German Dative Case: Ultimate Guide Dative Case in German Grammar with Examples

Denisa from Spring German (one of my side projects) explains the German cases simply:

Now, our plan is to simply explain the dative case for you. Let’s explore its meanings!

1. German cases explained simply

You probably already know that there are 4 German cases:

  • Nominative
  • Accusative
  • Dative
  • Genitive

Each of these cases has its own usage. To learn more about the German dative case, it’s important to know the main principles of all the other cases.

The nominative case identifies the subject of the German sentence:

German SentenceSubject
Der Hund schläft. (The dog sleeps.)Der Hund (The dog)

The accusative case marks the direct object.

German SentenceDirect Object
Ich sehe den Hund. (I see the dog.)den Hund (the dog – as the direct object)

The dative case points to the indirect object.

German SentenceIndirect Object
Ich gebe dem Hund einen Knochen. (I give the dog a bone.)dem Hund (the dog – as the indirect object; einen Knochen – as the direct object)

The genitive case expresses possession.

German SentencePossession
Das ist das Haus des Mannes. (That is the man’s house.)des Mannes (the man’s house)

2. What is the German dative case?

Effortless Answers

The dative case in German is used to express the indirect object of a sentence. It answers the question “to whom” (wem?) or “for whom” (für wen) something is given, shown, or told.

For example, in the sentence “Ich gebe dem Kind einen Ball” (I give the child a ball), “dem Kind” is in the dative case because the ball is being given to the child.

Mastering the dative case is unbelievably important for making accurate and meaningful sentences in German. If you want to learn how to interact or give information about to whom or for whom an action is directed.

3. How to form the dative case in German?

You form the dative case in German by changing the articles, adjectives and sometimes the noun ending to pick up their roles as indirect objects in a German sentences.

Here’s a breakdown of how to form the dative case for definite and indefinite articles as well as possessive pronouns and adjectives.

Definite Articles

Dative = Nominative Article + Dative Ending

  • der (masculine) + dem
  • die (feminine) + der
  • das (neuter) + dem
  • die (plural) + den

Examples:

NominativeDative
der Manndem Mann
die Frauder Frau
das Kinddem Kind
die Freundeden Freunden

Indefinite Articles

Dative = Nominative Article + Dative Ending

  • ein (masculine) + einem
  • eine (feminine) + einer
  • ein (neuter) + einem
  • keine (plural) + keinen

Examples:

NominativeDative
ein Manneinem Mann
eine Fraueiner Frau
ein Kindeinem Kind
keine Freundekeinen Freunden

Possessive Pronouns

Dative = Nominative Possessive Pronoun + Dative Ending

  • mein (masculine/neuter) + meinem
  • meine (feminine) + meiner
  • meine (plural) + meinen

Examples:

NominativeDative
mein Freundmeinem Freund
meine Muttermeiner Mutter
meine Elternmeinen Eltern

Adjective Endings with Definite Articles

Dative = Definite Article + Adjective Root + Dative Adjective Ending

  • dem guten Mann
  • der guten Frau
  • dem guten Kind
  • den guten Freunden

Examples:

NominativeDative
der gute Manndem guten Mann
die gute Frauder guten Frau
das gute Kinddem guten Kind
die guten Freundeden guten Freunden

Adjective Endings with Indefinite Articles

Dative = Indefinite Article + Adjective Root + Dative Adjective Ending

  • einem guten Mann
  • einer guten Frau
  • einem guten Kind
  • keinen guten Freunden

Examples:

NominativeDative
ein guter Manneinem guten Mann
eine gute Fraueiner guten Frau
ein gutes Kindeinem guten Kind
keine guten Freundekeinen guten Freunden

Dative Plural Nouns

Dative Plural = Plural Noun + -n/-en if not ending in -n/-s

Examples:

NominativeDative
die Kinderden Kindern
die Männerden Männern

4. Prepositions that use the German dative

Some prepositions require the dative case in German. These prepositions in German are important for the dative case. When they are used in German sentences, they mark that the following noun or pronoun must be in the dative.

Some of the most common prepositions that require the dative case in German (with examples):

German PrepositionMeaningExample
ausfrom, out ofIch komme aus der Stadt. (I come from the city.)
beiat, by, nearEr arbeitet bei der Firma. (He works at the company.)
mitwithSie geht mit dem Hund spazieren. (She goes for a walk with the dog.)
nachafter, to (cities and countries)Wir fahren nach Berlin. (We are driving to Berlin.)
seitsince, for (a period of time)Ich lebe seit einem Jahr hier. (I have been living here for a year.)
vonfrom, of, aboutDas Geschenk ist von meiner Tante. (The gift is from my aunt.)
zuto, atIch gehe zu dem Arzt. (I am going to the doctor.)

