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I recently learned the verb нуждаться (to need), and noticed that to say I need something, one would say мне нужно ..., so I is in dative case.

So how come for this verb, the speaker is in Dative case? What are some other verbs that behave the same? I know I've seen more, just can't think of others.

To be more clear, my confusion comes from the fact that the speaker is the "recipient" (not sure if this is the proper lingo) of the verb. For example I need you is ты мне нужен. Had I not know for this verb the speaker is in dative, I would've said something like я нуждаю тебя.

EDIT: To say I have something, one would say у меня есть ..., is this also the same case?

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  • Compare it with the English construction "It is needed for me". Russian just moves the words around, drops the subject "it" and copula "is", and uses the Dative case instead of the preposition. Jan 16 at 10:17

3 Answers 3

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Нужно is not a verb, it's a short singular neuter form of the adjective нужный.

Russian uses impersonal constructs with the dative of the agent (дательный деятеля) with certain adjectives: мне нужно "I need", мне холодно "I'm cold", мне страшно "I'm afraid" etc.; and verbs: мне везёт "I'm lucky", мне жмёт (что-то) "something is too tight for me", мне дует "I feel a cold draft" etc.

у меня есть is an example of proximal possession. It is not using the dative, it's using the genitive.

But Russian does use the dative to express possession, or, rather, immanent properties or moral obligations, something that English usually expresses with possessive forms of pronouns and nouns: он мне отец "he's my father", literally, "he's father to me"; мне решать "it's my job to decide", literally "it's to me to decide"; мне отмщение "revenge is mine" etc.

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In Russian, there are certain constructions that describe emotional or physical states, for example:

Ему жарко

Ей интересно.

Мне нужно идти.

In Russian, we use adverbial words, usually ending in -о (холодно, скучно, нужно, можно). These sentences have no subject and are called impersonal. The person affected by the state described is represented by a dative (pro)noun.

Read also about категория состояния.

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  • Your explanations are always so concise and helpful!
    – CocoPop
    Dec 24, 2021 at 16:52
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What verbs put the speaker in the Dative case?

Quite a lot of them, actually. For a list, see the link in the footnote of this answer. It's not small enough to be copied here...

In my book, this is called "дательный восприятия", that is the "dative of experiencing". It's used when the subject is experiencing some condition or sensation. That may explain why many such verbs are reflexive (ending in "-ся" / "-сь").

  • "Мне нравится Достоевский" = "I like Dostoevsky"
  • "Мне запомнился Париж" = "I remember Paris" (connotation: Paris struck me!)
  • "Мне надоело ждать" = "I grow tired of waiting" (a few non-reflexive verbs work like this, too)

As already mentioned, experiencing doesn't necessarily require a verb. It can be expressed with any kind of predicate — adjective, noun, or pronoun:

  • "Мне холодно" = "I feel cold"
  • "Мне [вас] не слышно" = "I can't hear [you]"
  • "Мне негде жить" = "I don't have any place to live"
  • "Мне знаком этот голос" = "I know this voice" (connotation: It sounds familiar to me, I've heard it before)
  • "Мне конец" = "I'm done for" (tragic connotation: It's all over for me, kiss me goodbye)

The dative is required with certain predicative idioms:
"Мне не до шуток", "Мне без разницы", "Мне и дела нет", "Тебе крышка".

The dative is required when talking about someone's age (no verb here, though):

  • "Мне за тридцать" = "I'm over thirty"
  • "Мне пятый десяток" = "I'm in my forties"

The dative is required if the predicate in a full sentence (most often a negative one) is changed from a personal form to the infinitive:

  • "Я не оправлюсь от удара" = "Мне не оправиться от удара"
  • "Я не стану президентом" = "Мне не стать президентом"
  • "На чём же я езжу?" = "На чём же мне ездить?" (Vague connotation: If not this car, what else am I supposed to drive?)

In some cases it's possible to find an equivalent predicate and avoid using the dative (there might be a slight difference in style and connotation, though):

  • "I need you" = "Ты мне нужен" = "Я нуждаюсь в тебе".
  • "I can't hear you" = "Мне вас не слышно" = "Я вас не слышу".

A detailed analysys in Russian (it may be difficult to read, but there are good lists of verbs and predicates there): Корпусная грамматика. Дательный падеж.

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  • I just wanted to say about your example "Мне надоело ждать", it is not a reflexive verb
    – OmarL
    Dec 15, 2021 at 15:24

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