Indefinite Articles - Dative


The dative is the third of the German cases. In other languages, as in English, French or Spanish, we sometimes have to use prepositions if we have a dative object which corresponds to the indirect object.

Here are the indefinite articles in the third case (dative):

Singular Forms Indefinite Article (with Noun) Phonetic Script English Translation
masculine einem (Mann m) ['ainəm] (to) a (man)
feminine einer (Frau f) ['ainɐ] (to) a (woman)
neuter einem (Kind nt) ['ainəm] (to) a (child)
Plural Forms Indefinite Article (with Noun) Phonetic Script English Translation
masculine - (Männern m pl) - (to) (men)
feminine - (Frauen f pl) - (to) (women)
neuter - (Kindern nt pl) - (to) (children)

As you can see, there is no plural form of the indefinite article.


Dative after certain verbs

The dative case is used for the indirect object. In German it is called dative object.

Here is an example sentence:

German Phonetic Script English
Sie schreibt einem Freund m. [zi: ʃraipt 'ainəm frɔynt] She is writing to a friend.

While there is only one object form in English, we use either the dative or the accusative case in German. It depends on the verb which case you have to use. The explanation is that some German verbs are followed by the dative case but most of them are followed by the accusative case. Simply look it up in a dictionary if you have a certain verb and do not know the case which it is used with. You can also use an online dictionary and enter the respective verb. If you enter the verb "schreiben", there is written: jdm (jemandem) schreiben. "jemandem" always means dative.

German Phonetic Script English
jemandem (jdm) schreiben ['je:mandəm 'ʃraibən] to write to somebody

If you ask for the dative object (or indirect object) of the example sentence, you ask: Whom (is she writing)? The answer in this case would be: To a friend.

While "Sie" is the subject of the sentence in the nominative case because it is is the acting part of the sentence to which the predicate refers to (She is doing something), "Freund" is the noun in the dative case and thus forms the dative object (=indirect object) together with the article. Very often a person receives something. In this case, the friend receives a letter, postcard or email.


Prepositions with dative

After certain prepositions we must also use the dative case: ab (from/as of), aus (out of/from), bei (with/at), bis zu (up to), gegenüber (opposite), mit (with), nach (after), seit (since/for), von (of/from), zu (to). Here is one example:

German Phonetic Script English
Er geht zu einer Party f. [e:ɐ ge:t tsu: 'ainɐ 'pa:ɐti] He is going to a party.

"Party" is a feminine (f) noun (die Party). Here we have to put it in the dative case.



After the following prepositions (Wechselpräpositionen) you have to use the dative case if you ask: Where?: an (at/on), auf (on), hinter (behind), in (in), neben (next to), über (over, above), unter (under/below), vor (in front of), zwischen (between). Here is one example:

German Phonetic Script English
Wir stehen auf einem Platz m. [vi:ə te:ən auf 'ainəm plats] We are standing on a square.

Where are we? We are standing on a square. However, if there is a verb which involves a movement from point A to point B, then you would ask "Where to?" and have to use the accusative case. Read more about the use of the accusative if you click on the respective button above.


Adjectives with prepositions

There are also adjectives which are used with certain prepositions. After these adjectives we must also use the dative case. Here is one example:

German Phonetic Script English
Sie sprechen mit einem Kollegen m. [zi: 'ʃprɛçən mɪt 'ainəm kɔ'le:n] They are talking to a colleague.
mit jemandem sprechen [mɪt 'je:mandəm 'ʃprɛçən] to talk to somebody

If you are insecure about the preposition and the case, simply look it up in an online dictionary.


Idiomatic expressions

The dative is also used with certain set expressions. Here is one example:

German Phonetic Script English
Einer Freundin f wurde schwindelig. ['ainɐ 'frɔyndɪn 'vʊrdə ˈʃvɪndəlɪç] A friend got dizzy.