You can learn these prepositions together with other words. For example, fahren nach could be considered as a chunk. And using the Conversation Based Chunking method, you can learn them easily. Learn more about the method here:

5. What is the difference between accusative case and dative case in German?

The dative case is quite complicated and there’s a small difference between accusative vs dative.

Prepositions are indicators of this difference.

Prepositions that describe location (where something is) are used with the dative case.

Prepositions that describe direction or movement (where something is going) are used with the accusative case.

Location/Position (Dative Case)

When you are describing where something is located or positioned (static location), you use the dative case.

German PrepositionMeaningExample
ausfrom, out ofIch komme aus der Stadt. (I come from the city.)
beiat, by, nearEr arbeitet bei der Firma. (He works at the company.)
mitwithSie geht mit dem Hund spazieren. (She goes for a walk with the dog.)
nachafter, to (cities and countries)Wir fahren nach Berlin. (We are driving to Berlin.)
seitsince, for (a period of time)Ich lebe seit einem Jahr hier. (I have been living here for a year.)
vonfrom, of, aboutDas Geschenk ist von meiner Tante. (The gift is from my aunt.)
zuto, atIch gehe zu dem Arzt. (I am going to the doctor.)
anto, at, on (vertical surface)Das Bild hängt an der Wand. (The picture hangs on the wall.)
aufto, on (horizontal surface)Das Buch liegt auf dem Tisch. (The book is lying on the table.)
hinterbehindDer Garten ist hinter dem Haus. (The garden is behind the house.)
ininto, in, insideWir gehen in die Schule. (We are going into the school.) / Wir sind in der Schule. (We are in the school.)
nebennext toDer Stuhl steht neben dem Tisch. (The chair is next to the table.)
überover, across, aboveIch springe über den Zaun. (I am jumping over the fence.) / Die Lampe hängt über dem Tisch. (The lamp hangs over the table.)
unterunder, beneathDie Katze läuft unter das Bett. (The cat is running under the bed.) / Die Katze schläft unter dem Bett. (The cat sleeps under the bed.)
vorin front ofIch stelle das Auto vor das Haus. (I am placing the car in front of the house.) / Das Auto steht vor dem Haus. (The car is in front of the house.)
zwischenbetweenIch gehe zwischen die Gebäude. (I am going between the buildings.) / Der Park liegt zwischen den Gebäuden. (The park is between the buildings.)

Direction/Movement (Accusative Case)

When you are describing the direction of movement (where something is going), you use the accusative case.

She goes for a walk with the dog illustrating the german dative case
Sie geht mit dem Hund spazieren. (She goes for a walk with the dog.)

The same prepositions can be used, but they signal movement rather than static position.

German PrepositionMeaningExample
ausfrom, out ofIch komme aus der Stadt. (I come from the city.)
beiat, by, nearEr arbeitet bei der Firma. (He works at the company.)
mitwithSie geht mit dem Hund spazieren. (She goes for a walk with the dog.)
nachafter, to (cities and countries)Wir fahren nach Berlin. (We are driving to Berlin.)
seitsince, for (a period of time)Ich lebe seit einem Jahr hier. (I have been living here for a year.)
vonfrom, of, aboutDas Geschenk ist von meiner Tante. (The gift is from my aunt.)
zuto, atIch gehe zu dem Arzt. (I am going to the doctor.)
anto (a vertical surface)Ich hänge das Bild an die Wand. (I hang the picture on the wall.)
aufto (a horizontal surface)Ich lege das Buch auf den Tisch. (I am placing the book on the table.)
hinterbehindIch gehe hinter das Haus. (I am going behind the house.)
inintoWir gehen in die Schule. (We are going into the school.)
nebennext toIch stelle den Stuhl neben den Tisch. (I am placing the chair next to the table.)
überover, acrossIch springe über den Zaun. (I am jumping over the fence.)
unterunderDie Katze läuft unter das Bett. (The cat is running under the bed.)
vorin front ofIch stelle das Auto vor das Haus. (I am placing the car in front of the house.)
zwischenbetweenIch gehe zwischen die Gebäude. (I am going between the buildings.)

Getting used to the difference between accusative and dative takes some time. You have two ways to go: either you remember the grammar rules, and you keep thinking every time you speak in German, or you learn to use the Conversation Based Chunking method.

6. Use the dative case with dative verbs

There are several common verbs in German that require the dative case. These verbs involve actions or states that affect an indirect object.

