Updated: 
August 25, 2021

The Russian dative case is easy.

All you need to know to say it correctly 80% of the time is:

  • masculine and neuter nouns add an у sound to their ending
  • feminine nouns change their а sound to an е sound
  • nouns in plural form add ам
  • you use the dative case when you mean ‘to’ something or someone.

That’s it. 

Now, there are many nuances, but if you remember to do the above correctly, Russians will understand your speech well.

In the rest of the article we go over these nuances (how to decline the case, when to use it and tips/mindset to learn the case fast).

Russian dative case cheatsheet

Now, before we dive deep into how to form the dative case and in which situations to use it, let’s take a quick look.

Why?

Cause knowing the big picture helps tremendously when you’re learning the small details of the Russian grammar.

  • If you’ve just started learning Russian, take a look at the tables. Don’t try to memorize everything at once, just look at it with curiosity. It may seem like a lot,  but if you split all the information into small parts, it’s actually easy to learn. Then continue reading the guide for all the details.
  • If you’re already learning Russian grammar, and just need a quick reminder, you just need the overview in the beginning. In case  you need more specific information, you can always go directly to that part of the guide by clicking the right section in the table of contents above.

Nouns

Masculine
nominative
Dative si.Dative pl.Translation
столстолустуламtable
медведьмедведюмедведямbear
падежпадежупадежамcase
иностранециностранцуиностранцамforeigner
волкволкуволкамwolv
Feminine
Nominative
Dative sinDative pl.Translation
женщинаженщинеженщинамWoman
ситуацияситуацииситуациямSituation
ночьночиночамNight
книгакнигекнигамBook
земляземлеземлямLand
станциястанциистанциямStation
кроватькроватикроватямBed
Neuter
Nominative
Dative si.Dative pl.Translation
местоместуместамplace
мореморюморямsee
поколениепоколениюпоколениямgeneration
плечоплечуплечамshoulder

Adjectives

BeautifulMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominative case красивыйкрасивоекрасиваякрасивые
Dative case красивомукрасивомукрасивойкрасивым
BlueMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominative case синийсинеесиняясиние
Dative case синемусинемусинейсиним

Pronouns

NominativeDative caseTranslation
яменеI
тытебеyou
онемуhe
онаейshe
оноемуit
мынамwe
вывамyou
ониимthey

How to form the dative case in Russian?

The dative case is one of the ‘medium’ difficult cases in Russian.

That is because the endings of nouns are regular, and it’s straightforward when you should use the dative case.

In terms of when to learn the dative case:

  1. nominative
  2. prepositional
  3. accusative
  4. genitive
  5. dative
  6. instrumental

So you do well to learn the nominative, prepositional, accusative and genitive case BEFORE you start thinking about the dative case.

In terms of difficulty, the dative case is on number 4 (easy to difficult).

  1. nominative
  2. prepositional
  3. accusative
  4. dative
  5. instrumental
  6. genitive

The reason why you want to learn the genitive case before the dative case, is that the genitive is much more common.

Don’t take these rankings as written in stone. The best way is to understand a case 80% or so, and then move on. The remaining 20% will come with time and practice.

Where with the genitive case, there are many different situations when you should use it, the dative case only has several.

We cover those in the section when to use it.

For now, the main thing to know is that the dative case is used to

indicate the indirect object of the sentence.

Sounds woozy?

In normal English: if you give something to someone, or something/someone gets something done to them indirectly, you use the dative case.

Examples:

  • Влад подарил Марине цветы – Vlad gave flowers to Marina
  • учитель сдал мне экзамен – the teacher gave the exam to me
  • Можешь передать соль дедушке? – Can you pass the salt to granddad
  • Она звонит Ивану каждый день – She calls (to) Ivan every day.

All the bolded words are in the Russian dative case.

Let’s figure out how to do the individual declensions.

Masculine nouns

It’s easy to declense masculine nouns in the Russian dative case.

All you do is add an у sound to the end of the word.

Here’s how it goes:

  • singular: if the noun ends in a consonant, add у
  • singular: replace й, with ю
  • singular: replace ь, add ю
  • plural: if the noun ends in a consonant, add ам
  • plural: replace й, with ям
  • plural: replace ь, add ям

While this may seem difficult, 80% or more of Russian masculine nouns end in a consonant (б, в, г, д, ж, з, й, к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ц, ч, ш, щ). So all you need to do in most cases is add a у

Also, since the й and ь sounds already have a soft ending, it automatically makes the у sound like ю.

