Case dative


In Koiné Greek, the dative case ending can serve a wide range of functions. It can indicate the indirect object (or recipient) of a verbal action. It can also express a variety of adverbial meanings, including location, instrument, manner, or relation.


The Dative case serves three primary functions. It may also indicate the direct object for some verbs

  1. Indirect object or personal interest - It serves as the case of personal interest by indicating the indirect object of the verb. It points to whom something was done or for whom something was done. It can also be used to indicate someone or something that is being referred to by the verb, including possession. [See Dative_Indirect Object]
  2. Location - It may indicate the location (in place, sphere, or time) of an event. [See Dative_location]
  3. Instrumental - It may indicate the means, cause, manner, agent of an action. [See Dative_Instrumental]
  4. Direct object- Some verbs take their direct object in the dative case. [See Dative_Direct_Object]

Note: An indirect object is the person(s) or thing(s) toward which the verbal action of a verb or verb form is directed.


Example: Luke 24:42
οἱ δὲ ἐπέδωκαν αὐτῷ ἰχθύος ὀπτοῦ μέρος
hoi de epedōkan autō ichthyos optou meros
They and they gave to him of a fish broiled part

They gave him a piece of a broiled fish

The Dative case is formed by adding the Dative case ending to the stem of a word (often with a connecting vowel).

Dative Case Ending
First and Second Declension Third Declencion
Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine/Feminine Neuter
Dative ι ι ι ι ι
Dative ις ις ις σι (ν) σι (ν)
  • The iota (ι) in the first and second singular declension will often subscript because it is a short vowel.
  • The Nu (ν) in the third declension plural is a movable Nu and may or may not be present.

The movable Nu may be present when (1) it appears at the end of a sentence or (2) when the following word begins with a vowel. However, sometimes it appears when the following word begins with a consonant. There is no fixed rule that determines when a moveable Nu will be present. The reader/translator must be aware that it may or may not be present. [ For example there are early Greek manuscripts that include or exclude the moveable Nu for Acts 20:34 “καὶ τοῖς οὖσι μετ’ ἐμοῦ or καὶ τοῖς οὖσιν μετ’ ἐμοῦ.”

See NounParadigm for a complete listing of the noun paradigms and AdjectiveParadigm for the adjective paradigms.

Dative – Indirect object /personal interest

The Dative- Indirect object will only occur with a transitive verb. The noun or pronoun in the dative case receives the object of the verb. Example: He hit the ball to Tom. In this example, “ball” is the object of the verb. “Tom” would be in the dative case and receives the object of the verb.

However, if the verb is passive, the word in the dative case will receive the subject of the verb. [See the second example below for further explaination.]

The Dative-Indirect Object/personal Interest is the most common use of the dative case when a preposition is not used. Often, the translator will use the key words “to” or “for” in the translation. As an indirect object, the dative case is used to point out the person “to whom” or “for whom” something is done. If the dative case is treating an object as if it were a person, then the dative case is used to point out the thing “to which” or “for which” something is done.

Example: John 6:29
Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς
ho Iēsous kai eipen autois
The Jesus and he said to them

and Jesus said to them,

Example: 2 Corinthians 12:7
ἐδόθη μοι σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί
edothē moi skolops sarki
it was given to me thorn in the flesh

a thorn in the flesh was given to me

Note: In this example the verb (ἐδόθη) is in the passive voice. Σκὀλοψ is in the nominative case and is the subject of the sentence. μοι is in the dative case. The word in the dative case μοι receives the subject of the clause (σκόλοψ) which is in the nominative case. “τῃ σαρκί” is an example of Dative_Locative which is described below. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul receives the “thorn” in his body

Indirect Object of Advantage (or Disadvantage)

A sub-category of the Dative of Indirect Object is the Indirect Object of Advantage or (Disadvantage). It may be to the advantage (or disadvantage) of the person who receives the object. If it is to the persons advantage, it is referred to as the Indirect Object of Advantage. If it is to their disadvantage (or harm), it is referred to as the Indirect Object of Disadvantage.

Example: Indirect Object of Advantage

Example John 4:5
πλησίον τοῦ χωρίου ἔδωκεν Ἰακὼβ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ
plēsion tou chōriou ho edōken Iakōb Iōsēph
near the land that he gave Jacob to Joseph

near the piece of land that Jacob had given to Joseph

Example: Indirect object of Disadvantage

Example: 1 Corinthians 11:29
γὰρ ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων κρίμα ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει
ho gar esthiōn kai pinōn krima heautō esthiei kai pinei
the for he who is eating and he who is drinking judgment to himself he is eating and he is drinking

For he who eats and drinks …, eats and drinks judgment to himself.

Dative of Reference

The Dative of Reference is a subcategory of the Indirect Object of Personal Interest. Sometimes the meaning is better conveyed with a key word; “concerning”, “about”, “in regard to”, “with reference to”, or “in respect to”. The Dative of Reference is often used when describing the effect of the action on a thing or a personification of something.
Example: Romans 6:2
οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ πῶς ἔτι ζήσομεν ἐν αὐτῇ?
hoitines apethanomen hamartia pōs eti zēsomen en autē?
We we have died to sin how still will we live in it

We who died to sin, how can we still live in it?

Note: This verse could easily be translated “With reference to sin, we have died.” or “in respect to sin”

See also:

Romans 6:11
λογίζεσθε ἑαυτοὺς εἶναι νεκροὺς μὲν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ζῶντας δὲ τῷ Θεῷ
logizesthe heautous einai nekrous men hamartia zōntas de Theō
You reckon yourselves to be dead on the one hand to to sin alive but to to God

you also must consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God.

