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The dative is one of the cases in grammar ( German cases ). Its name comes from the fact that a typical function of the dative is to denote the recipient of the given. The word dative is borrowed from Latin (casus) dativus , from Latin dare "to give" and Latin datum "given".  

For the dative, the question Whom? used, which is why it is also called the Wem case or 3rd case in German school grammar . Example: I give the woman a notepad. → Question: Who do I give a notepad to? → Answer: the woman. A supplement in the dative is also referred to as an indirect object ; it is "the case of the static state or the description of the location, of the owner and the recipient". According to Otto Behaghel , the dative describes the person to whom a process or an action is directed.

Dative as an indirect object

The most important and most frequently used verbs in the German language that require the dative can be divided into two groups:

  1. Verbs of give and take such as give, bring, give, lend, send, help
  2. Verbs of communication like say, answer, recommend, show, explain

These and similar dative verbs denote an interaction between two or more people. Example: I recommend Wikipedia to you.

The subject in the nominative I recommends the person in the dative dir with the object in the accusative Wikipedia . Because all of these verbs with the dative denote an action directed at a person, the indirect object is actually the partner in the respective interaction. The partner receives something, something is given, brought, given to him ...

A third group consists of verbs that denote a relationship , such as belong, taste, resemble .

Dative for prepositions

Some prepositions force the use of the dative. The preposition with, for example, always leads to the dative in German (example: “with the dog”, “with the nose”).

Prepositions, which always result in the dative case, are: from, except, with, against, corresponding, opposite, according to, with, after, near, besides, together, since, from, to, according to and some others. For the most common ones, compare the mottoFrom Aus-bei-mit to Von- seit -zu always drive with the dative you”.

Some prepositions of the place can have both the dative and the accusative . The dative indicates the current location (where?), While the accusative indicates the direction to a destination (where?) . So it is with in (Example: "We sleep in the bed", "we go to the bed"). These alternating prepositions, in which either the dative or the accusative can be used, are: in, an, on, in front of, behind, over, under, next to, between .

The preposition ab calls for the dative case when specifying a place: “The train departs from the main station”.

For some prepositions the dative is used colloquially as a substitute for the genitive . The use of the dative is then mandatory for genitive prepositions when the noun ( noun ) is not of an article or an adjective with case ending is accompanied.


  • with genitive: "during many days"
  • only with dative: "during days"


Different meanings are distinguished. The following is an incomplete list of dative usages.

dativus commodi or incommodi

The dative indicates to whose advantage (commodum) or disadvantage (incommodum) something happens (also dative of participation ).

Example: "He's carrying her suitcase."

dativus ethicus

The dative denotes inner participation (usually 1st or 2nd person), e.g. B. from parents or grandparents (also ethical dative, dative of interest ). Next to the dativus ethicus there can be a "real" dative:

Example: "Do n't make the teacher trouble me !"

In Kölschen it is in the 2nd person singular or plural, example: "Dat wor üch enen Käuverzäll" ("That was a nonsensical chatter to you ").

dativus possessivus

The dative denotes a person or thing to which a part is related (also dativus possessoris, pertinence dative, affiliation dative ).

Example: "His legs ache."

In Latin : Mihi equus est . Literal translation: "I have a horse". What is meant is: "I have a horse" or "I own a horse".

dativus iudicantis

The dative describes the point of view from which a statement is valid.

Example: "The sponge was too wet for him.", "The moderator is too nervous for me."

Usually occurs in connection with degree particles such as “too”, “too”, “enough” etc., but also with certain adverbs such as “embarrassing”, “clear” or “uncanny”.

dativus finalis

The dative expresses a purpose. It is rare in today's German and looks upscale.

Example: "He only lives his work ."

In Latin it exists in particular as a double dative (ex. Tibi laetitiae = "for you to enjoy" = "to make you happy".)

Written language compared to spoken language

Possessive constructions

Dative constructions indicating possession according to the pattern noun phrase dative possessive pronouns 3rd pers. Singular / plural noun nominative (e.g. "Dem Hans sein Hut") have long been used in many German dialects and everyday language. The noun phrase can also be represented by a demonstrative pronoun (“whose hat”) or an interrogative pronoun (“whose hat”). Furthermore, nested constructions are possible (“The woman's hat for her man”).

In parts of the Rhineland and Hesse, the construction “Who's the hat? The hat is the man "(for" Who owns the hat? The hat belongs to the man ") and is even mistakenly perceived there as correct in the standard language by many speakers.

However, these forms are not common in the written language and the high-level language as well as in high German colloquial language and are stylistically questionable. This attitude is expressed in the ironic saying taken up by Bastian Sick " The dative is the genitive's death ".

Prepositional genitive substitution

But even where a preposition in the standard and written language requires the genitive, the dative is often used in colloquial language (e.g. "because of the bad weather" instead of "because of the bad weather").

Conversely, in a number of cases the dative, which is required according to the previous language usage and meaning, is replaced by the genitive. Examples: according to, against, thanks, loud .

Accusative constructions

Regional ( not in standard language) is sometimes used instead of the dative, especially in combination with the preposition with the accusative, for example “mit die Fuß” or “mit Deine Freunde”.

Dative-inflection of nouns

Dative e

Nouns that end in - (e) s in the genitive singular , i.e. heavily inflected masculine and neuter nouns, knew the specific dative ending -e in Middle High German . This was dismantled in the early New High German period partly for reasons of phonetic law ( apocope of -e ) and partly for morphological reasons (transition from case to numerus inflection ), but it still exists in East Central German and Cimbrian dialects to this day. In the written language, this dative-e was still quite common until the middle of the 20th century.

