We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the Dative Case?

By Emily Daw
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The dative case is the grammatical case used for indirect objects in many languages. Most commonly, an indirect object follows a verb like "to give" and indicates the person something is done for or something is given to. In English, the indirect object follows the verb and precedes the direct object. In other languages, both the placement and the function of a word in the dative case may be more flexible.

Verbs that can take direct objects are known as "ditransitive" because they can take both direct and indirect objects. Verbs meaning "to give" or "to send" are the most common ditransitives, as in, "I will give you the key." In this example, "you" is the indirect object and "the key" is the direct object. Other verbs may occasionally take indirect objects, as in, "Jack will write Alex a check." In this case, the dative indicates for whom something is done.

Datives should not be confused with prepositional phrases that may serve the same semantic purpose. "George delivers the pizza to Elizabeth" does not have an indirect object, because "to Elizabeth," which indicates to whom the pizza was given, is a prepositional phrase coming after the direct object. It is not in the dative case. The sentence may be reworded as "George gives Elizabeth the pizza," which would then contain an indirect object.

Grammarians disagree about whether English has a true dative case. Strictly speaking, "case" indicates that the word has undergone some sort of change in morphology, or spelling, to indicate its function in the sentence. On the other hand, a word in English is shown to be an indirect object by its placement in the sentence rather than by the form of the word itself. Pronouns are occasionally exceptions, as in, "To whom did you give the ice cream?" where "who" changes to "whom" because of its role as an indirect object. Since "whom" is also the form used for direct objects, however, some grammarian classify both together as the objective case.

Datives are both far more common and far more useful in Latin than in English. In addition to its use in as an indirect object, the dative case may also serve the same function that a prepositional phrase serves in English. For instance, the sentence Bonum mihi videtur translates as "It seems good to me." The dative mihi is translated "to me," even though it is not an indirect object. Latin also has a dative of benefit, which indicates that something was done for a particular person, as in, Condo librem tibi, or, "I bring the book for you." Other uses for the dative in Latin include the dative of purpose, dative of separation, dative of interest, and dative of possession.

Some grammarians argue that these alternative uses for the dative in inflected languages actually make up separate cases, and that the true dative is used only for indirect objects. Some Koine Greek grammars, for instance, list dative, locative, and instrumental cases where others have only a dative case. The form of all three cases is the same, but the functions are different.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.