Ist Ihnen noch schwindelig?
Mir ist etwas schwindelig.

Why is the dative pronoun used here? Can we say: Sind Sie schwindelig?


Some characteristics of natural (human) language cannot be explained by reason. The use of that word is just so.

You cannot say "Ich bin schwindlig". Okay, you can say this and will even be understood, but everybody will know that your command of German is low.

The expression is correctly

Mir ist schwindlig.

Mir wird schwindlig.

Similar expressions (with dative) would be

Mir ist etwas schwummerig.

Mir wird schlecht.

Mir ist komisch. (Same meaning, basically, but in more informal speach.)

Mir kommt das Kotzen. (Frequently used metaphorically to express emotional aversion, not that much to describe physical symptoms of sickness)

Interestingly, other, not that different physical conditions are expressed with accusative constructs:

Ich bin hungrig.

Ich bin durstig.

Ich bin rollig. (A cat could say this.)

Now for my statement that not everything in natural language can be explained by logic: if you desperately need a "logical" explanation, then you could argue that "Ich bin hungrig" is expressed so because the subject sees its hunger as intrinsic part of himself, wheras in "Mir ist schwindlig" the feeling of dizzyness is seen as something external, coming from outside. But my reaction to such an argument would be: that's overinterpreted. You could also argue that the feelings of hungrig, durstig, rollig, schwindlig are quite similarly refering to transitory conditions of one's physique and therefore should be treated with the same syntactical structure. Well, in German they aren't; in other languages they are.

Examples from other languages (meant to support the thesis that case-use and logic are not always congruent):


Лошо ми е. - Schlecht mir ist.

Гладен съм. - Hungrig (ich) bin.

Страх ме е. - Angst mich (! accusative!) ist.

Скучно ми е. - Langweilig mir ist.


J'ai faim - Ich habe Hunger.

Je me sens étourdi. - Ich mich fühle schwindlig.

Je suis malade. - Ich bin schlecht.

Je suis terrifié. - Ich bin verängstigt.


Karnım acıktı. - Bauch-mein offen-ist. (Ich habe Hunger.)

Başım dönüyor. - Kopf-mein er-dreht.


I feel dizzy. - Ich fühle schwindlig.

(Note: the German translations mimick the syntactical structure of the original expression. This is not correct German, of course.)

Claiming (as others did) that "Mir ist schwindlig" is dative because the subject perceives the feeling of dizzyness as something external, as opposed to e.g. to hunger ("Ich bin hungrig") would mean claiming that a native speaker of - say - English has a more "intrinsic" perception of his dizziness. I think this shows that case-use on certain phenomena of life is most probably predominantly random, not systemic.

  • Gut feelings come from within —by definition— I would say.
    – Janka
    Sep 19 '18 at 10:25

This is the same as with

Mir ist heiß/kalt.

It's a feeling rather than an intrinsic feature of yourself. You are the receiver of that feeling. That's why it has to be a dative object rather than a subject.

You could say

Ich bin schwindelig.

for comical effect. People would understand you are in the mood of telling lies. Because the verb schwindeln means that and moods are what comes from within you.

  • Good explanation - here is some more background: canoo.net/blog/2017/08/04/subjektloses-langweiligsein
    – Takkat
    Sep 19 '18 at 9:44
  • I think your explanation is circular. You see that in German Mir ist heiß is a dative construct, and from that you derive that the subject perceives the feeling as received (rather than self-made). But: other languages treat the same thing syntactically differently. To hold your claim up you would then have to claim further that native speakers of German do perceive their feelings of heat, warmth, cold, dizzyness as things they got from outside, whereas other natives of other languages perceive these feelings as intrinsic. That's improbable. You need a comparatistic approach here. Sep 19 '18 at 15:20
  • 1
    It's not circular — it's within the logic of this particular language. One could only build patterns that work well for most of the cases and then give a reason why it fits well into another, more common rule. At least that helps much in remembering grammar – rather than being a coppice of exceptions. And one of the most prominent (and simple) rules of the German case system is determine the receiver, it becomes the dative object. This works well for all verbs but those half a dozen with double accusative objects.
    – Janka
    Sep 19 '18 at 16:52
  • @Janka Still it is circular. You start from the case (dative) and say "the speaker perceives this thing as a given (or received) thing". But your only argument for this claim is that dative is used. That's a textbook example for a circular argument. If it was accusative, you would argue that the speaker perceives the thing as something he directly deals with. Sep 19 '18 at 23:15
  • Posts in this SE deal with the German language and its inner logic. I don't see a value in adding The German grammar thinks: before any statement. I see this as given.
    – Janka
    Sep 19 '18 at 23:58

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