The Dative Case in Russian: Definition, Usage, and Examples

The dative case (дательный падеж) is one of the six grammatical cases in the Russian language. It plays a crucial role in expressing relationships and indirect actions in the Russian language. It answers the question “to whom?” or “for whom?” in relation to the action of the verb.

In this article, we will explore the definition, usage, and examples of the Dative Case in Russian.

Dative Case Forms

To form dative nouns and adjectives in Russian, you need to change their endings depending on the gender, number, and declension of the noun.

Singular nouns

Masculine nouns in the singular form ending in a consonant add the ending “-у” in the dative case. If the noun ends in a soft sign or “й”, change it to “ю”.

For example:

  • друг (friend) becomes другу (to a friend)
  • стол (table) becomes столу (to a table)
  • охотник (hunter) becomes охотнику (to a hunter)
  • музей (museum) becomes музею (to a museum).

Here are the general rules for forming the dative case for feminine nouns:

  • Nouns ending in “-а” or “-я” in the nominative case, replace the ending with “-е” in the dative case (девочка – девочке, книга – книге, семья – семье).
  • Nouns ending in “-ь” in the nominative case add “-и” in the dative case (дверь – двери).

Neuter nouns:

  • If the noun ends in “-о”, change it to “у” to form the dative case (небо – небу, окно – окну).
  • If the noun ends in “-е”, change it to “ю” (море – морю, поле – полю).
  • If the noun ends in “-мя”, change it to “-ени” (имя – имени, время – времени).

Here’s a table for you:

Singular dative nouns in Russian (table)

Plural nouns

In Russian, the dative plural endings are the same for all genders. The dative plural form for both masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns is -ам/-ям. The choice between -ам and -ям depend on the last letter of the singular noun in the nominative case.

Nouns ending in a consonant, the vowels -а, -о or -мя take the dative plural ending -ам. Examples include:

  • стол (table) – столам
  • мама (mom) – мамам 
  • книга (book) – книгам
  • окно (window) – окнам
  • время (time) – временам

Other nouns that end in anything else take the dative plural ending -ям:

  • музей – музеям
  • гость – гостям
  • море – морям

Note that there are some irregular nouns that don’t follow these patterns:

Singular Plural Dative Plural
друг друзья друзьям
стул стулья стульям
мать матери матерям
дочь дочери дочерям

 

Personal Pronouns

You also have to memorize personal pronouns dative forms:

English Nominative Dative
I я меня
you ты тебя
he он ему
she она ей
it оно ему
we мы нам
you (plural) вы вам
they они им

 

Relative and negative pronouns change their forms in the dative case as well:

кто (who) – кому

что (what) – чему

никто (nobody) – никому

ничто (nothing) – ничему

Examples:

Страшно подумать, чему такие люди могут научить нашу молодежь. – It’s scary to think what such people can teach our youth.

Нынешняя ситуация никому не приносит пользы. – Current situation isn’t good for anyone.

Я не доверяю никому и ничему. – I don’t trust anyone or anything.

Adjectives and Possessive Pronouns

In Russian, adjectives in the dative case change their form to agree with the noun they modify. They can have different endings based on the gender, number, and case of the noun they describe.

For masculine singular nouns change the ending to –ому (if the nominative plural ends in -ый, -ой) or –ему (if the nominative plural ends in -ий). For example:

  • красивый (beautiful) – красивому 
  • светлый (light, blond) – светлому
  • большой (big) – большому
  • хороший (good) – хорошему 
  • синий (blue) – синему

For feminine singular nouns, if the adjective ends in -ая, you replace it with -ой, and if it ends in -яя, replace it with -ей:

  • красивая (beautiful) – красивой 
  • умная (smart) – умной 
  • весенняя (spring, spring-like) – весенней
  • ранняя (early) – ранней

For neuter singular nouns, if the adjective ends in -ое or -ее, you also add -ому or -ему to it:

  • хорошее (good) – хорошему 
  • свежее (fresh) – свежему
  • маленькое (little, small) – маленькому
  • сильное (strong) – сильному

For all genders in the plural form, adjectives in the dative case end in -ым or -им:

  • хорошие (good) – хорошим
  • дорогие (expensive, dear) – дорогим
  • здоровые (healthy) – здоровым
  • красивые (beautiful) – красивым 

It’s important to remember that the form of the adjective should agree with the gender, number, and case of the noun it modifies.

