The Dative Case in Russian

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In today's lesson, we will learn how to use the Dative Case in Russian.

To make things easier, I will divide this lesson into four parts:

  1. When the Dative Case is used
  2. Nouns in the Dative Case
  3. Adjectives in the Dative Case
  4. Possessive Pronouns in the Dative Case

All the above titles have links. If there is any subject you would like to study first, you can click on it and go straight to that part of the lesson.

In this lesson, we won’t talk about the Dative Case in the plural because we have a separate lesson about this subject here at Mighty Languages:

Dative Case in the Plural

When to use the Dative Case in Russian

The Dative Case is mostly used in the following situations:

  1. To indicate the indirect object;
  2. To express feelings and emotions;
  3. To talk about age;
  4. To talk about things we need;
  5. To talk about things we like;
  6. After certain prepositions.

Let’s take a look at each of these situations one by one.

1) The Dative Case to indicate an indirect object

In Russian, the indirect object of a sentence is indicated by the Dative Case.

An indirect object is usually a person to whom something is given or for whom something is done. For example:

  • Peter gives a book to Masha.

In this sentence, the book is given to Masha, so Masha is the indirect object of the sentence.

To express the same idea in Russian, you need to put the word Masha into the Dative Case by adding a special ending to it:

  • Питер даёт книгу Маше.
  • Маша - Маше

Note that, in all the examples, the dative ending is highlighted in blue. In the next part of the lesson, we will study all the possible endings.

If it’s already clear to you what an indirect object is, feel free to move on to the next part of the lesson.

However, if this topic is still confusing to you, here are some more examples:

  • The parents bought ice cream for their son.

Let’s ask ourselves: ‘For whom is the action done?’

For the son, right?

So ‘the son’ is the indirect object and, in Russian, it should be in the Dative Case:

  • Родители купили сыну мороженое.
  • сын - сыну

One more example:

  • I brought food to the dog.

Again, let’s ask ourselves: ‘To whom was the food brought?’

To the dog, right?

So, ‘the dog’ is the indirect object and it should be in the Dative Case:

  • Я принёс еду собаке.
  • собака - собаке

Now let's move on to the next use of the Dative Case.

2) The Dative Case to talk about feelings and emotions

The way we express feelings and emotions in Russian is different from the way we do it in English.

In English, we make sentences in the following way:

  • subject + am / is / are + adjective

For example:

  • I am sad.
  • The child is bored.

In Russian, however, the structure is:

  • noun or pronoun in the Dative Case + adverb

For example:

  • Мне грустно.
  • (I am sad)
  • Ребёнку скучно.
  • (The child is bored)

Note that, in the Russian sentences, there is no equivalent of ‘am’ or ‘is’ and the person is in the Dative Case.

3) The Dative Case to talk about age

To say how old someone or something is, you need the following structure:

  • noun or pronoun in the Dative Case + age

For example:

  • Мне 20 лет.
  • (I am 20 years old)
  • Ребенку 2 года.
  • (The kid is 2 years old)
  • Дедушке 70 лет.
  • (Grandpa is 70 years old)

4) The Dative Case to talk about needs

To say that someone needs to do something, we use the following structure:

  • noun or pronoun in the Dative Case + нужно

For example:

  • Мне нужно идти.
  • (I need to go)
  • Девушке нужно работать.
  • (The girl needs to work)

If you want to say that you need something, the form of нужно will change depending on the gender of the thing that you need. In total, there are four forms:

  • нужен (used with masculine nouns)
  • нужна (used with feminine nouns)
  • нужно (used with neuter nouns or verbs)
  • нужны (used with plural nouns)

If you don't understand the concept of gender in the Russian language, you can check out our complete lesson on this subject clicking here.

Let's take a look at a few sentences:

  • Ей нужен компьютер.
  • (She needs a computer)
  • Ему нужна помощь.
  • (He needs help)
  • Нам нужно работать.
  • (We need to work)
  • Мне нужны деньги.
  • (I need money)

5) The Dative Case to talk about likes

To say that someone likes something, we use the following structure:

  • noun or pronoun in the Dative Case + нравиться

Note that the verb нравиться has two main forms in the present tense depending on whether the thing you like is singular or plural:

  • нравится (used with singular nouns and verbs)
  • нравятся (used with plural nouns)

For example:

  • Ей нравится этот телефон.
  • (She likes this phone)
  • Питеру нравится учиться.
  • (Peter likes studying)
  • Ему нравятся собаки.
  • (He likes dogs)
  • Мне нравятся кошки.
  • (I like cats)

6) The Dative Case after К and ПО

The prepositions к and по are used with the Dative Case. Let's take a look at their common meanings.

