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Dative Case : How to determine Dative Case in German

Updated: Dec 26, 2021

Dative Case :

As we know earlier that Akkusativ case is used when the Subject and Object are different in a sentence, then the Akkusativ case is applied in Object. Now we will learn when to use Dativ case. Basically, there are 3 scenerios where Dativ case is applied :

1. When there is a Dativ verb present in the sentence eg. Helfen.

2. When the preposition is a Dativ preposition eg. von, zu, bei etc.

3. Third scenario is very important. It is applied when there are 2 or more objects in a sentence.

The primary use of the dative case is for the indirect object of a sentence. An indirect object is a beneficiary of whatever happens in a sentence. It’s usually a person, although it doesn’t have to be. If you ask yourself: “TO whom or FOR who is this being done?”, the answer will be the indirect object, and in German it will need the dative case.

Not every sentence will have an indirect object -- we’ve mostly been using sentences that do not have indirect objects. Like in English, only some verbs allow an indirect object: to give (to), to bring (to), to tell (to), to buy (for), to send (to) are some good examples of verbs that will almost always have an indirect object. In English, we don't distinguish the direct and indirect objects in the forms of words; instead, we often use "to" or "for" to mark these. If you can potentially insert "to" or "for" in front of a noun in an English sentence, it's probably an indirect object.

First, let’s learn what the forms of the dative look like for the articles:

Here are some examples :

Ich gebe der Frau ein Buch.

I’m giving her a book = a book to her.

Er schenkt mir ein Buch.

He's giving me a book.

Ich habe das dem Mann schon gesagt.

I already told the man that.

Wir kaufen unserer Mutter ein Geschenk.

We're buying our mother a present.

Let’s practice identifying objects in some sentences first. Tell whether the underlined nouns/pronouns in these sentences are SUBJECTS (S), DIRECT OBJECTS (DO), or INDIRECT OBJECTS (IO).

1.The salesman offered the customer the car.

2. We’re bringing her the mail.

3.I lent my stereo to you.

4.He promised his wife everything.

5.The realtor sold the house to us.

6.For my dog, I’m buying a chew-toy.

Now do the same thing, but with these German sentences.

1.Ich gebe ihm ein Auto.

2.Die Schwester hat ihrem Lehrer die Antwort gesagt.

3.Der Sohn gibt seiner Mutter eine Blume.

4.Kannst du uns dein Auto leihen (=to lend)?

5.Euch gebe ich jetzt das Quiz.

6.Die Fotos habe ich meinen Freunden gezeigt (=showed).

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