Russian/Grammar/Dative case

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The dative case is traditionally the third grammatical case, and denotes the indrect object of a verb. This page asssumes some familiarity with verbal aspect and the case system.

Usage[edit]

Remember that verbs generally have a subject and an object: the person or thing that performs the verb (the subject: 'He is reading a book'), and the person or thing being verbed (the object: 'He is reading a book'). Just as the subject of a verb is in the nominative case, and the object of the verb is in the accusative case, there can be an indirect object of the verb that goes in the dative case.

The indirect object refers to objects called by the verb that are not being directly verbed themselves. For example, 'I wrote a letter to you' - 'I' is the subject, 'a letter' is the object, and 'to you' is the indirect object. Thus, in Russian, instead of saying 'to you', they say the word 'you' in it's dative form: Я пишу письмо вам. There are many common verbs that can have an indirect object, and most correspond with the English use of the word 'to':

To speak to... - Говорить/сказать + dat
To relate, tell to... - Рассказывать/рассказать + dat
To telephone (to)... - Звонить/позвонить + dat
To answer, reply to... - Отвечать/ответить + dat
To show (to)... - Показывать/показать + dat
To give (to)... - Давать/дать + dat

Some of these verbs don't use 'to' in English (e.g., 'I'll ring you' is, in Russian, is 'I'll ring to you'), while others can either use it or omit it (e.g., we can say both 'Give it to him' and 'Give him it'). In general, the object given or spoken about is in the accusative, while the person to whom the object is given or spoken about is in the dative case.

To give, давать/дать[edit]

One important verb that calls the dative is давать/дать, 'to give'. It is irregular, and conjugates as follows:

Давать (imperf.) Дать (pf.)
sing. pl. sing. pl.
Non-past First person я даю мы даём я дам мы дадим
Second person ты даёшь вы даёте ты дашь вы дадите
Third Person он даёт они дают он даст они дадут
Past Masculine давал дал
Feminine давала дала
Neuter давало дало
Plural давали дали

Prepositions[edit]

Like other cases, there are prepositions that require the following phrase to be place in the dative case. The two main prepositions are к(о) ('to', 'towards') and по ('along'). Of all Russian prepositions, по is the vaguest: it can call three difference cases as a preposition, it's commonly seen as a prefix in the perfective aspect of verbs, and has seven broad categories of meaning when it calls the dative case:

  • Motion on/along/across a surface - the most common meaning is movement across (e.g., crossing the road), or along (e.g., walking along the street), or about (i.e., moving all around the entirety of a surface), or otherwise moving in some fashion on top of some surface.
We drove along the street - Мы поехали по улице
To travel about Russia - Ездить по России
Housework (work about the house) - Работа по дому - notice that 'about a surface' can be interpreted quite loosely, and can lead to idioms such as this.
  • Activity in identical places/times - some activity or verb is occurring in multiple instances of a place or time. Places visited multiple times, or things done at multiple times, use по.
She went around to many shops - Она шла по многим магазинам
She runs in the evenings - Она бегает по вечерам
They meet every friday - Они встречаются по пятницам
  • Uniform distribution - commonly translated as 'apiece' or 'per', this use of по is used to denote a singular noun as being distributed one apiece. For example, in the sentence, 'He gave his boys one apple each', we could say по яблоку to mean 'one apple each'. If there are multiple objects being given out, (e.g., 'five apples each'), use по and the accusative case.
He gave his boys one apple each - Он дал его детям по яблоку - one item each, so по + dat; note that the dative is also used for 'his kids'.
He gave his boys two apples each - Он дал его детям по два яблока - two items each, so по + acc.
  • The thing struck - primarily used with the verb бить/побить ('to beat/strike'), this denotes something as being struck or hit or beat.
He hit the table with his shoe - Он бил ботинком по столу
Rain drummed against the window - Дождь барабанил по окну
  • Reason or cause of - the reason or cause of some event can be denoted using по and the dative case.
The woman drank the poison by mistake - Женщина выпила яд по ошибке
  • Your specialisation - the trade or subject you specialise in, particularly with work, school, exams, etc. This typically translates as 'in'.
Russian exam (exam in Russian) - экзамен по русскому языку
in my opinion (colloquially, 'in my') - По моему мнению ('по-моему')
  • In accordance with - this usage denotes one thing as being in line with, or in accord with, or in accordance with, another thing, such as a plane flying to schedule.
The plane flew according to plan - Самолёт летал по плану

По can also be used with the accusative case (meaning 'up to' or 'till', or, as discussed above, 'apiece'), and with the prepositional case (meaning 'after' or 'for'). К is relatively simpler, referring to or gesturing at the direction something is located.

Nouns[edit]

To decline masculine and neuter nouns into the dative case, replace the ending o with у, add у to a consonant, or replace й, е, or ь with a ю. Feminine nouns decline exactly as in the prepositional case: а and я become е, while ь becomes и.

The dative plural is formed using the same rules that govern the instrumental and prepositional plural, albeit with slightly different endings: all nouns which end in a consonant, an а, or an о, the plural ending is -ам. As a memory aid, try to link the a and ам. For those that end in a й, a я, or a е, and any noun with an irregular nominative plural ending in , the ending is -ям. Again, try to link the я and the ям.

Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Dative у/ю е/и ам/ям

Examples:

The pen moved across the letter - Ручка пошла по письму
Why did he tell it to the policeman? - Почему он сказал это полицейскому?
She gave money to the museum - Она дала деньги музею
The ship travelled about the sea - Судно шлo по морю
Sasha is walking towards the school - Саша идёт к школе
Boris won, thanks to his friends - Борис побеждал благодаря его друзьям

Adjectives[edit]

Adjectives modifying masculine or neuter nouns in the dative case have the ending -ому. If they end in the 5-letter rule (ш, щ, ч, ж, or ц) or have the soft ending (-ний), their dative ending is -ему. Feminine adjectives have -ой or, after the 5-letter rule or soft ending, -ей. Essentially, these are the same as e prepositional endings, with masculine and neuter adjectives having an extra - the same ending most masculine and neuter nouns get.

To form the dative plural, the ending is -ым or, after the soft ending or the 7-letter rule (к, г, х, ш, щ, ч, or ж), -им.

Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Dative ому/ему ой/ей ым/им
She spoke to his good friend Sasha - Она сказала его хорошему другу Саше
Tanya will give the presents to the nice Russian man - Таня даст подарки симпатичному русскому человеку
They travelled across the large country - Они поехали по большей стране

Pronouns[edit]

Personal[edit]

The possessive pronouns in the dative case are as follows:

Singular Plural
First person Мне Нам
Second person Тебе Вам
Third Person Ему/ей Им

The third person singular personal pronoun ему is masculine and neuter, and ей is feminine.

personal pronouns quiz[edit]

Russian personal pronouns quiz

Possessive[edit]

The possessive pronouns are as follows:

English Masculine/Neuter Feminine Plural
to my Моему Мое́й Мои́м
to our На́шему На́шей На́шим
to your Твоему Твое́й Твои́м
to your Ва́шему Ва́шей Ва́шим

As ever, possessive pronouns conjugate almost exactly like adjectives. The third person pronouns are его for masculine and neuter owners, её for feminine owners, and им for plural owners. These are the same in all cases.

Demonstrative Adjectives[edit]

English Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
That тому ("tomoo") той ("toy") тому ("tomoo") тем ("tyem")