Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin
Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

8.3 Uses of the dative case

The dative case is frequently used where someone is giving or transmitting something to someone. (The word ‘dative’ is derived from the Latin verb , meaning ‘I give’). Note that English can say both ‘I gave a book to him’ or ‘I gave him a book’. In both situations, Greek could use a dative case.

Further examples

  • δώσω ἱερὰ τῷ Διονύσῳ (dōsō hiera tōi Dionysōi) – I shall give sacrifices to Dionysus
  • χάριν ἐχόμεν τοῖς ᾿Αθηναίοις (charin echomen tois Athēnaiois) – we are grateful to the Athenians

The dative case has a range of uses – you will meet another in the next section. Nevertheless, when beginning Greek it is reasonable to think of it as, in part, the ‘to’ (or sometimes ‘for’) case. This is especially likely when the noun in the dative case is 1) a person and 2) on the receiving end of something beneficial, or, occasionally, disadvantageous.


The English preposition ‘to’ covers a wider range of meanings than the dative case in Greek. Note in particular the following cases where Greek would not use a dative case:

  • ‘I am going to the shops’. Here ‘to’ expresses the idea of motion towards a thing, not someone on the receiving end of anything. In this situation, Greek would use a preposition.
  • ‘I wish to depart this house’. In this instance ‘to’ accompanies the verb ‘depart’. In grammatical terms, they form an ‘infinitive’, ‘to depart’.


Activity 39: the dative case

Remember that the dative case can be used to indicate a person on the receiving end of something. With this in mind, which of the expressions in bold might be expressed in Greek by a noun in the dative case?


a. The Athenians provided supplies for Themistocles.


b. The Athenians sailed to Sicily.


c. Odysseus gave a gift to his wife.


d. Odysseus gave his wife a gift.


e. I want to live well.

The correct answers are a, c and d.






Correct. c. and d. mean the same.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371