How does one describe one's self? When does one use nominative and when dative?
Which one is correct?

Ich bin glücklich.
Mir ist glücklich.

I am confused because there are times where I read nominative is being used and other times dative.

  • 2
    Depends: Ich bin glücklich. Mir ist kalt. – chirlu Feb 27 '16 at 7:04

The usual way to describe yourself is „Ich bin …“. But there are exceptions. As a rule of thumb, you say „Mir ist …“, if the phrase „Ich bin …“ has a different meaning. (Just test for a difference like in „I am good“ vs. „I feel good“, or „She is hot“ vs. „She feels hot“).

Some examples (from brainstorming), where you most probably don't want to say „Ich bin …“:

Mir ist …

  • wohl, übel, schlecht, nicht gut
  • kalt, warm, heiß
  • komisch, sonderbar, eigenartig
  • langweilig, schwind(e)lig

Is there an exhaustive list of these adjectives?


The first one is correct. "Mir ist glücklich" is definitly wrong.

As a rule of thumb:

If the verb can change (what mostly is the case), you use nominative.

Ich bin glücklich. Du bist glücklich. Wir sind glücklich. Ihr seid glücklich.

If the verb doesn't change, you use dative.

Mir ist kalt. Dir ist kalt. Uns ist kalt. Euch ist kalt.

  • 4
    And how is somebody who is learning German supposed to know if the word can change? – Johannes Kloos Feb 27 '16 at 18:40
  • Good question. I don't think there is a rule that clearly says when you can use the dative. I agree with you that the non-changing predicate is only helpful if you know at least two other forms the sentence might have. I am afraid that's one of the special cases in german language one simply need to know. Lastly the way the dative form as it is used here, is a relict of former times and should be avoided though. Instead you should prefer "Ich friere." over "Mir ist kalt." The meaning is the same and it is much easier to learn. – Awita Feb 27 '16 at 20:19

I think there's no certain rule about that: some adjectives (like glücklich) accompany a nominative (then they are used as a praedicativum), and for some, you'll need an unpersonal expression (mir ist kalt = es ist mir kalt).


Die Ausdrücke mit "mir" muß man nach und nach kennenlernen wie andere Wörter auch. Da wird sich schwerlich eine Regel finden lassen. Es ist nur eine begrenzte Anzahl. Und mancnmal kann der Sinn helfen: Mir ist langweilig x Ich bin langweilig.


The nominative one is clearly correct. The dative one is completely wrong. To describe something there always must be the verb "sein". And here you just want to say that you are happy. Thus, you are describing yourself and are correctly using the verb "sein"; bin in this case. You use the structure: mir + "adjective" when you want to describe something other related to your attitude, not yourself. You can say, but in an unmeaningful way, but grammatically correct, es ist mir glücklich. As a meaningful example, you can say: Es ist mir gut. Es ist mir schlecht.

  • So, when i am describing myself, i'll use nominative. Ich bin müde. When i am describing how someone or something makes me feel or how i find something, i'll use dative. Es ist mir langweilig. Am i right? Thanks – user20212 Feb 27 '16 at 23:56
  • Yes, you are right. – ultrasmart Feb 27 '16 at 23:58
  • You can help me back by just marking the answer as accepted, in case you find it answering your question. – ultrasmart Feb 28 '16 at 0:29
  • @ultrasmart, tt's "glücklich" not "glücklish". I corrected the spelling mistake in your answer. – Iris Feb 29 '16 at 14:18

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