At the beginning of a letter on the Internet addressing someone, do we use accusative or dative?
Which one is correct?

An dem Mann, den...
An den Mann, den...

  • 5
    "den", but think again if you really want to write that letter.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 18:04
  • Funny enough, although my browser only checks English spelling, the only word which is squiggled is the incorrect one ;)
    – Em1
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 19:52
  • You might want to use "An den Herrn", which some people may find a bit old-fashioned, but it certainly is more polite than "Mann". That way it doesn't sound so much like "To the man whom I saw pee in my front garden yesterday", which, ironically, is accusing accusative. Generally, it isn't overly polite, either way. Don't have a name?
    – Damon
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 19:07

4 Answers 4


Many location-related prepositions go with the Dativ when a state/position is expressed, but with the Akkusativ when related to a direction or movement.

An is among them, in is also quite prominent. There is an interesting overview here (even although it is from an Austrian site!) (pdf).

So when you express where to (or to whom) the letter should be sent, it is an den (Akkusativ) for male recipients.

An dem Mann kommt mir etwas komisch vor.

Something about the man seems strange to me.

...would be a grammatically correct use of an + Dativ (although not necessarily the best way to express this, and not obviously location-related either.)

Further example:

Das Bild hängt an der Wand. (describing where it is)

Ich hänge das Bild an die Wand. (describing where I am putting it)

  • Was soll das "(even although it is from an Austrian site!)" ?
    – c.p.
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 8:05

If you can ask to whom (an wen) it is always the accusative, so

An den Mann, der


If I understand you correctly, you want a short form of

[Dieser Brief ist] an den Mann [gerichtet], ...


An den Mann, ...

(What follows after the comma depends on content: "der mir gestern so nett geschrieben hat", "dessen Katze in meinen Garten gemacht hat", "dem das rote Auto gehört", "den alle mit George Cloney verwechseln")


When an is used in a local, dynamical way (giving a direction) it is used with accusative.

An wen ist der Brief gerichtet. Er ist an den Mann gerichtet.

For instance

An den Mann, den ich liebe.
An Herrn Svengard

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