Take the 2-minute tour ×
German Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In the past, when a noun was in the Dativ case, one would add an e at the end of the verb. This would be an example:

Das habe ich zu dem Kinde gesagt.

This is obviously not the case anymore, and the -e would be dropped most of the time, but some of these forms have survived, e.g. im Zuge.

After reading the related question on how the "Dativ E" is formed, I still can't really think of any case where we must add an e at the end. Is there a rule of thumb of when we should add the e, or is this never necessary anymore, not even in im Zuge?

share|improve this question
possible duplicate of Wie wird die Redewendung "wie es im Buche steht" grammatisch gebildet? –  chirlu Sep 15 '13 at 22:19
Thank you for that link! I tried searching around, but was unable to find any question that was related even remotely to this. I'll read the paper and see if I can find the answer to my question. Though it seems there are a lot of things to consider (rhymes, pronunciation, etc.), I'll try to find a rule of thumb. –  clinch Sep 16 '13 at 0:04
@chirlu: it's related but IMO not a 100% dupe here - we are now asked for any rules when we still may use (or have to use) the "Dativ E". I'll edit the question to better reflect this. –  Takkat Sep 16 '13 at 6:22
I believe it is really restricted to idiomatic expressions. –  Martin Sep 16 '13 at 6:46
The answer to the previous question says it all. The inflection is archaic, it can still be used for euphony or in idiomatic expressions - that's really all there's to it. –  Kilian Foth Sep 16 '13 at 7:54
show 1 more comment

2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The -e dative ending is heavily obsolescent. It is almost no longer used in living language.

However, as is often the case (different examples), some phrases that were coined when the old -e ending was still healthy have fossilized and no longer follow the now-current rules:

nach Hause; zu Hause
im Zuge (dessen; der Umbaumaßnahmen; der Neuausrichtung)
im Schutze (der Dunkelheit)
zu Rate ziehen
im Falle eines Falles

Some of these, such as zu Rate and nach Hause, are no longer transparent to language users, i.e. native speakers would no longer recognize them as dative. (Modern spelling even allows the contractions zuhause and zurate.) For others, such as im Schutze, a re-formation (im Schutz) is possible. Which version is preferred in such cases is a matter of taste.

Note that the fossilized phrase im Zuge is restricted to the figurative meaning “in the course (of)“. Someone phoning from within a train is always going to say:

Ja, ich sitze gerade im Zug nach Düsseldorf.

The German constitution (Grundgesetz) provides an interesting example for the fading of dative -e:

Art. 118. Die Neugliederung in dem die Länder Baden, Württemberg-Baden und Württemberg-Hohenzollern umfassenden Gebiete kann abweichend von den Vorschriften des Artikels 29 durch Vereinbarung der beteiligten Länder erfolgen. (…)
Art. 118a. Die Neugliederung in dem die Länder Berlin und Brandenburg umfassenden Gebiet kann abweichend von den Vorschriften des Artikels 29 unter Beteiligung ihrer Wahlberechtigten durch Vereinbarung beider Länder erfolgen.

The former section, regarding what is now Baden-Württemberg, was written in 1949. The latter, regarding what is still Berlin and Brandenburg, was added on occasion of the German reunification in 1990. Although the newer sentence is clearly modelled after the original one, the -e dative sounded too odd to retain it.

share|improve this answer
add comment

At least in the cases you list, the language using the "e" would be considered poetic. And somewhat old-fashioned

share|improve this answer
Das war aber nicht die Frage. –  user unknown Sep 17 '13 at 16:18
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.