In English, the words used when making the Sign of the Cross are:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The German translation is:

Im Namen des Vaters und des Sohnes […]

While I understand that the possessive der Vater takes the genitive case as des Vaters. I don’t understand why der Name, which is possessed by der Vater, takes what appears to be the dative case definitive article dem and an additional n. Is Namen plural, and if so, shouldn’t the article therefore be den?

  • 2
    Are you asking "why is Namen in dative" or are you asking "why is it Namen instead of Name"?
    – tofro
    Jun 30, 2017 at 12:46
  • 1
    Tofro, I'm asking both questions which have been kindly answered by both yourself and sgf.
    – Vivien
    Jun 30, 2017 at 13:43

4 Answers 4


The preposition in in German always governs two cases, meaning it can take both the accusative and the dative cases, but not all at once, of course.

As a general rule, in + accusative is used when the whole construction expresses direction (equivalent to the English into), and in + dative is used when it expresses position (equivalent to the English in).

So, naturally, in in in the name of the..., in + noun, expresses position, not direction, which can only mean that the case that goes with this preposition is the dative. Hence, im Namen...

  • Thanks User26328. Having only started learning German a few weeks ago I haven't yet dealt with prepositions. Your answer explains "in" very well. It's now making a lot much more sense.
    – Vivien
    Jun 30, 2017 at 14:21
  • Is this really a quote? If yes, what’s the source? If not, it would better to remove the quote markup.
    – unor
    Jul 4, 2017 at 17:55

The dative for "Name" is simply caused by the preposition "in" (or "in dem", pulled together to "im") which can either rule the accusative (for movements towards something) or dative (for movements within a specified area or static location).

Here "Im (in dem) Namen" is static, so the name must be dative. The fact that the name is owned by the father causes (in an unrelated way) the possesive genitive.

  • 1
    Der OP fragt nach N-Deklination, glaube ich. In der Frage ist der Schluss, dass er nicht versteht, woher das -n stammt. Er denkt der Buchstabe gehöre zum Plural, was aber nicht unbedingt der Fall bei schwachen Nomen sein muss.
    – c.p.
    Jun 30, 2017 at 12:42
  • @c.p. der OP scheint zu wissen, dass das -n zusammen mit dem Artikel "dem" auf den Dativ hinweist - Aber nicht warum. Aber - kann sein...
    – tofro
    Jun 30, 2017 at 12:45
  • 1
    Wenn so, warum vermutet er dann am Ende, dass Namen im Plural steht? Meine Antwort wäre: weil er denkt, dass die Endung nur dem Dativ Plural gehören kann.
    – c.p.
    Jun 30, 2017 at 12:56
  • Thanks for your responses. I'm only weeks not my German language journey and have only learnt the most basic and general information about the cases. It will be a long but satisfying adventure, I'm sure.
    – Vivien
    Jun 30, 2017 at 14:17

Der Name is (as either most or all masculine nouns ending in -e) a weak noun. Weak masculine nouns get an -en at the end of the word in all cases but the nominative, except that some of them (including Name) take -ens in the genitive case. Thus the dative case (which is required after in*) singular of der Name is dem Namen, and in dem is contracted to im.

*If in is used to denote a direction rather than a location (i.e. corresponds to English into), it requires the Accusative case.


Sehr einfach:

Nominativ: der Name

Genitiv: des Namens

Dativ: dem Namen

Akkusativ: den Namen

In im Sinne von wo? verlangt den Dativ. (In im Sinne von wohin? würde dagegen den Akkusativ verlangen.)

Auf Kosten des Hauses hier noch die Pluralformen:

Nominativ: die Namen

Genitiv: der Namen

Dativ: den Namen

Akkusativ: die Namen

  • Danke Christian.
    – Vivien
    Jul 2, 2017 at 0:53

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