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The Four German Cases

Dative - Der Wemfall

Summary | Nominative | Accusative | Dative | Genitive
Werfall | Wenfall | Wemfall | Wesfall
Nominativ | Akkusativ | Dativ | Genitiv

The Dative Case Used with Nouns

ALSO > The dative case with Prepositions

The dative case in German is a vital element of communicating in German. In English the dative case is known as the indirect object. Unlike the accusative, which only changes in the masculine gender, the dative changes in all genders and in the plural. The pronouns also change correspondingly.

In addition to its function as the indirect object, the dative is also used after certain dative verbs and with dative prepositions. In the examples below, the dative word or expression is in red:

Der Polizist gibt dem Fahrer einen Strafzettel.
The policeman is giving the driver a ticket.
Ich danke Ihnen.
I thank you.
Wir machen das mit einem Computer.
We do that with a computer.

The indirect object (dative) is usually the receiver of the direct object (accusative). In the first example above, the driver got the ticket. Often the dative can be translated with "to"-"the policeman gives the ticket to the driver." The following color-coded chart shows how the dative forms are used in various situations.

Definite Article (the)
Fall
Case
Masc. Fem.
Nom der die
Dat dem der
der
Frau
der Verkäuferin
dem Bleistift
dem Mann
dem Wagen
dem Präsidenten*
dem Jungen*
*Note: Some masc. nouns add an -en or -n ending in the dative and in all other cases besides the nominative.
Fall
Case
Neu. Plur.
Nom das die
Dat dem
dem
Mädchen

dem Haus
den
den
Leuten
den Autos
Note: In the dative, plural nouns add an -en or -n if the plural does not already end in -n, except for plurals ending in -s.
Indefinite Article (ein, eine, keine)
Fall
Case
Masc. Fem.
Nom ein eine
Dat einem einer
einer
Frau

einer Verkäuferin
einem Bleistift
einem Mann
einem Wagen
einem Präsidenten*
einem Jungen*
*Note: Some masc. nouns add an -en or -n ending in the dative and in all other cases besides the nominative.
Fall
Case
Neu. Plur.
Nom ein keine
Dat einem
einem
Mädchen
einem Haus
keinen
keinen
Leuten
keinen Autos
Note: In the dative, plural nouns add an -en or -n if the plural does not already end in -n, except for plurals ending in -s.

The Germanic word for the dative case, der Wemfall, reflects the der-to-dem change. The question word in the dative is, naturally enough, wem ([to] whom): Wem hast du das Buch gegeben?, Whom did you give book? (Who'd you give the book to?)

Some German verbs do not take an accusative object. For more about these exceptions, see Dative Verbs (including genitive verbs).


Dative Prepositions

The dative is also used with certain prepositions. For more, see the next page.

NEXT > Dative Prepositions (plus two-way prep.)

MORE > Summary | Nominative | Accusative | Dative | Genitive


Related Pages

Grammar Glossary
German grammar terms explained in plain English.

Dative Verbs
An overview of special verbs that take an object in the dative. From your Guide.

Adjective Endings (1)
The German adjective endings in the nominative case.

Adjective Endings (2)
The German adjective endings in the accusative and dative cases.

German for Beginners Course - Adjectives and Colors
Lesson 5 in our online course for German. From your Guide.

German Word Order
A helpful guide to German syntax.

More German Grammar


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