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The Russian Dative Case Broken Down for Beginners

The Russian dative case is used for the indirect object in a sentence. Simply put, if a noun has ‘to’ in front of it, it is most likely the indirect object.

For example:

Sergei gave a present to Alexei.

Here, Sergei is the subject, present is the direct object and to Alexei is the indirect object, and so Alexei would be in the dative case.


Ways to use the Russian dative case

After verbs such as ‘помогать / помочь’ (to help) and ‘звонить / позвонить’ (to call)

Because we don’t say things like “I help to Anna” or “I telephone to John” in English, it is quite easy to forget that we put Anna and John in the dative. Just remember, that although in English we can say things like “the student answered the teacher”, in Russian, the student answers to the teacher, and this works for many verbs that deal with interactions between people, such as recipients of actions.

Another thing that you can do is learn what case a verb takes automatically. Most dictionaries should have the various forms of кто or что following the verb, and you’ll be looking for кому, чему, which we will cover later.


With the verb ‘нравиться’ (to like)

The best way to remember how to use the нравиться construction is to remember that you are saying:

To [me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them] [I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, you are, they are] pleasing.

Мне+ нравится +Nominative form
Ему / ей / ему

Мне нравится шоколад – I like chocolate – [Lit.] To me chocolate is pleasing

Ему нравятся птитцы – He likes birds – [Lit.] To him birds are pleasing

What’s even better about using нравиться? The object of your desires in English is actually the subject in Russian, so you don’t need to think about declining it at all! Hurray!


With the word ‘нужен’/ ‘надо’ (to need).

Мне+ нужен / надо +Nominative form
Ему / ей / ему

However, depending on what you are talking about, нужен will change gender:

Мне нужен сахар – I need sugar [masculine]

Мне нужно яйцо – I need an egg [neuter]

Мне нужна мука – I need flour [feminine]

Мне нужны фрукты – I need fruit [plural – note: in Russian, fruit is actually fruits and is plural]


To talk about your age

Finally, we use the dative to discuss our age! In Russian, we say “to me there are x years”.

Мне+ number of years +год / года / лет
Ему / ей / ему

Мне 18 лет – I am 18

Тебе 26 лет – You are 26

Ему 4 года – He is 4

Remember that numbers ending in 1 take год, numbers ending in 2, 3, 4 take года and anything else takes лет!

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Expressing emotion

When expressing emotion, we take the personal pronoun in the dative (see above in ‘to talk about your age’) and add the short form of the adjective in neuter:

Мне скучно! – I’m bored!


After the following prepositions

К[to; towards]destination of movement
По[down, along, through, by, over, on, among, around]place of movement
По[by, on]means of communication
По[on, of, for, in]attribute, specialisation
По[on, in, every, each]time of regular action
По[because of, by]reason or cause
Благодаря[thanks to]reason or cause
Согласно[according to, under]accordance

How to form it

The dative, for some reason, is often forgotten and many people find verbs and adjectives difficult to decline. Using this guide, you will be able to decline perfectly!

Firstly, learn the following by heart:

он / она / оноЕму / ей / ему
NominativeDative MasculineDative FeminineDative NeuterDative Plural

Now, let’s look at how to turn nominative nouns and adjectives into dative nouns and adjectives:

The Russian dative nouns and adjectives

Masculine Nouns

When a noun ends in a consonant, we add у

When a noun ends in й or ь, we replace this with ю


Masculine Adjectives

Regular adjectives take ому

Soft adjectives take ему

Example: Таня звонила симпатичному русскому человеку (Tanya called the nice, Russian man)


Feminine Nouns

When a noun ends in а or я, we replace this with е

When a noun ends in ь, we replace this with и

When a noun ends in ия, we replace this with ии


Feminine Adjectives

Regular adjectives take ой

Soft adjectives take ей

Example: Сергей подарил цветы красивой девушке (Sergei gave the flowers to the beautiful girl)


Neuter Nouns

When a noun ends in о, we replace this with у

When a noun ends in е, we replace this with ю


Neuter Adjectives

Regular adjectives take ому

Soft adjectives take ему

Example: Вероника идёт к старому музею (Veronika is walking towards the old museum)


Plural Nouns

Look at the last letter of the nominative singular form:

If the last word ends in a consonant, add ам

When a noun ends in о or а, we replace this with ам

When a noun ends in е, я or й we replace this with ям


Plural adjectives

Regular adjectives take ым

Soft adjectives take им

Example: Дождь барабанил по широким окнам (The rain beat down on the wide windows)

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As you can see, the dative case deals mainly with indirect objects, and after select prepositions and verbs!

The easiest thing to do with the dative case is to remember that it is generally preceded by the idea of to. You telephone to somebody, you help to somebody, and these are things that are best learned on a case-by-case basis.


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