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Nouns - Declension: Dative
The dative is the third of the German cases. In other languages, as in English, French or Spanish, we sometimes have to use prepositions if we have a dative object which corresponds to the indirect object. Here are the dative forms of the example nouns in the singular (sg) and plural (pl):
|Singular Forms||Noun with Definite Article||Phonetic Script||English Translation|
|masculine||dem Mann m||[de:m man]||(to) the man|
|feminine||der Frau f||[de:ɐ frau]||(to) the woman|
|neuter||dem Kind nt||[de:m kɪnt]||(to) the child|
|Plural Forms||Noun with Definite Article||Phonetic Script||English Translation|
|masculine||Männern m pl||[de:n 'mɛnɐn]||(to) the men|
|feminine||den||Frauen f pl||[de:n 'frauən]||(to) the women|
|neuter||Kindern nt pl||[de:n 'kɪndɐn]||(to) the children|
|Singular Forms||Noun with Indefinite Article||Phonetic Script||English Translation|
|masculine||einem Mann m||['ainəm man]||(to) a man|
|feminine||einer Frau f||['ainɐ frau]||(to) a woman|
|neuter||einem Kind nt||['ainəm kɪnt]||(to) a child|
|Plural Forms||Noun with Indefinite Article||Phonetic Script||English Translation|
|masculine||Männern m pl||['mɛnɐn]||(to) men|
|feminine||Frauen f pl||['frauən]||(to) women|
|neuter||Kindern nt pl||['kɪndɐn]||(to) children|
As you can see, there is only one plural form of the definite article ("den") for every noun, no matter if it is masculine, feminine or neuter.
If the plural does not end in -s or -n, the noun gets ad additional -n at the end.
Example: den Männern m pl = (to) the men
Example: den Kindern nt pl = (to) the children
Some masculine nouns which end in -e and some others have the ending -n or -en in the genitive, dative and accusative forms. You can read more about the n-declension if you click on the respective button above.
Dative after certain verbs
The dative case is used for the indirect object. In German it is called dative object.
Here is an example sentence:
|Ich helfe dem Mann m.||[ɪç 'hɛlfə de:m man]||I help the man.|
While there is only one object form in English, we use either the dative or the accusative case in German. It depends on the verb which case you have to use. The explanation is that some German verbs are followed by the dative case but most of them are followed by the accusative case. Simply look it up in a dictionary if you have a certain verb and do not know the case which it is used with. You can also use an online dictionary and enter the respective verb. If you enter the verb "helfen", there is written: jdm (jemandem) helfen. "jemandem" always means dative.
|jemandem helfen||['je:mandəm 'hɛlfən]||to help someone|
If you ask for the dative object (or indirect object) of the example sentence, you ask: Whom (do I help)? The answer in this case would be: The man.
While "Ich" is the subject of the sentence in the nominative case because it is is the acting part of the sentence to which the predicate refers to (I am doing something), "Mann" is the noun in the dative case and thus forms the dative object (=indirect object) together with the article. Very often a person receives something. In this case, the man receives my help.
In English, French, Spanish and also in other languages, you often use a preposition to express the indirect object. Here is one example:
|jemandem schreiben||['je:mandəm 'ʃraibən]||to write somebody/to write to somebody|
Prepositions with dative
After certain prepositions we must also use the dative case: ab (from/as of), aus (out of/from), bei (with/at), bis zu (up to), gegenüber (opposite), mit (with), nach (after), seit (since/for), von (of/from), zu (to). Here is one example:
|Ich komme aus dem Büro nt.||[ɪç 'kɔmə aus de:m by'ro:]||I am coming out of the office.|
"Büro" is a neuter (nt) noun (das Büro). Here we have put it in the dative case.
After the following prepositions (Wechselpräpositionen) you have to use the dative case if you ask: Where?: an (at/on), auf (on), hinter (behind), in (in), neben (next to), über (over, above), unter (under/below), vor (in front of), zwischen (between). Here is one example:
|Ich bin im (=in dem) Garten m.||[ɪç bɪn ɪm 'gartən]||I am in the garden.|
Where am I? I am in the garden. But be careful: If there is a verb which involves a movement and you would ask "Where to?", then you have to use the accusative case. Read more about the use of the accusative if you click on the respective button above.
Adjectives with prepositions
There are also adjectives which are used with certain prepositions. After these adjectives we must also use the dative case. Here is one example:
|Er ist von seinen Eltern pl abhängig.||[e:ɐ ɪst fɔn 'zainən 'ɛltɐn 'aphɛŋɪç]||He is dependent on his parents.|
|von jemandem (jdm) abhängig sein||[fɔn 'je:mandəm 'aphɛŋɪç zain]||to be dependent on somebody|
If you are insecure about the preposition and the case, simply look it up in an online dictionary.
The dative is also used with certain set expressions. Here are some examples:
|Seiner Schwester f ist warm.||['zainɐ 'ʃvɛstɐ ɪst varm]||His sister is warm.|
|Ihrem Freund m ist übel.||['i:rəm frɔynt ɪst 'y:bəl]||Her boyfriend feels sick.|
We also have reflexive verbs of which the reflexive pronoun "sich" stands in the dative when we already have an accusative object in the sentence.
|sich etwas ansehen||[zɪç 'ɛtvas 'anze:ən]||to have a look at something|
Now let us form a complete sentence:
|Ich sehe mir den Film m an.||[ɪç ze:ə mi:ə de:n fɪlm an]||I watch the film.|
The reflexive pronoun "mir" stands in the dative case and "den Film" is accusative object (=direct object). The reason why the reflexive pronoun stands in the dative is that we already have the accusative object "einen Film". So the reflexive pronoun cannot stand in the accusative, too.