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The German Dative Case

Some of the most common questions on learning German are about the Dative case. We've gathered some tips we hope you'll find helpful as you get to know the grammar rules and patterns around using the German Dative :)

The indirect object in a sentence is called the dative object. The indirect object is the receiver of the direct (accusative) object. For example, "Frau" is the indirect (dative) object in "Das Mädchen gibt einer Frau den Apfel." (A girl gives the apple to a woman).

The German Dative Case (Click to enlarge)

The dative is also used for certain verbs such as "danken" (to thank) and "antworten" (to answer) and with prepositions such as "von" (by/of) and "mit" (with). For example, "Ich danke dem Koch" (I thank the cook) or "Wir spielen mit der Katze" (We play with the cat).

This case is known as the "Wem-Fall" (with whom-case), because to identify the word in the dative case, you have to ask "With/to whom ...?"

German Dative Plurals

There are some exceptions when it comes to pluralizing nouns in the dative case.

1. For most German one-syllable nouns, the -e ending will be needed in their plural form. However, in the dative case, the noun always adds an -en ending (and there may be umlaut changes). For "the hands," in the dative case it is "den Händen" and for "the dogs" it is "den Hunden."

2. For most German masculine or neuter nouns, the plural will end in -er with the exception of the dative case: they will end in -ern in the dative case. There may also be umlaut changes. For example, for "the books" it is "den Büchern." An example sentence would be "Der Junge lernt mit den Büchern." (The boy is learning with the books). Or for "the children," this would mean "den Kindern."

3. Whereas most neuter or masculine nouns ending in -chen, -lein, -el, or -er, require no change of the noun in the plural, they end in -n in the dative case. There may be umlaut changes. For example, for "the windows" it is "den Fenstern" for the dative plural. An example sentence would be: "Es funktioniert mit den Fenstern." (It works with the windows). For "the mothers," it is "den Müttern" as in: "Ich spreche mit den Müttern." (I talk with the mothers).

  • "Ich danke der Frau" (I thank the woman) note that "die Frau" becomes "der Frau" here in the dative case.
October 26, 2016

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  • 1547

Here's a way to explain dative plurals which I find easier: in dative plural, add "n" to EVERYTHING. "mit den grünen Schuhen". EXCEPT when the noun's plural ends with an -s (Autos), or already with an -n (obviously, eg. Katzen)

Another nice dative case rule: * dative adjectives ALWAYS end in -n (well, except for singular without article; "mit gutem Gewissen" etc.; I tend to call these the malformed children German keeps in the basement :P )

Maybe also mention accusative/dative change of some prepositions (in, auf, unter, …). Here's a visualization (feel free to use/adapt, my work)


Maybe there are so many questions about the dative because it's introduced too early and without explanation in the tree. I don't understand why it's there so soon, first appearing in the Questions 2 section with limited explanation. It's confusing to me that a 3rd case would be introduced before absolute basics like numbers, colours, days of the week etc that are much further down the tree.

What is the reason for the introduction at this stage?


I still need a lot more explanation and practice on what the object and subject of sentences are and when to use cases. It still confuses me.


I was the same. There is such a thing as too much grammar. Learn the rules, but start going with a gut instinct. At some point, it will just click, and you won't think about it anymore, you'll just do it because it feels natural. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.


Danke! Ich bin neu hier.


That last sentence sounds a bit off to my native German ears, as "der" is not the "masculine article", although it is the identical word.


Yes, I agree. der is not "the masculine article", just like in die Männer, the die is not "the feminine article".

It would be like saying, "In the 'he, she, it' form of English verbs, we add the plural ending 's': 'he flies' from the verb 'fly' like the plural 'flies' from the noun 'fly'."


Not native, but I agree.


Great point! Edited for clarity since it just looks like the same article. Thank you :)


This was really helpful thank you for this information


You are really helpful Duo. Danke!!!


This was very helpful! Thanks! ^^


I am a little bit confused about the third point. I understand that those neuter/masculine plural nouns ending in -chen, -lein should end in -n in the dative case. They actually end in -n in the nominative case so, why are they treated as exceptions?:

  • either they should add another -n (Mädchenn??)

  • or they do not alter their nominative form (Mädchen), and thus they are not exceptions

Can anyone explain? Thanks!

  • 1547

The post above is really confusing in my opinion. These are two different things:

a) learn the plural endings (there are some rules, some of which are mentioned in the post)

b) in Dative Plural only, EVERY noun will end in -n (Apart from those ending in -s of course, eg. "Autos"). So, if there is not an -n there already, add one. Thus: die Katze → die Katzen - Dativ: no change der Computer → die Compter - Dativ: Computern

c) there is another (small) group of masculine nouns (n-Deklination), that will end in -n ALWAYS, EXCEPT in Nominative Singular. This has nothing to do with Dativ though. (eg: Nom: der Junge, Akk: den Jungen, Dat. dem Jungen, Pl. die Jungen)


Mark Twain was right.


Point 3: You are stating: Whereas most neuter or masculine nouns.... but your example is feminine: die Mutter.


Thank you for the information.


I'm really new to learning German. Can I just ask, wouldn't "Das Mädchen gibt einer Frau den Apfel"(the example used to explain Dative Case) translate as "The girl gives the apple to a woman"? In the example, it reads "A girl gives the apple to a woman" Isn't Das Madchen (The girl) and not (A girl?)


Yes, das Mädchen is "the girl", not "a girl". It's a mistake in the original post.

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