Possessive pronouns dative forms are quite similar. Pairs мой/твой and наш/ваш have the same endings and are easy to remember:

мой/моя/моё/мои – моему/моей/моему/моим

твой/твоя/твоё/твои – твоему/твоей/твоему/твоим

наш/наша/наше/наши – нашему/нашей/нашему/нашим 

ваш/ваша/ваше/ваши – вашему/вашей/вашему/вашим

его/её/его/их – these pronouns don’t change when we use them in the dative case:

Скажи это её дочери. – Tell it to her daughter.

Я должен помочь их другу. – I have to help their friend.

It’s important to study and practice the declension tables to correctly use the dative case in Russian.

Usage

The Dative Case is used to indicate the indirect object, the recipient, or the person or thing to whom an action is directed or for whom something is intended.

In plain words, it is a way of showing who or what receives or benefits from an action. It’s like saying “to” or “for” someone or something. For example, if you want to say “I gave a book to my friend,” you would use the dative case to show that the book is given “to” your friend.

The endings of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives change in the dative case to indicate this relationship. This helps make sentences clear and shows who or what is involved in the action.

The Dative Case is used in various situations in Russian. Here are some of the most common uses of the Dative Case (the ending of the noun in the dative case is highlighted in color):

Он помог мне. – He helped me.

Я купил маме цветы. – I bought flowers for mom.

Impersonal Sentences

In impersonal constructions, the dative case is employed to show who or what is affected by the action.

For example, let’s take the verb “нравиться” (to like). In an impersonal sentence, we can say “мне нравится” (literally, “to me it is pleasing”) to express that something pleases or is liked by me. Here, “мне” is in the dative case, indicating the recipient of the action.

Such structures can express personal preferences, necessity, obligation or how someone feels. Here are a few examples of impersonal sentences using the dative case:

  • Мне нравится этот фильм. (I like this movie.)
  • Мне интересно учиться новому языку. (I find it interesting to learn a new language.)
  • Мне надоел этот шум. (I’m tired of this noise.)
  • Мне холодно. (I feel cold.)
  • Мне его жаль. (I feel sorry for him.)

In these sentences, the dative case is used to indicate who is experiencing the liking, interest, fatigue, or coldness. It doesn’t necessarily have to be you; it can be someone else. But use the dative case:

  • Моей собаке нравится этот мяч. – My dog loves this ball.
  • Ему грустно. – He’s sad.
  • Мне скучно. – I am bored.
  • Нам надо поговорить. – We need to talk.
  • Им нужен отдых. – They need a rest.
  • Тебе больно? – Are you in pain?
  • Тебе страшно? – Are you scared?
  • Мне ничего не понятно. – It doesn’t make any sense to me.
  • Нам пора идти. – It’s time for us to go.

It’s important to note that the pronoun in impersonal sentences indicates who is experiencing the action or state. The pronouns commonly used are “мне” (to me), “тебе” (to you), “ему” (to him), “ей” (to her), “нам” (to us), “вам” (to you all), “им” (to them).

Verbs that take the dative

Verbs that are used with the dative case in Russian typically involve actions directed towards someone or something, or actions that benefit or affect someone. These verbs require the direct object to be in the dative case to indicate the recipient or the person or thing to whom an action is directed.

See Also: 25 Popular Russian Verbs For Beginners

Here are some common types of verbs that take the dative case.

Verbs of giving and receiving

When we are talking about giving and receiving things, we often need to specify TO WHOM we give this. So, the following verbs require the direct object to be in the dative case to express the recipient:

давать/дать – to give

передавать – to hand over

(по)дарить – to give as a gift

присылать/прислать, отправлять – to send

Example sentences:

Он отправил другу посылку. – He sent a package to a friend.

Мне прислали письмо. – A letter was sent to me.

Передай это своему соседу. – Pass this on to your neighbor.

These verbs are only used with the dative case, when they name the recipient.

Verbs of communication and interaction

When you name the person to whom the action is directed (show whom? tell whom?), use the dative case.

говорить – to speak (only if it is a is one-way conversation)

сказать – to say

рассказать – to tell

объяснять/объяснить – to explain

сообщать/сообщить, доложить – report, inform, notify

(по)советовать – to advise

(на)писать – to write

звонить – to call on the phone

показать, продемонстрировать – to show –

Он говорил тебе об этом. – He told you about it.

Я сказал ему правду. – I told him the truth.

Покажи мне дорогу. – Show me the way.

Мы сообщим вам об этом позже. – We’ll let you know about that later.