In today's linguistic usage, the dative-e is rarely found in the written language and is most likely to be found in the upscale language. Most often it occurs in more or less fixed phrases such as in this sense , in the house (as a letter address), warning about the dog or in the year . Sometimes this results in parallel uses; Examples:

  • on the train (locally: 'in the means of transport', e.g. we were standing on the platform and waved to our friends on the train. ) - on train e (consecutive: 'as a result of', e.g. on train e of the investigation )
  • at point (locally: e.g. the straight lines meet at point S. ) - at point e (limitative: 'in the matter', e.g. in point e of the need for an investigation, I agree. )
  • on the day (temporal: 'on a certain day', e.g. on the day of liberation ) - on day e (temporal: during the bright half of the day, e.g. on day e , work was carried out in the open air, in the evening in the Room. )
  • on the foot (specifically: 'on the body part', e.g. she injured herself on the foot. ) - on the foot e (metaphorically in the phrase at the foot e of the mountain )

In addition, these forms exist in a number of prepositional compounds

  • with verbs : z. B. about something in the picture e be , in the grave e turn around , someone to death e scare , in the neck e stuck (Me)
  • with adjectives or adverbs : z. B. out of place e , near death e
  • as adverbial terms : e.g. B. nowadays e , able e , basic e .

The dative-e can also be used for stylistic and rhythmic reasons (e.g. in the song: “ At the fountain in front of the gate , there is a linden tree”).

A survey by Behaghel on the use of the dative-e or the endless form in 19 texts by Martin Luther up to the end of the 19th century did not reveal a clear trend, but rather an unstructured point cloud. However, this finding lacks data from the 20th century.

The ending -e in the dative singular is not possible in the following cases :

  • for all words with feminine gender (an -e in these words belongs to the word stem, e.g. in the sequence )
  • for nouns that end in -el , -em , -en , -er or a vowel (e.g. with a silver spoon , with calm breath , in life as in death , in fine weather , with the car )
  • for proper names (without extension) and foreign words (e.g. with the comment )

Ultimately, however, the use of the dative-e mostly depends on the speaker's feeling for language.

Dative-en or -n


In the standard language, weakly inflected masculine nouns have a dative-en in the singular, e.g. B. "the prince, the messenger, a soldier" (cf. nominative "the prince, the messenger, the soldier"); The neutral noun "Herz", which is irregularly declined in the singular, also has the form "dem Herzen" in the dative. In Middle and Early New High German , the dative singular was also identified by adding a -n to feminine nouns that end in -e : "in a Hütten". This form is extinct today. It is found only in phrases like "earth", "on the side" and then in older texts with names of women, for example in the from the kuk coming -time song "Heil Franz Josef, healing Elise".

In some German dialects and in Yiddish is - (e) n in the flexion of personal names, moreover, still common in Yiddish in certain kinship and personal nouns. In Bavarian the dative and accusative (e) n has merged into all inflected forms, so it is also called here in the nominative singular "die Wiesen, Wiesn". The same applies to many Alemannic dialects, whereby the ending -e ends here because of the n-shrinkage : d Wise (<Middle High German die wisen ).


In the plural, the dative ending -en or -n is mandatory in the standard language, e.g. As "the day the day → → (to) the day en ", "the field → → the fields (on) the fields n " or "the mother → → mothers to mothers n ". In some German dialects and in the more dialect-related colloquial language, the ending is often omitted. With weak and some strong nouns, the entire plural ends in - (e) n, which is why a separate dative ending is not used: “der Bote → die Boten → von den Boten”, “the garden → the gardens → in the gardens ". (Foreign) words that form the plural with -s or -a also know them in the dative: “the car → the cars → with the cars”, “the visa → the visa → with the visa”.

Other languages

The Ancient Greek and Latin know the Dativus auctoris (person acting in passive constructions as well as the verbal adjective to TEOS in Greek and gerund constructions in Latin). Ancient Greek also knows the dativus instrumenti (tool or means), the dativus modi (manner), the dativus mensurae (it indicates the difference in comparisons) and a few others. Latin usually expresses this with the ablative .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Dative  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Inge Pohl: Semantic indeterminacy in the lexicon. Peter Lang, Bern 2010, ISBN 3-6316-0061-5 , p. 224.
  2. ^ Otto Behaghel: German Syntax. Vol. 1, C. Winter, Heidelberg 1923, p. 609.
  3. Source: Duden Grammar. 4th edition. 1984, paragraph 1061.
  4. dative singular with and without e
  5. Duden newsletter archive. Newsletter of March 5, 2004 ( Memento of October 12, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Otto Behaghel : The -e in the dative of the singular male and neuter nouns. In: Journal of the General German Language Association, Scientific Supplements, Fourth Row , Issue 26, pp. 180–198.
  7. ^ Karl-Heinz Best : Otto Behaghel (1854–1936) . In: Glottometrics 14, 2007, pages 80–86 (PDF full text ), on the dative-e, pages 82–84.
  8. Grammar in questions and answers A man can be helped - When is the dative e used?
  9. For Yiddish see Christoph Landolt : Jiddisch. In: Janet Duke (Ed.): EuroComGerm. Learn to read Germanic languages. Volume 2: Less commonly learned Germanic languages. Afrikaans, Faroese, Frisian, Yenish, Yiddish, Limburgish, Luxembourgish, Low German, Nynorsk. Düren 2019, pp. 127–160 and 298, here p. 137 ( PDF ).