- К can be translated as towards or to:

  • Вчера я ходил к врачу.
  • (Yesterday I went to the doctor)
  • Завтра мы поедем к бабушке.
  • (Tomorrow we will go to Grandma's)

- ПО means about or on when something is related to a particular subject or area:

  • Это учебники по истории.
  • (These are textbooks on history)
  • Он написал статью по биологии.
  • (He wrote an article about biology)

- ПО can also mean along or on when something is moving along some surface:

  • Человек идёт по дороге.
  • (The man is walking along the road)
  • Паук ползёт по стене.
  • (The spider is crawling along the wall)

ПО can also mean over, on or by when talking about the means you use to do something:

  • Я говорю по телефону.
  • (I’m talking on the phone)
  • Мы говорим по Скайпу.
  • (We talk by Skype)

And these are the main situations in which you need to use the Dative Case in Russian. Now let's learn what endings nouns have in this case.

Nouns in the Dative Case

Nouns in the Dative Case can have four different endings: Е, У, Ю and И.

Let’s take a look at when we use each of these endings.

Letter Е

When a noun ends in А or Я, replace these letters with Е:

  • мама – маме (mom)
  • машина – машине (car)
  • тётя – тёте (aunt)
  • дедушка – дедушке (grandpa)

Letter У

When a noun ends in a consonant, add У:

  • стол – столу (table)
  • город – городу (city)
  • студент – студенту (student)
  • врач – врачу (doctor)

When a neuter noun ends in О, replace О with У:

  • окно – окну (window)
  • письмо – письму (letter)
  • лето – лету (summer)
  • тело – телу (body)

Letter Ю

When a neuter noun ends in Е, replace Е with Ю:

  • море – морю (sea)
  • поле – полю (field)
  • платье – платью (dress)

When a masculine noun ends in Й or Ь, replace these letters with Ю:

  • словарь – словарю (dictionary)
  • дождь – дождю (rain)
  • музей – музею (museum)
  • герой – герою (hero)

Letter И

When a feminine noun ends in Ь, replace Ь with И:

  • ночь – ночи (night)
  • кровать – кровати (bed)
  • дверь – двери (door)

When a feminine noun ends in ИЯ, replace only Я with И:

  • лекция – лекции (lecture)
  • станция – станции (station)
  • версия – версии (version)

It's also a good idea to memorize the forms of personal pronouns in the Dative Case.

Pronouns in the Dative Case

Adjectives in the Dative Case

Adjectives in the Dative Case have different endings depending on the gender of the nouns they describe.

Adjectives used with masculine nouns

When the adjective ends in ый or ой, replace the ending with ому:

  • новый друг – новому другу
  • (a new friend)
  • большой дом – большому дому
  • (a big house)
  • молодой человек – молодому человеку
  • (a young person)

When the adjective ends in ий, replace it with ему:

  • синий костюм – синему костюму
  • (a blue suit)
  • хороший друг – хорошему другу
  • (a good friend)
  • горячий чай – горячему чаю
  • (hot tea)

Note that when the last consonant of the adjective is к or х, the adjective always takes the ending ому:

  • русский человек – русскому человеку
  • (a Russian person)
  • тихий вечер – тихому вечеру
  • (a quiet evening)
  • маленький ребёнок – маленькому ребёнку
  • (a little child)

Adjectives used with neuter nouns

When the adjective ends in ое, replace it with ому:

  • новое платье – новому платью
  • (a new dress)
  • большое окно – большому окну
  • (a big window)
  • тихое море – тихому морю
  • (a quiet sea)

When the adjective ends in ее, replace it with ему:

  • хорошее лето – хорошему лету
  • (a good summer)
  • синее небо – синему небу
  • (a blue sky)
  • летнее платье – летнему платью
  • (a summer dress)

Adjectives used with feminine nouns

When the adjective ends in ая, replace it with ой:

  • новая квартира – новой квартире
  • (a new apartment)
  • русская девушка – русской девушке
  • (a Russian girl)
  • большая комната – большой комнате
  • (a big room)

Note that when the last consonant of the adjective is ч, ш, щ, ж and ц and the last syllable is not stressed, the adjective takes the ending ей instead of ой:

  • свежая капуста – свежей капусте
  • (fresh cabbage)
  • горячая вода – горячей воде
  • (hot water)
  • хорошая сумка – хорошей сумке
  • (a good bag)

When the adjective ends in яя, replace it with ей:

  • зимняя ночь – зимней ночи
  • (a winter night)
  • синяя куртка – синей куртке
  • (a blue jacket)
  • ранняя весна – ранней весне
  • (early spring)

Possessive Pronouns in the Dative Case

Here's a table of possessive pronouns in the Dative Case:

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
myмоемумоеймоемумоим
yourтвоемутвоейтвоемутвоим
hisегоегоегоего
herеёеёеёеё
ourнашемунашейнашемунашим
yourвашемувашейвашемувашим
theirихихихих

Note that the pronouns его, её and их (his, her and their) never change.

Let's take a look at a few sentences with possessive pronouns in the Dative Case:

  • Я звонил твоему брату вчера.
  • (I called your brother yesterday)
  • Нашей маме нужно отдыхать.
  • (Our mom needs to rest)
  • Сколько лет её папе?
  • (How old is her dad?)

And that’s it. Now you know when to use the Dative Case in Russian and how it affects different types of words in the singular.

To learn how to use the Dative Case in the plural, check out our complete lesson about it clicking here.