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 that is receiving the action (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 that are not being directly acted upon. 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
One important verb that calls the dative is давать/дать, 'to give'. It is irregular, and conjugates as follows:
|Давать (imperf.)||Дать (pf.)|
|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|
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 different 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 across Russia - Ездить по России
- Housework (work across the house) - Работа по дому - notice that 'across 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 specialization - the trade or subject you specialize 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.
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 -я, the ending is -ям. Again, try to link the я and the ям.
- 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 traveled 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 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 -у - 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.
- 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 traveled across the large country - Они поехали по большей стране
The personal pronouns in the dative case are as follows:
The third person singular personal pronoun ему is masculine and neuter, and ей is feminine.
personal pronouns quiz
The possessive pronouns are as follows:
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 иx for plural owners. These are the same in all cases.
|That||тому ("tomoo")||той ("toy")||тому ("tomoo")||тем ("tyem")|
|Russian language · Русский язык|
|Lessons||Introduction · Alphabet · Lesson 1 · Lesson 2 · Lesson 3 · Lesson 4 · Lesson 5|
|Reference||Numbers · Cases (Nom. · Gen. · Dat. · Acc. · Inst. · Prep.) · Adjectives · Prepositions · Verbs (Aspect · Past · Future) · Pronouns (Personal · Possessive · Interrogative) · Cursive|
|Appendices||Appendix · Alphabet · Internet · Cheat Sheet|