Dative of Possession

Possession is a form of personal interest. Therefore, the dative case, in some instances, is used to indicate possession. Possession is generally indicated by use of the genitive case, but in some instances the dative case is used.
Example: Luke 1:7
καὶ οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τέκνον…
kai ouk ēn autois teknon
and not it/there was to them a child

But they had no child

Note: In this instance, our smooth translation drops the indirect object of possession. It is awkward to say “And there was not to them a child.” The sentence is entirely rephrased to result in a smooth translation.

Dative -Locative (location)

  • Locative of place - The dative case may be used to indicate the location (or place) of an object in the physical world.
  • Locative of Sphere - When the place is more metaphorical or logical, it is referred to as the Locative of Sphere
  • Locative of Time - The dative case may also be used to indicate the location of an object in time.

Example for Locative of place (Note: the place is a physical location - “in a boat”)

Example: John 21:8
οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι μαθηταὶ τῷ πλοιαρίῳ ἦλθον
hoi de alloi mathētai ploiariō ēlthon
the but other disciples in a boat they came

The other disciples came in the boat

Example for Locative of Sphere (Note: the location is metaphorical or logical in nature)

Example: Matthew 5:3
μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι
makarioi hoi ptōchoi pneumatic
Blessed the poor in spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Example for Locative of time

John 2:1
καὶ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ γάμος ἐγένετο ἐν Κανὰ
kai hēmera tritē gamos egeneto en Kana
and the day the third a wedding there was in Cana

Three days later, there was a wedding in Cana

Note: In this instance “on the third day” is translated “Three days later…”

Dative – Instrumental

The Dative-Instrumental may be used to indicate the Means, Cause, Manner, or Agent by which an event occurs. The Dative-Instrumental may also be used to indicate an association with the main subject of the action. Making distinctions between Means, Cause, Manner, Agent, or Association can be very difficult and often the choice between one category and another is a matter of personal interpretation.

Instrumental of Means

The Instrumental of Means is used to indicate the means (or the process or method) by which the action of the verb is accomplished.

Example: Matthew 8:16
καὶ ἐξέβαλεν τὰ πνεύματα λόγῳ
kai exebalen ta pneumata logo
and he cast out the spirit with a word

He drove out the spirits with a word

Instrumental of Cause

The Instrumental of Cause is used to indicate the cause, the motivating event, or reason something occurred. Therefore, the key word “because” may help in translation.

Example: Romans 11:20
τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ ἐξεκλάσθησαν
apistia exeklasthēsan
because (of) unbelief they were broken off

Because of their unbelief they were broken off

Instrumental of Manner

The Instrumental of Manner is used to indicate the method or manner used to accomplish something. This is very closely related to the Instrumental of Means.

Example: 1 Corinthians 11:5
πᾶσα δὲ γυνὴ προσευχομένη προφητεύουσα ἀκατακαλύπτῳ τῇ κεφαλῇ
pasa de gynē proseuchomenē ē prophēteuousa akatakalyptō kephalē
every but woman who prays or who prophecies with uncovered the head

But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered

Instrumental of Agent

The Instrumental of Agent is used with a verb in the middle or passive voice to express the agent or person by which an action is accomplished. Agency may also be expressed by using the preposition ὑπὸ with the genitive case or δία with the accusative case.

Example: Galatians 5:18
εἰ δὲ Πνεύματι ἄγεσθε
ei de Pneumati agesthe
if but by Spirit you are led

But if you are led by the Spirit

Instrumental of Association

The Instrumental of Association is used to indicate an association, relation, or affiliation of some kind with the subject carrying out the action of the verb.

Example: Mark 2:15
πολλοὶ τελῶναι καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ συνανέκειντο τῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ
polloi telōnai kai hamartōloi synanekeinto Iēsou kai tois mathētais autou
many tax collectors and sinners they were reclining at table with Jesus and with disciples of him

many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and his disciples

Dative-Direct object

Certain verbs take their object in the dative case. This often happens with verbs that indicate some sort of personal relation to the action.

The following is a list of 47 verbs that may take their object in the dative case:

Verbs that use Dative case for Direct Object
ἀκολοθέω (to follow) ἀνθομολογέομαι (to praise) ἀνίστημι (to resist)
ἀντιπίπτω (to resist) ἀντιτάσσω (to resist) ἀπιστέω (to disbelieve)
ἀρέσκω (to please) βοηθέω (to help) διακατελέγχομαι (to refute)
διακονέω (to serve) διαμαρτύρομαι (to warn) διαστέλλω (to order)
διατάσσω (to instruct) διδάσκω (to teach) δουλεύω (to serve)
ἐγκαλέω (to accuse) ἐμβριμάομαι (to rebuke) ἐξακολουθέω (to follow)
ἐξομολογέω (to praise) ἐπιπλἠσσω (to rebuke) ἐπιτάσσω (to command)
ἐπιτιμάω (to warn) ἐπισκιάζω (to cover) εὐχαριστέω (to thank)
κοινωνέω (to share) λατρεύω (to serve) μετριοπαθέω (to deal gently)
ὁμολογέω (to profess) ὀργιζω (to be angry at) παραγγέλλω (to command)
παρακολολουθέω (to follow) παρενοχλέω (to trouble) πείθω (to obey)
πιστεύω (to believe) προσκυνέω (to worship) προστάσσω (to command)
προσψαύω (to touch) συλλαμβάννω (to help) συμβουλεύω (to advise)
συνακολουθέω (to follow) συνεργέω (to assist) συνευδοκέω (to approve)
ὑπακούω (to obey) ὑπηρετέω (to serve) χαρίζομαι (to forgive)
χράομαι (to make use of) ψάλλω (to sing praise to)  
Example: Luke 16:28
ὅπως διαμαρτύρηται αὐτοῖς
hopōs diamartyrētai autois
so that he could warn them

in order that he might warn them