Sunday, 6 May 2007

The Dative Case

The dative case is used for the indirect object (that's the noun or pronoun which is impacted indirectly by the action, as opposed to the one to which the action is done directly). The classic example is he gives me the book (er gibt mir das Buch), where the direct object is the book and the indirect object is me. The dative also follows certain prepostions (words like with, to and between). All determiners (that's words like the and a) change in the dative, although a couple of personal pronouns are the same as in the accusative. The most important ones to remember are ich (I) becomes mir (me) and du (you) becomes dir (you).

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Cora said...

Hi Laura, hi lovers of German grammar ;o))))
If you want to brush up your German grammar there is a useful book which I (native speaker of the German language) can most heartily recommend. It´s called "Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod" by Bastian Sick. It is about common mistakes that German native speakers make, e.g. producing wrong dative compositions as indicated in the headline (it should be "der Dativ ist der Tod des Genitivs"). Now although a funny book about grammar (esp. about German grammar) sounds like a paradox in itself, I can promise that you will experience a good read, at the same time amusing and informative.
Best regards, Cora

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,

your concept of crossing a boundary is very interesting. The way I was taught to distinguish between accusative and dative for verbs expressing motion/location was to ask for the place: if you ask with "wohin?" (engl.: where to? to which place? whither?) it has to be accusative, if you ask "wo?" (engl.: where? where at? at which place? in which place?) it is dative. I think this can help with "ankommen" (engl.: to arrive) because you arrive at/in some place; thus, you would ask for the place with "at/in which place?" (instead of "to which place?"). It works the same way for to stop off (to stop off at some place) and to land (to land at some place) and to appear (to appear at some place). ("to stop off to" would be followed by a verb instead of a place.)

The new spelling of "daß" in "im Falle, daß" is "dass". You will find the old spelling in books that are older than about five years and some people still insist on using the old spelling but almost all professional media are now using "dass". Also, the new spelling of "paßt" in "es paßt dir gut" is "passt" because of the short "a". (In fact, I don't know why "passt" and "musst" was ever written with "ß", but the new rule is that you always write "ss" instead of "ß" after a short vowel.)



Laura said...

Hi Martin,

Thanks for all your comments.

Unfortunately English doesn't consistently translate "wohin" with "where to", "whither" (so archaic many native English speakers don't even know what it means) or "to which place". "Where are you going?" is at least as common, if not more so, than "Where are you going to?" - a phrase to which some English speakers would object because it has a "to" at the end. In fact, learning when to say "wohin" and "woher" - or where you put "hin" and "her" in general, is one of the harder things for a native English speaker to learn in German, as it doesn't match up well to anything we do in English.

I'm interested that in one of your comments you say you find it helpful to learn genders by learning nouns with their "the" (e.g. "der Hund", "die Katze"). That approach has often been recommended to me (I think particularly often by native German speakers), but I've always found it extremely frustrating. I've always given learning correct genders relatively low priority compared to learning new vocabulary and new ways of expressing meaning. Even now, I tend only to learn genders for words I use so often that it starts to feel embarrassing not to know them. My preference is to know more words without knowing their genders, than to know fewer words and have all the genders perfectly. But how you use your learning time is a matter of personal choice and if genders are important to you, then they're important.

Anonymous said...


I just checked by favourite Spanish vocabulary and, in fact, the Spanish nouns are all preceded by either "el" or "la". On the other hand many dictionaries will specify the gender only as a small "f" or "m" (or "n") behind the word and then it really feels like learning something extra, which costs time and effort. Thus, my recommendation (based on my experience with learning Spanish) would be to learn with a vocabulary, which lists nouns with articles. But there are certainly many other criteria for choosing vocabularies. And you might not want to use them at all. :)

The other question is: how important is it to know the correct gender? I guess my reason for learning Spanish nouns with gender is simply to avoid thinking about it: I know that I have to use the correct gender for the adjectives, thus, I always stop in the middle of a sentence when I realize that I'm unsure about the correct gender. This might be easier if you don't care about the correct gender because you are not used to the concept in your native language.

Hm, I wonder whether people whose native language features the concept of a grammatical gender also tend to care more about it when they learn a foreign language with a similar concept? That might explain why Germans tend to overestimate the importance of learning the correct gender. :)


Davi Tupinikiwi said...

Hi, Laura,

Thanks for all your podcasts, which have been really, really useful. I'm a language teacher/translator myself and - like you - find pleasure and beauty in grammar.

With regard to the dative podcast...

I'm wondering whether the line "entfallen/to occur (to someone)/es fällt mir ein" in the Dative table at is a typo. Or am I missing some arcane association whereby ent- becomes ein- in certain contexts?

I also found the "barrier crossing" a nice, clear distinction.

Finally, congratulations for not editing out the wardrobe malfunction on your introductory You Tube video. It was fun, and transmits a sense that you are a person of essence rather than being bound to "performance cool".

All the best for you and your husband in Frankfurt, infinity and beyond!

b68d1074 said...

In English, there is the prepostion upon which does specifically mean on top.

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