Dative case

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The dative case (abbreviated dat, or sometimes d when it is a core argument) is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given. For example, in "John gave Mary a book".

The thing being given may be a tangible object, such as "a book" or "a pen", or it may be an intangible abstraction, such as "an answer" or "help". The dative generally marks the indirect object of a verb, although in some instances the dative is used for the direct object of a verb pertaining directly to an act of giving something. In Russian, for example, the verb 'to call' [by telephone] is always followed by a noun in the dative.

In some languages the dative case has assimilated the functions of other now-extinct cases. In Ancient Greek, the dative has the functions of the Proto-Indo-European locative and instrumental as well as those of the original dative.

Sometimes the dative has functions unrelated to giving. In Scottish Gaelic and Irish, the term dative case is misleadingly used in traditional grammars to refer to the prepositional case-marking of nouns following simple prepositions and the definite article. In Georgian, the dative case also marks the subject of the sentence in some verbs and some tenses. This is also called the dative construction.

The dative was common among early Indo-European languages and has survived to the present in the Balto-Slavic branch and the Germanic branch, among others. It also exists in similar forms in several non–Indo-European languages, such as the Finno-Ugric family of languages and Japanese.

Under the influence of English, which uses the preposition "to" for both indirect objects (give to) and directions of movement (go to), the term "dative" has sometimes been used to describe cases that in other languages would more appropriately be called lative.


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