mich or mir? accusative vs. dative

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mich or mir? accusative vs. dative

I’m often asked: “when do I use mich and when do I use mir?” What at first seems to be a very straight forward question is unfortunately not that easy for many to get their heads around. The answer is that you need to understand the cases.

German has four cases: Nominative, Accustaive, dative and genitive. For the mich/mir question we are addressing the accusative and dative. The nominative you already have down when you use ich, du, er etc.The Thing thing that makes mich and mir more difficult for English speakers is that in English they both translate as “me”. However, you can already start to get a grasp if the difference by thinking of mir often meaning “to me”.

Let’s look at the two grammatical cases and what they mean:

Accusative (Akkusativ):
The accusative is the direct object of the verb. That is the thing that is being directly effected by the actions of the subjected.


  • Ich schreibe einen Brief.
  • I’m writing a letter.
    • The letter is that direct object. It is the thing being effected by my writing.

We use the accusative to answer the questions: wie lange? (how long?) wie oft? (how often?) wann? (when?)


  • Wir bleiben einen Monat in Finnland.
  • We’re staying in Finland for a month.
  • Sie kommt jeden Tag.
  • She comes every day.
  • Nächsten Monat fahre ich nach Wien.
  • I’m driving to Vienna next month.
  • Dieses Jahr rechnen wir mit einem Verlust.
  • We’re expecting losses this year.
  • Letzte Woche war ich in Berlin.
  • I was in Berlin last week.

**Note that the accusative does not always come after the verb.

We express greetings and wishes in the accusative.


  • Guten Tag!
  • Good day!
  • Herzlichen Glückwunsch!
  • Congratulations!
  • Alles Gute!
  • All the best!
  • Schönes Wochenende!
  • Have a nice weekend.

The following prepositions always take the accusative case: durch, für, gegen, ohne, um. If these prepositions are used to suggest direction (movement to a location) they are also accusative: an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zwischen.


  • Wie viel hast du für den Wagen bezahlt?
  • How much did you pay for the car?
  • Ich habe das Buch auf den Tisch gelegt.
  • I put the book on the table.
  • Warum hast du es nicht in die Bibliothek gebracht?
  • Why didn’t you bring it to the library?

Note that in the last example the “es” is also in the accusative. It is the thing that is being brought.

The accusative pronouns are:

mich –> me

dich –> you

ihn –> him

es –> it

sie –> her

uns –> us

euch –> you

sie –> them

Sie –> you (polite)

Some common verbs that take the accusative are:

haben, brauchen, schreiben, fragen, sehen, hören, kaufen, einladen


The dative case is the indirect object. It answers the question “to whom?” Because of this it is helpful to think of the dative pronouns as meaning “to me” “to you” etc. If the sentence in English still makes sense with “to” their is a good chance that the dative case is correct.


  • Ich habe meinem Freund das Buch gegeben.
  • I gave my friend the book. (I gave the book to my friend).
  • Warum hast du deiner Freundin nichts gesagt?
  • Why didn’t you say anything to your girlfriend?
  • Wir müssen unseren Freunden helfen.
  • We have to help our friends. (We have to give help to our friends).
  • Ich danke Ihnen für Ihre Hilfe.
  • I thank you for your help.

The following prepositions always take the dative: aus, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu. If the following prepositions answer the question where or when something is located or taking place (location, time, static) they take the dative: an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zwischen.


  • Ich habe mit meiner Mutter gesprochen.
  • I spoke with my mother.
  • Das Buch liegt auf dem Tisch.
  • The book is on the table.
  • Am Mittwoch fahre ich nach Luzern.
  • I’m going to Lucerne on Wednesday.

The dative pronouns are:

mir –> (to) me

dir –> (to) you

ihm –> (to) him

ihm –> (to) it

ihr –> (to) her

uns –> (to) us

euch –> (to) you

ihnen –> (to) them

Ihnen –> (to) you (polite)

Some common verbs that take the dative are:

helfen, danken, sagen, antworten, geben, folgen, fehlen, gehören

Io sum it up, there is no clear rule for when you use mich or mir. rather you need to understand the grammatical case of the preposition. What part of the sentence is it trying to express? Look to the questions up above and try to use them as a guide. Be careful of the verbs that take a specific case. These can often be learned in word combinations called collocations: Ex. “Hilf mir!” not “Hilf mich!”

Exercices: Answer with mich or mir.

  1. Mein Kollege hat _________ angerufen.
  2. Er hat _________ eingeladen.
  3. Hilf _________, bitte!
  4. Meine Eltern unterstützen _________.
  5. Der Arzt hat _________ gründlich untersucht.
  6. Wann besucht ihr _________ mal?
  7. Meine Freunde boten _________ ihre Hilfe an.
  8. Hast du _________ gesehen?
  9. Glaubst du _________ nicht?
  10. Sie hat _________ aus ihrer Heimat geschrieben.
mich, mich, mir, mich, mich, mich, mir, mich, mir, mir

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