The Dative Case

In all of the Germanic languages the dative case is an amalgam of several older cases that have fallen together: dative, locative, ablative, and instrumental. Old English retains traces of the instrumental case, but for the most part that too has fallen together with the dative.

In view of its diverse origins, it should be no surprise that the dative case has a variety of functions. Of these, the easiest for the speaker of Modern English to understand is that of object of a preposition. The objects of certain prepositions (æfter, æt, be, fram, mid, of, to) are usually or always in the dative case. With other prepositions the case may be either dative or accusative, depending on the writer's dialect or the meaning of the preposition.

But the dative can be used without prepositions, and then the modern reader must be aware of its possible meanings:

When translating the dative, it is often necessary to supply a preposition, because in Modern English prepositions very commonly express what used to be expressed by the dative alone.