The 4 cases in German. Part 3 -The dative case.

In this series I explain how we use the four cases in German continuing with the dative case or “Dativ”.

In the last part I talked about how we use the genitive case and today I focus on the dative case.

What is the dative case?

We use the dative case to show the indirect object of a verb that answers the question “who to”, “who for” or  “to what”  or “for what”. In German we simply ask: Wem oder Was.


Ich schenkte dem Kind einen Plüschtiger. – I gave the child a plush tiger as a gift.

Der Mann hielt der Frau die Tür auf.  – The Man opened the door for the woman.

The dative case is also used after certain verbs such as helfen – to help.

Other verbs that are used with the dative case are:

anbieten = to offer

bringen = to bring

geben = to give

zeigen = to show

schreiben = to write

fehlen = missing or to be absent

beweisen = to prove

begegnen = to bump into / meet

schaden = to damage

schmecken = to taste

trauen = to trust

gehören = to belong to


Gestern bin ich dem Exfreund von Sonja begegnet.  – Yesterday I bumped into Sonja’s ex-boyfriend.

Ich kann nicht für alle bezahlen, mir fehlt das nötige Geld. – I can’t pay for everyone, I don’t have enough money.

The dative case is also used after certain prepositions such as nach = after.

Prepositions include:

an = on, to, at

unter = under, among

vor = in front of, before

zwischen = between

neben = next to, beside

in = in, into, to

über = over, across, above

auf = on, in, to, at

hinter = behind

Example: Auf dem Tisch spielten zwei Kätzchen. – Two kittens played on the table.

Note that all these prepositions show position. Some of these are also used with the accusative case which I will cover in the next part. When they are used with the accusative they usually show movement.

As in for example: Er ist gestern in den Urlaub gefahren  – He went on holiday yesterday.

The dative case is also used after certain expressions such as in : Mir ist warm – I’m warm.

And it sometimes substitutes possessive adjectives when you refer to clothes or parts of the body.

Er zog sich die Jacke an. – He dressed in his jacket.

Ich habe mir die Hand verstaucht. – I have sprained my hand.

Dative case 1

Dative case 1

How do we use the dative case?

The definite article changes in the dative case thus:

Masculine: der – dem as in dem Kater – the tom cat

Feminine: die – der as in der Blume – the flower

Neuter: das – dem as in dem Kind

The indefinite article changes accordingly:

Masculine: ein – einem as in einem Kater – the tom cat

Feminine: eine – einer as in einer Blume – the flower

Neuter: ein – einem as in einem Kind

One peculiar thing in the German is that in some phrases an –e is added to some masculine and neuter nouns to simply make pronunciation easier. So Tod (death) changes to Tode, Haus (house) to Hause and Zweck (purpose) to Zwecke.

Zu diesem Zwecke ging er nach Hause. – To this purpose he went home.

Dative case 2

Dative case 2


And that’s it about the dative case. In the final part I am talking about the accusative case or Akkusativ as we say in German.

I hope you find this post useful.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Helen x




Helen White

I am a bilingual journalist, jewellery designer, German tutor, and translator – and I am passionate about cats.

Helen White – who has written posts on Helen Kaut Press.

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