1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. Dative case


Dative case

This Fall I will start my 2nd semester of German and I am trying to practice over the Summer. We will be learning Dative case and I am having some trouble with it. My understanding is that it has to do with the indirect object, and that is usually the receiver or beneficiary of the verb. My trouble is learning how to spot an indirect object. Here is a sentence:

"Ich sitze zwischen dem Mann und der Frau." (I sit between the man and the woman)

I understand it is Dative because of the articles dem and der, but it is difficult for me to spot how the verb "sitze" makes it Dative.

Should I be asking: Who am I sitting between? Answer is "dem Mann" and "der Frau." Does anyone have anything to add to this that may make it more clear?


May 28, 2017



Hmm... This is a non-grammarian answer:

The whole indirect object thing is only part of the story. You should know that having an indirect object does indeed make you need dative case (such as in the case Ich gebe ihm das Buch), but it is not the only situation in which you need the dative case.

Other situations where you need it are after the following prepositions: aus, außer, bei, entgegen, mit, nach, seit, von, zu, and gegenüber, as well as after the following prepositions if there isn't a movement but rather something is somewhere: an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, and zwischen. (So, in your example, you are sitting there, not moving.)

Finally, there are a whole bunch of verbs that require the dative case. It's a good idea to learn these, as well as those lists of prepositions I mentioned above, by heart.


Dative is not only used to refer to an object. As in your sentence you do not have a dative object, instead its a preposition and a dative. Several prepositions need the dative.

Ich kaufe meiner Mutter ein Geschenk. Here we have 2 objects, meiner Mutter is the indirect object and is in dative. Ein Geschenk is the direct object and is in accusative.

Ich sitze unter dem Baum. Dem Baum is Dative but its not an indirect object. Its used to describe the location of the entire situation. It should be clear that sitting doesnt interact with something like buying does.


As you know dativ is used for indirect objects, some verbs and some prepositions. Here Zwischen (a 2 way preposition) does not involve movement and therefore it is dativ.
"The preposition "zwischen" is used with accusative case if the verb shows movement from one place to another, whereas it is used with dative case if the verb shows location."


I appreciate it!


It is very important to make the distinction between a free dative (like an indirect object) and a dative bound by a preposition (like zwischen).

I quote from the link below:
/We will NOT talk about Accusative and Dative after prepositions Anything you learn about cases and their idea today does NOT apply to cases after prepositions. Drawing connections can lead to deep frustration and headache. Do it at your own risk. /


As for prepositions like "zwischen". As some have mentioned here a preposition will determine the case or a preposition is "governed" by a case. A number of spacial prepositions, like zwischen, are 2-way preposition that take dative or accusative.

The dative is used when there is no change of places. The actions stays in the space defined by the preposition.

Ich sitze zwischen dem Mann und der Frau. (zwischen + Dativ) I sit between the man and the woman.
The action "sitze" stays in the space defined by "zwischen dem Mann und der Frau". This means you need (preposition + dative)

The accusative is used, when the action changes places and there is a sense of direction.

Ich setze mich zwischen den Mann und die Frau. (zwischen + Akkusativ) I sit down between the man and woman. The action "setze mich" only ends in the place defined by the preposition (between the man and the woman). It starts some other where. There is a change of places and a sense of direction. This means you need (preposition + accusative).

This distinction seems pretty straight forward with space, but it can get very particular, because you have to know what part of the sentence is defined by the prepositional object. It gets almost philosophical when time is considered instead of space.

Ich sehe/ziele/schieße/treffe zwischen die Augen. (zwischen + Akkusativ)
I see/aim at/shoot/hit between the eyes. These actions don't really change places, but there is a sense of direction from some other where to the space defined the preposition zwischen.

Ich sehe/ziele/schieße/treffe auf einen Punkt zwischen den Augen. (auf + Akkusativ; zwischen + Dativ) I see/aim at/shoot at/hit a point between the eyes. Not much has changed for the actions, but they are now directed to a space defined by auf + Akkusativ (preposition + accusative for direction). Zwischen now does not define the space of the actions anymore but specifies "the point" that is fixed. The point stays between the eyes it does not change places or has direction. Therefore zwischen + dative.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.