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Understanding the Dative Case in Russian



The focus of this post is the dative case in the Russian language. We’re going to explain what it is and when you need to use it and why. While grammatical cases aren’t unique to Russian, Russian certainly features more of them than English does, and they can be difficult to master. Conquer Russian grammar by working with one of our professional tutors.


The Dative Case and How To Use It

The dative case is one of the six cases in Russian. The Russian title of this case is “дательный падеж” (datel’nyi padezh); the word “дательный” (datel’nyi) derives from the verb “давать” (davat’ – to give), which is one of the functions of this case.

  • Я даю ручку другу. (Ya daiu ruchku drugu.)

  • I give a pen to my friend.


Use the Dative Case to Indicate To Whom and For What

Nouns in the dative case answer the questions “Кому?” (Komu? – To whom?) and “Чему?” (Chemu? – For what?). Thus, the dative case is used when a person talks about a recipient.

  • Я купила подарок (кому?) мужу. (Ya kupila podarok [komu?] muzhu.)

  • I bought a present for my husband.


Use the Dative Case to Name a Person or Object You’re Approaching

If you name a person or an object you’re approaching, use the dative, as well. In this case, you will always need the preposition of direction – “к” (k - to).

  • Я подъехал к (к чему?) ресторану. (Ya pod’ekhal k [k chemu?] restoranu.)

  • I drove to the restaurant.


Use the Dative Case to Talk about Physical and Emotional States

When you name a person who is in a certain state, you also use the dative case.

  • Мне жарко. (Mne zharko.)

  • I feel hot.

  • Девочке грустно. (Devochke grustno.)

  • The girl is sad.


Use the Dative Case to Talk about Need

When you need something (or someone), or somebody or something needs something, using the dative case is the right decision. In this case, verbs like “надо” (nado – need), “необходимо” (neobkhodimo – it is necessary), and “нужно” (nuzhno – need) are used.

  • Растению нужна вода. (Rsteniiu nuzhna voda.)

  • The plant needs water.

  • Мне надо на урок. (Mne nado na urok.)

  • I need to go to the lesson.


Use the Dative Case to Talk about Age

Moreover, if you mention someone’s age, use the dative case.

  • Мальчику восемь лет. (Mal’chiku vosem’ let.)

  • The boy is eight.


Use the Dative Case with the Preposition “по”

The dative is often used with the preposition “по” (po), which has two meanings:


1. When we walk on a certain surface

  • Мы идем по песку. (My idyom po pesku.)

  • We walk on the sand.

2. When we talk about how something is being delivered or said through mass media

  • Письмо отправлено по электронной почте.

  • The letter was sent by e-mail.


Learn More about Russian Grammatical Cases

Now you should have an idea how to use the dative case in the Russian language. To learn more about it, book a lesson with us.

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