German Adjectives in the Dative Case
This week’s 3 Minuten Deutsch episode is about the adjective endings in the German dative case. This case is used with indirect objects, dative prepositions (including the 2-way prepositions), and dative verbs. In the video below, I give a few examples using each one, but you can find a more in depth look into the dative case by scrolling a bit further and reading about how to use the dative case with each of the situations listed. If you want to practice this topic on your own, you can find the worksheet that goes with this video and blog post by supporting my work on Patreon.
The first usage that most German learners are aware of is the indirect object. While this isn’t the most common usage of the dative case, it is the next step in a natural progression from subject to direct object and then indirect object. The subject of the sentence is the person or thing doing something in the sentence. This person or thing is in the nominative case, which is always the first case a German student becomes aware of, as it is used as a base form for all of the other cases. The person or thing that is being acted upon in any given sentence is the direct object, which is used in the accusative case. This is usually the second case that students learn about, but occasionally they learn the genitive case before the accusative case. In order to have an indirect object in a sentence, you must first have both a subject and a direct object, because the indirect object is the person (rarely a thing) that receives the direct object. Here are a few examples of this in German and English. I underlined the indirect objects in both German and English.
Der junge Mann hat seinem alten Vater einen kleinen Kocher gegeben – The young man gave his old father a small cooker.
Die schöne Frau hat ihrer kleinen Tochter eine süße Katze gekauft. – The beautiful woman bought her small daughter a cute cat.
Das fromme Mädchen hat ihrem braunen Pferd ein grünes Blatt Kohl geschenkt. – The pious girl gave her brown horse a green leaf of cabbage.
If you want to look back at when I officially covered the dative case with indirect objects in the 3 Minuten Deutsch series, you can find that video and blog here.
There are a variety of prepositions in the German language that require various cases. There are quite a few that require the dative case. This list includes: aus (out of, from); außer (besides, except); bei (with, at); mit (with); nach (after, to); seit (since); von (from); zu (to); and gegenüber (across from). There are also two-way prepositions, which require the dative case when they express that something is standing still and the accusative case when they show that something is moving. These prepositions include: an (on – vertical things); auf (on – horizontal things); hinter (behind); in (in); neben (next to); über (over); unter (under); vor (in front of); and zwischen (between). It would make this blog post incredibly long if I gave examples of all of those, so instead I will simply say that whatever is after those prepositions, must be dative. The only exception to this rule is the word “gegenüber”, which can sometimes be placed after its object. I will write a few examples using both dative prepositions and two-way prepositions so that you know what a few of them look like in sentences. Again, the dative things are underlined to highlight them.
Sie schmückt den Weihnachtsbaum mit goldenen Kugeln und roten Sternen. – She is decorating the Christmas tree with golden balls and red stars.
Die Kinder schlafen nach dem langweiligen Film. – The children are sleeping after the boring film.
Der Geist schwebt hinter der schwarzen Tür. – The ghost is floating behind the black door.
Wir wohnen in der großen Stadt. – We live in the big city.
If you want to read the original post and watch the original video about the dative prepositions, you can find that here. If you are looking for more about the two-way prepositions, you can find that here.
Probably one of the most difficult ideas for native English speakers to figure out once they have learned about the dative case as it is used with indirect objects is to find out that occasionally it is used with direct objects, too. This is only true with dative verbs. These are a select few verbs that automatically require the dative case all of the time for no apparent reason. This means that the direct object of these verbs becomes dative even though the rules I laid out at the top of this post say that they should be accusative. These verbs include: antworten, danken, folgen, helfen, glauben, verzeihen, stehen, passen, fehlen, and gefallen. I’ll skip the details for this post, but suffice it to say that some of these verbs are easier to use than others. Read the full blog about this linked below, if you really want to know all about it.
Der alte Mann hilft der alten Frau. – The old man helps the old woman.
Ich muss meinem neuen Lehrer danken. – I have to thank my new teacher.
Diese blaue Hose passt mir nicht. – These blue pants don’t fit me.
Verzeihen Sie bitte dem kleinen Kind. – Please excuse the small child.
If you want a more in depth look into this topic, you should check out my blog and video about that here.