Here are some examples:

NominativeDative si.Dative pl.Translation
столстолустуламtable
медведьмедведюмедведямbear
падежпадежупадежамcase
иностранециностранцуиностранцамforeigner
волкволкуволкамwolve

Feminine nouns

Feminine nouns are more difficult. Though the general rule is that you change the а sound to a е sound.

As you saw in some of the examples above:

  • Влад подарил Марине цветы – Vlad gave flowers to Marina

Марина becomes Марине.

There are some complications though, as many feminine nouns end in я or ь.

Here are all the rules for the fmeinine nouns in the dative case:

  • Dative singular: if the noun ends in а, replace with е
  • Dative singular: replace я, with е
  • Dative singular: replace ь, add и
  • Dative singular: replace ия, add ии
  • Dative plural: if the noun ends in а, add м
  • Dative plural: if the noun ends in я, add м
  • Dative plural: if the noun ends in ия, add м
  • Dative plural: replace ь, add ям

For the plural, you see that you simply need to add м, to the ending.

Do remember the spelling rule that says that you can never write the letter я after the letters: Г, К, Х, Ж, Ч, Ш, Щ, Ц‘. Instead write a regular а.

Here are some examples of the Russian dative case for feminine nouns.

Feminine
Nominative
Dative sinDative pl.Translation
женщинаженщинеженщинамWoman
ситуацияситуацииситуациямSituation
ночьночиночамNight
книгакнигекнигамBook
земляземлеземлямLand
станциястанциистанциямStation
кроватькроватикроватямBed

Neuter nouns

Neuter nouns are regular. That’s great, since you don’t need much to remember here.

It’s basically like a combination between the feminine and masculine cases.

  • singular: if the noun ends in о, replace with у
  • singular: if the noun ends in е, replace with у
  • plural: if the noun ends in о, replace with  ам
  • plural: if the noun ends in е, replace with  ям

Here are some examples to understand this better:

Neuter
Nominative
Dative si.Dative pl.Translation
местоместуместамplace
мореморюморямsee
поколениепоколениюпоколениямgeneration
плечоплечуплечамshoulder

Adjectives

Russian dative case adjectives are at the same difficulty level as the regular nouns. There are few exceptions, and it’s obvious when you should use them.

Another thing is that mascuine and neuter adjectives change in the same way. So that’s already 1 form less you need to memorize.

Also, if you’ve already gone through the regular noun endings for this case, you will find many similarities between the adjective endings.

And another reason why they’re easy is because the feminine dative case adjective singular is actually the same for the prepositional, genitive and instrumental case.

Chances are big you’ve already gone through the prepositional (*and maybe genitive case) before. So that would mean you already understand this.

Let’s go over some examples with the words ‘beautiful’ and ‘blue’:

BeautifulMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeкрасивыйкрасивоекрасиваякрасивые
Dative case красивомукрасивомукрасивойкрасивым
BeautifulMasc.Neut.Fem.Plur.
Nominativeкрасивыйкрасивоекрасиваякрасивые
Dativeкрасивомукрасивомукрасивойкрасивим

Pronouns

If you don’t know what pronouns are, you can find more information here.

The pronouns in the dative case are words you simply need to remember.

Let’s start with the personal pronouns in the dative case

Personal pronouns

Nominative caseDative caseTranslation
яменеI
тытебеyou
онемуhe
онаейshe
оноемуit
мынамwe
вывамyou
ониимthey

Personal possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns in the dative case have a lot in common with adjectives. Comparing them to adjectives and finding where they match is a good exercise to do in the beginning while learning them.

Nominative caseDative caseTranslation
моймоемуmy (masc.)
моямоейmy (fem.)
моемоемуmy (neut.)
моимоимMy (plur.)
нашнашемуOur (masc.)
нашанашейOur (fem.)
нашенашемуOur (neut.)
нашинашимour (plur.)

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are basically like adjectives (again). They mean ‘this’ or ‘that’, and their conjugation goes together with all the adjective rules.

Here’s an overview for all the demonstrative pronouns in the Russian dative case.

NominativeDativeTranslation
этотэтомуthis (masc.)
этаэтойthis (fem.)
этоэтомуthis (neut.)
этиэтимthese (plur.)
тоттомуthat (masc.)
татойthat (fem.)
тотомуthat (neut.)
тетемthose (plur.)

Interrogative and relative pronouns

Interrogative and relative pronouns are words such as ‘who’ (кто), ‘what’ (что), which (какой), what kind (который) and whose (чей).