Here are some of the most frequently used dative verbs:

German VerbMeaningExample
helfento helpIch helfe dem Mann. (I help the man.)
dankento thankSie dankt dem Lehrer. (She thanks the teacher.)
folgento followEr folgt dem Auto. (He follows the car.)
gefallento please, to likeDas Buch gefällt mir. (I like the book.)
gehörento belong toDas Haus gehört meinem Freund. (The house belongs to my friend.)
glaubento believeIch glaube dir. (I believe you.)
gratulierento congratulateIch gratuliere dir zum Geburtstag. (I congratulate you on your birthday.)
passento suit, to fitDer Pullover passt mir. (The sweater fits me.)
schmeckento taste (good to someone)Das Essen schmeckt mir. (I like the taste of the food.)
vertrauento trustIch vertraue dir. (I trust you.)
weh tunto hurtDer Kopf tut mir weh. (My head hurts.)
fehlento be missingDu fehlst mir. (I miss you.)
antwortento answerEr antwortet dem Lehrer. (He answers the teacher.)
nützento be useful toDas nützt mir nichts. (That is of no use to me.)

7. German grammar with personal pronouns

German personal pronouns change form depending on the grammatical case being used. This is how they change from nominative to dative:

Personal PronounDative FormExample
ichmirKannst du mir helfen? (Can you help me?)
dudirIch gebe dir das Buch. (I give you the book.)
erihmSie dankt ihm. (She thanks him.)
sie (singular)ihrIch habe ihr eine Nachricht geschickt. (I sent her a message.)
esihmDer Hund gehorcht ihm. (The dog obeys it.)
wirunsKannst du uns zeigen, wo es ist? (Can you show us where it is?)
ihreuchIch gebe euch das Geschenk. (I give you the gift.)
sie (plural)ihnenDer Lehrer erklärt es ihnen. (The teacher explains it to them.)
SieIhnenIch danke Ihnen für Ihre Hilfe. (I thank you for your help.)

8. Master German dative determiners

And we’re still not done yet.

There are German determiners that evoke the usage of the German dative.

In addition to definite and indefinite articles, German uses other determiners that can be used with the dative case.

Here are some common determiners and how they change in the dative case:

CategoryDeterminer FormsExample Sentences
Demonstrative Pronounsdieser (masculine) → diesemIch gebe diesem Mann ein Buch. (I give this man a book.)
diese (feminine) → dieserSie hilft dieser Frau. (She helps this woman.)
dieses (neuter) → diesemEr vertraut diesem Kind. (He trusts this child.)
diese (plural) → diesenWir danken diesen Freunden. (We thank these friends.)
Possessive Determinersmein (masculine/neuter) → meinemIch gebe meinem Freund ein Geschenk. (I give my friend a gift.)
meine (feminine) → meinerSie hilft meiner Schwester. (She helps my sister.)
mein (neuter) → meinemDas gehört meinem Kind. (That belongs to my child.)
meine (plural) → meinenWir danken meinen Eltern. (We thank my parents.)
Indefinite Pronounsjedem (each, every)Er gibt jedem Kind ein Stück Schokolade. (He gives each child a piece of chocolate.)
manchem (some)Sie hilft manchem Kollegen. (She helps some colleagues.)
einigen (some, a few)Ich helfe einigen Freunden. (I help some friends.)
.welchem (which)Mit welchem Auto fährst du? (With which car are you driving?)
Interrogative Pronounswer (who) → wemWem hilfst du? (Whom are you helping?)
was (what)
Wem gehört das? (To whom does this belong?)
Quantifiersalle (all) → allenIch danke allen Gästen. (I thank all the guests.)
viele (many) → vielenSie hilft vielen Leuten. (She helps many people.)
wenige (few) → wenigenEr vertraut wenigen Freunden. (He trusts few friends.)
Negationkein (masculine/neuter) → keinemIch gebe keinem Mann mein Buch. (I give no man my book.)
keine (feminine) → keinerSie hilft keiner Frau. (She helps no woman.)
kein (neuter) → keinemEr vertraut keinem Kind. (He trusts no child.)
keine (plural) → keinenWir danken keinen Freunden. (We thank no friends.)

9. Practice the German dative case

Do you want to learn the German dative? Then you have to practice: fill in the blanks with the correct dative article!

This was just a glimpse behind the scenes. If you want to learn more, you can click the button below, and get access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library!

10. Learn more about dative articles, dative adjectives and German dative verbs with Conversation Based Chunking

We already mentioned it, but you can still think about it: learning with the Conversation Based Chunking method will be easier rather than following out German courses.

If you sign up now, you’ll get access to our essential German chunking list, you can practice with our Full Practice Worksheet Library, and you’ll have access to many more!

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