Полковнику никто не пишет. – No one writes to the colonel.

Я могу посоветовать тебе хорошую книгу. – I can advise you a good book.

Объясни ей, что она должна сделать. – Explain to her what she has to do.

Note: Not all verbs of this kind are used with the dative:

Мы вас предупреждали. – We warned you. (accusative case)

Их заранее уведомили об этом решении. – They were informed about the decision in advance. (accusative case)

Other Verbs

There are some verbs in Russian that are used exclusively with the dative case.

завидовать (to envy)

Я завидую твоим успехам. – I envy your successes.

помогать (to help)

Она помогает студентам. – She helps students.

верить (to believe)

доверять (to trust)

Я верю тебе. – I believe you.

Я ему доверяю. – I trust him.

удивляться (to wonder, to be surprised)

Не понимаю, чему ты удивляешься. – Can’t see why you’re surprised.

These are just a few examples, and there are many more verbs that take the dative case in different contexts. It’s important to note that the choice of case depends on the specific verb and its usage in a sentence.

See Also: The Genitive Case in Russian

Prepositions used with the dative case

There are several prepositions that govern the use of the dative case. These prepositions indicate a variety of relationships, such as direction, location, possession, and more. Here are some commonly used prepositions with the dative case.

к (to, towards)

This preposition is used to indicate movement towards a person or a place. For example:

Я иду к другу. – I’m going to a friend.

Он плывёт к острову. – He is swimming towards the island.

по (along, throughout)

This preposition is used to indicate movement or location along a path or throughout a place:

Она гуляет по парку. – She is walking in the park.

Мы ехали по дороге. – We were driving along the road.

When “по” is followed by an instrument or means of communication, it indicates the method or medium through which an action or communication occurs, we also use the dative case:

  • смотреть по телевизору – to watch on television
  • говорить по телефону – to speak over the phone
  • отправить по почте/по факсу – to send by mail/fax
  • сообщать по радио – to report by radio (the word “радио” never decline)

In these cases, “по” highlights the instrument or tool through which an action is performed or communication takes place. It helps specify the means or channel of the activity. Other examples:

читать по губам (to lip-read)

In this case, “по губам” suggests that the action of reading is done through observing the movement of someone’s lips.

играть по ролям (to play by roles)

This phrase is often used in theater, indicating that actors are performing their roles according to the script or predetermined characters.

петь по нотам (to sing by notes)

In this case, “по нотам” suggests that the singing is done following the notes or musical notation.

готовить по рецепту (to cook according to a recipe)

The phrase indicates that the cooking is done following a specific recipe or culinary instructions.

заниматься по учебнику (to study using a textbook)

In this example, “по учебнику” suggests that the studying is based on a particular textbook.

строить по плану (to build according to a plan)

This phrase suggests that the construction or building process is done following a specific plan.

the use of the dative case in Russian

We also use the dative case with the expressions of time:

  • по понедельникам – on Mondays (every Monday)
  • по вторникам – on Tuesdays (every Tuesday)
  • по выходным – on weekends
  • по будням – on weekdays
  • по утрам – in the mornings
  • по вечерам – in the evenings

By the way, if you see endings “у”/”ю”, “ам”/”ям”, be sure it’s the dative case.

Adjectives using the dative

признательный/признателен, благодарный/благодарен – grateful

признателен кому-либо – grateful to someone

Я вам благодарен. – I am grateful to you.

верный/верен – faithful, loyal:

верный кому-либо – loyal to anyone

верный своим принципам – faithful to one’s principle

знакомый/знаком

Всем нам знакомы моменты сомнений и страхов. – We all have our moments of doubt and fear.

Only short form:

рад – joyous, glad

Мы всегда тебе рады. – You’re always welcome here.

Я рад нашему общению. – I’m glad we’re talking.

удивлён – surprised

Я нисколько этому не удивлён. – I am not surprised at all.

Exercise

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the noun in the dative case.

  1. Я подарил подарок __________ (сестра).
  2. Он написал письмо __________  (друг).
  3. Расскажи ______ (я), что случилось.
  4. Моя сестра любит помогать _________ (люди).
  5. Позвони ______ (он) завтра.
  6. Я часто гуляю по __________ (ночь).
  7. Отправь приглашение __________ (гости).

Answers:
1. сестре
2. другу
3. мне
4. людям
5. ему
6. ночам
7. гостям

I hope this clears things up! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. 😊

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