They behave like regular adjectives.

(I hope by know you can already understand which gender each form of какой/чей etc. has ? )

Nominative caseDative caseTranslation
ктокомуwho
чточемуwhat
какой
какая
какое
какие
какому
какой
какому
каким
what kind
который
которая
которое
которые
которому
которой
которому
которым
who
чей
чья
чьё
чьи
чьему
чьей
чьему
чьим
whose

Exceptions

When you compare Russian to languages such as Dutch, English or French, Russian has little exceptions.

Still, they exist of course.

Here are some exceptions in the Russian dative case: (only the irregular forms are bolded)

Exception
Nominative
Dative si.Dative pl.Translation
времявременивременамtime
дочьдочеридочерямdaughter
сынсынусыновьямson

In which situations do you use the dative case?

The second part of the equation for the cases is WHEN you should use the dative case.

Luckily, the dative case is straightforward.

You use it when something or someone is the indirect object.

The ‘indirect object’ means that when you give something to someone, the someone is in the dative case.

Or there are many constructions that also require an indirect object:

For example, if you want to say ‘I’m cold’. In Russian you say:

‘to me is cold’ – мне холодно.

This may sound a little weird the first time you hear it, but you’ll get used to the indirect object in no time.

Let’s dive deeper into each situation that requires the dative case.

Main usage: to/for someone/something

Usually the main usage of a case needs a lot of explanation. Not this time.

Anytime in English you would use the word ‘to’ with a noun, you likely need to use the dative case.

(unless you are physically going ‘to’ a place).

In order to understand this the best, take a look at the examples below:

  • он дает книгу Маше – he gives the book to Masha
  • передай мне соль – pass me the salt

Russian verbs that require the dative case in Russian

Some verbs require the dative case. The most famous example of this is the word ‘to like’:

In Russian it goes differently than in English though.

Instead of saying ‘I like pizza’, you say ‘pizza is pleasing (to) me’

Мне нравится пицца

Other verbs that require the dative case:

  1. звонить – to call
  2. помогать – to help
  3. советовать – to advise
  4. приносить – to bring
  5. говорить -to tell
  6. давать -to give
  7. разрешать -to allow
  8. нравится – to like

Of course there are more verbs that need the dative case. But these 8 make up a large part of all verbs you meet that require the dative case. 

While reading Russian, I recommend you take a good look everytime you see a noun in the dative case. And if there is a verb close to it, then chances are high that it was the verb that caused this case.

Be sure to make a mental note about this.

Here are some examples with the previous verbs:

  1. ты звонил своей тете вчера? – did you call your aunt yesterday?
  2. мужчина помог маленьким уткам выбраться из воды – the man helped the little ducks get out of the water
  3. консул посоветовал сильному королю не атаковать замок – the consul advised the strong king to not attack the castle
  4. курьер принес мне посылку – the courier brought me a package
  5. не говори своей маме, что ты ходила со мной на вечеринку – don’t tell your mom you went to the party with me
  6. государство дает деньги каждой семье – the government gives money to each family
  7. здесь не разрешают купаться маленьким детям – they do not allow small children to swim here
  8. твоему соседу нравится пицца – your neighbour likes pizza

With prepositions

Each case has their own prepositions that trigger it.

Same with the Russian dative case.

Here are the prepositions that require you to add the noun after in dative case:

  • к – toward
  • по – along, over, on, identical places, against, specialisation, accordance, reason
  • вопреки – despite
  • благодаря – thanks to
  • согласно – in accord with

The first 2 are the most common. к is straightforward. По on the other hand has 6 different ways you can use it.

  1. Along, over, on: Корабль плывёт по морю – the ship sails on the sea.
  2. Identical places or time: Мы встречаемся по средам  – We meet Wednesdays.
  3. Against: Маша Сашу ударила по носу – Masha hit Sasha on the nose.
  4. Specializations: У меня экзамен по химии – I have an exam in chemistry.
  5. Accordance: Фильм снят по рассказу Чехова – The film is based on a story by Chekhov.
  6. Reason: Она пропустила лекцию по болезни – She missed class because of illness.

К is used when you are going towards someone. You also use it instead of в or на, if you go to a person.

Examples:

  • Я иду к врачу – I’m going to the doctor
  • Серфер живет близко к морю – the surfer lives close to the beach
  • поверните налево и поверните ближе к ресторану – drive left and turn close towards the restaurant

To express emotions / age / when you need something

In Russian if you want to say that you’re sad, you say ‘to me sad’. So you use the dative case for this.

