In writing an essay about nuclear energy, or electricity usage by humans in general, I was corrected to the below sentence but I don't understand why "dem" was used:

Wir können in dieser Zeit nicht mehr ohne dem, was wir als Menschen erschaffen haben, leben.

How does one know what to write after "ohne"? For example, why can't it be (what I originally wrote) "ohne was, was wir als Menschen...", as one would only need a word to refer in general to what has been said previously.

And also, in regards to the "dem", I thought after "ohne" one needed the Accusative case? I know intuitively, that it sounds completely wrong to use "ohne den" but I'd love to hear the reasoning therefore behind the choice of "dem".

  • Just out of curiosity, did you get corrected by a native speaker? The sentence did need correcting like the current accepted answer states, but dem certainly feels off.
    – clinch
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 2:16
  • Yes, by an Austrian native speaker!
    – user5105
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 8:28
  • @user5105 Weird, I'm from Vienna and your sentence sounds perfectly fine to me. Although in most cases, ohne+Dativ sounds wrong to me, "ohne dem" sounds perfectly fine. Can't really explain why, though
    – fgp
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 17:15

2 Answers 2


The following would work:

Wir können in dieser Zeit nicht mehr ohne das, was wir als Menschen erschaffen haben, leben.

The usage of Dativ has some stylistic reasons and it is not common in every day situations.

  • 2
    See also: Welchen Fall verwendet man mit Präposition “ohne”?
    – Œlrim
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 17:22
  • 7
    To me "ohne dem" is just wrong (native speaker)
    – Emanuel
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 17:32
  • I have indeed seen it already multiple times in books.
    – Liglo App
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 17:33
  • And you're sure it wasn't stuff like "Ohne dir zu nahe treten zu wollen" ?
    – Emanuel
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 18:52
  • 2
    @Emanuel To me "ohne dem" sounds correct (native speaker)
    – dusky
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 15:08

Google-books search, limited to 21st century, returns two instances of ohne dem, das that are similar to your example

Ich glaube, daß die ganze Kunst doch überhaupt nicht auskommen kann ohne dem, was mir ein Leitprinzip in meiner Kunst ist.

Die Seminarteilnehmer machen das einzig Richtige, sie stellen sich einfach vor, mit oder ohne Wort, mit oder ohne dem, was der Rede wert ist, mit oder ohne dem, was nicht der Rede wert ist.

One of the two books is by an Austrian writer, the other has two authors, one of whom is Austrian.

The phrase ohne dem geht gar nichts seems also to be in use (3 results in Google Books, all three are from after 2000, but the search limited to 21st century does not find them).

There is also the adverb ohnedem, which the Duden Online claims to be an old-fashioned word synonymous to ohnedies, ohnehin, jederzeit, schon, so, sowieso - it translates into English as "anyway". However, that meaning cannot be used in your example sentence.

Just for interest, you can have a look at the relevant part of the Grammatisch-Kritisches Wörterbuch der Hochdeutschen Mundart (1793-1801):

Im gemeinen Leben, und selbst bey manchen guten Schriftstellern ist es sehr gewöhnlich, das Fürwort in diesem Ausdrucke in die dritte Endung zu setzen, ohne dem, da es denn manche wohl gar als Ein Wort zu schreiben pflegen, ohnedem. Ich wollte es ohne dem thun. Sie zweifelt ohnedem sehr an der Aufrichtigkeit meiner Tugend, Gell. Die Sache hat sich ohne dem zerschlagen.

  • 1
    Ich vermute, dass in deinem zweiten Beispiel (mit oder ohne dem, ...) der Dativ benutzt wurde, um dem "mit" den richtigen Fall zu geben. Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 16:18

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