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What Is the Dative Case? (with Examples)

What Is the Dative Case? (with Examples)

The dative case's main function is to show the indirect object of a verb.

The indirect object of a sentence is the recipient of the direct object. You can find the direct object by finding the verb and asking "what?" (or "whom?"). For example:



Most people will encounter the term dative case when studying a language other than English.

Examples of the Dative Case

Here are some examples of the dative case with an explanation of how to find the indirect object:
  • She gave the postman a letter.
  • Step 1. Find the verb = "gave"
    Step 2. Ask "What?" = "a letter"
    Step 3. recipient? = "the postman"

    Therefore, the direct object is a letter. The recipient of the direct object is the postman. The words the postman are in the dative case. Luckily for us, nouns do not change their forms in the dative case. However, some pronouns do.

  • Barney will send him the presentation tomorrow.
  • Step 1. Find the verb = "will send"
    Step 2. Ask "What?" = "the presentation"
    Step 3. recipient? = "him"

    Therefore, the indirect object is him. The pronoun him is in the dative case. It has changed from he to him.

The Dative Case Is the Objective Case

In English, we use the term objective case for the dative case and the accusative case.

More Examples of the Dative Case

Here are some more examples of nouns and pronouns as indirect objects (i.e., in the dative case):
  • If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank. (Woody Allen)
  • (The direct object is some clear sign.)
    (The indirect object is me. Therefore, me is in the dative case - or the objective case as we call it.)
  • Computers are useless. They can only give you answers. (Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973)
  • (The direct object is answers.)
    (The word in the dative case is you.)
  • Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I'll waste no time reading it. (Moses Hadas, 1900-1966)
  • Count not him among your friends who will retail your privacies to the world. (Publilius Syrus, circa 100 BC)
  • (The indirect object often follows a preposition like to or for.)

Prepositions Can Take the Dative Case

Particularly when studying other languages, you might encounter prepositions which take the dative case. For example, in German, the following take the dative case: aus, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, and zu.

In English, prepositions take the objective case. For example:
  • with her (and not with she)
  • by whom (and not by who)
In these examples, the words her and whom are known as the object of a preposition.
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