Мне грустно – to me sad.

The same goes for many other emotions or feelings. 

You also use this construction when you need (to do) something.

You even use it to say how old you are.

Here’s a list of examples for all the previous things:

  1. Мне грустно – I’m sad
  2. старой женщине холодно – The old woman feels cold
  3. Моему брату 21 год – My brother is 21
  4. Тебе нужно завтра на работу?  – Do you need to go to work tomorrow?
  5. Лесорубу нужна пила – The lumberjack needs a saw

Tips to learn the Russian dative case

The dative case is not difficult. It’s also not easy. 

Below you find my tips/mindsets that help you learn the case as fast as possible.

Learn it as the 5th case

Remember the case order ranking I mentioned in the beginning?

  1. nominative case
  2. prepositional case
  3. accusative case
  4. genitive case
  5. dative case
  6. instrumental case

If you follow this order, it will be a lot easier to learn the cases. That’s because each case builds on the previous. 

The reason for this is because if you know the first 4 cases, the Russian dative case will seem very easy.

Only the step from accusative to genitive is difficult. And once you know the genitive, the dative case is a piece of cake.

Focus first on the main usage

The Russian dative case has quite some usages. Luckily, they are straightforward.

Before you try to learn everything at once, it’s best to first focus only on the main ‘to’ usage.

In practice, that means you first use the dative case xclusively with the verb давать (to give).

он дает вам книгу – he gives the book to you.

That’s okay. It will teach you the basics of how the case behaves, and which forms to use.

Learn the secondary usages when necessary

The great thing about the secondary forms is that they’re common and easy to understand. 

If you see a verb that has a noun in the dative case behind it, you instantly recognize this as so.

Make a mental note, and next time you want to say that word, remember to use the Russian dative case.

Same for understanding emotions or how to say your age.

These constructions are so common that you will see them often. And the more often you see and hear them, the easier to understand.

Only the prepositions may require some extra effort (especially по). But this can wait till you have more experience, and have learned the other cases as well.

Write down the endings

As much as I hated writing down lists of words in high school English class, it did help. It’s a lot more effective than just reading it.

Everytime you write something down, you think about it on a deeper and more intuitive level. 

The more effort you put into it, the more your brain understands that this is important to remember.

An easy way to improve memory recall of the endings of the cases is the following:

  1. pick what you want to learn (nouns, adjectives, pronouns)
  2. handcopy the above table once every day for 3 days
  3. on the 4th day, try if you can write the table from memory

If you have more than 80% correct when writing the table from memory, congratulations.

If you have less than 80% correct, repeat the steps one more time.

The reason why we’re shooting for 80% correct is to avoid perfectionism. Cases are important to know. But they’re not that important to say correctly.

People understand you anyways if you make mistakes.

And the remaining 20% you learn while practicing speaking/listening to correct Russian. 

Practice while speaking

In the previous paragraphs I said that the more effort you put into learning something, the better you remember.

The most obvious way to put more useful effort into the cases is to…

… speak them out loud.

So start the habit of saying out loud everything you read in Russian. Or just move your lips if you’re in a social situation.

If you’re already practicing conversations, it can also help greatly if you focus specifically on saying the dative case correct. 

The more you speak, the better you will speak.

The Russian dative case is easy

Too many people overcomplicate Russian. 

Yes, it’s a difficult language. Especially if you’re coming from English. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn it though.

With the Russian dative case, all you need to do is:

  • learn the correct endings (takes you 1 week of 20 minutes per day to understand 80% of the endings)
  • understand that 80% of the time you use it for ‘to’ (takes you 15 minutes to understand)
  • the other 20% you learn on the go
  • practice speaking every single day to integrate the knowledge into your Russian speech

That’s it. Good luck 🙂



P.S. If you want to improve your Russian on 'autopilot', my best recommendation is to just listen to 1 single Russianpod101 podcast per day (about 15 minutes). Ideally you do this when commuting to work to create a lasting habit. You can also take a daily walk. I did this for about 6 months, and it's the reason my Russian improved so quickly. There's a free 7 day trial with just an email address, so you're not risking anything. Give it a try and see how fast your Russian skills improve.


About the Author Ari Helderman

I started learning Russian seriously in January 2016. I created this site to help other foreigners speak Russian. You can follow my progress in Russian on my YouTube channel Ари Говорит по-русски.

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