as the „Indirect Object“.
  • The Indirect Object is the noun that receive something (which usually is in the Accusative case).
  • We also use the Dative case after certain verbs and prepositions. (See: Verbs with Dative & Prepositions with Dative)
  • The questions for Dative Case is: „Wem?“ or „Was“? (But: Don´t use them! I will tell you later why!)


  • „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 flower!

What does the boy give to a friend? – Die Blumen!

„Die Blumen“ is the direct object, which is acted upon!


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Dative - Declension

We need to change all the Articles.

dative case declension - Dativ Deklination

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Special Characteristics

When the plural form doesn't end in "s" or "n", the plural form in Dative Case requires an extra "-n" that needs to be added on to the end.

  • 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: 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.

  • „Er gibt dem Mann die Schlüssel.“

The person performing the action (er⇒ he ⇒ Subject ⇒ Nominative) gives something  (die Schlüssel“ ⇒ the keys are acted  upon ⇒ direct object ⇒ Accusative)  to a receiver. (Der Mann ⇒ the man gets something ⇒ indirect object ⇒ Dative)

Interesting Fact:

The noun in the Dative Case usually receives something. (⇒ The noun in the Accusative case.)  

Use: Dative Object

Some certain verbs (= Verbs with Dative Complements) require the use of the Dative Case.

For example,helfen“, „gehören“, „zuhören“.

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

Those Verbs requires the Dative Case. The object is still the "Direct Object". But the verb can only be used with the Dative case.

 ⇒ It's the Dative Case because the verbs says so!

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.“

As with the Accusative, Prepositions don't care whether the object is direct or indirect. They also don't care which case (Kasus) the verb likes to use. (More on this in the lesson: Verbs with Complements). They ALWAYS use their own case (Kasus). (More about this in the lesson: Prepositions)

Attention: There are also prepositions, that may use more than one case. More about them in the lesson: Two-Case-Prepositions.


If there is a Preposition before the Noun, all other rules do not matter.

The rule of the respective Preposition ALWAYS applies.

It doesn't matter if it's a Direct or Indirect Object or which case the Verb wants to use.

The Preposition tells you which case to use! ALWAYS!

Why shouldn´t you use the questions?

I am a native speaker and asking the questions (especially for Dative and Accusative Case) never help even a little bit. It can help if you already acquired a feeling for the language. But even most of the native speakers won´t get it right with those questions. They will most likely confuse you.

Also: The question "Was?" (What?) is used for three out of four cases....

That´s why, always remember:

The Preposition tells you which case to use! ALWAYS!

No preposition? - Does the verb force you to use a certain case? 

If not - direct object = accusative and indirect object = dative


Detailed explanations and lists of Verbs and Prepositions with Dative can be found here: 

Exercises for the Dative case:

Related Topics:

Entire lesson in German only: Dativ

Detailed explanations of the other German Cases:

The following things need to be adjusted (declined) based on the case:

  • Deklination von Artikeln (Declension of Articles)
  • Deklination von Pronomen (Declension of Pronouns)
  • Adjektivdeklination (Adjective Declension)
  • N-Deklination (N-Declension)

The following things affect the case:

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