What is Dative Case?

English makes use of four “cases” – Nominative, Genitive, Accusative, and Dative.

The term “case” applies to nouns and pronouns.

The case of a noun or pronoun is determined by what the word does in the sentence.

A noun or pronoun is in the “Nominative Case” when it is the subject of a sentence, or when it completes a being verb.

A noun or pronoun is in the “Genitive Case” when it shows possession.

A noun or pronoun is in the “Accusative Case” when it receives the action of a transitive verb, or when it serves as the object of a preposition. Another term for “Accusative” is ‘Objective.”

A noun or pronoun is in the Dative Case when it is used as an indirect object.

Ex. Oma gave me a puppy.

This sentence contains two objects, a direct object and an indirect object.

To find the direct object, find the verb and ask “what?”

Question: gave what?
Answer: gave puppy.

Puppy is the direct object. It receives the action of the verb.

To find the indirect object, find the verb and ask “to whom?” or “to what?” “for whom?” or “for what?”

Question gave to whom?
Answer: to me

Me is the indirect object.
Me is a pronoun in the dative case. It does not receive the action of the verb directly, but it does receive it indirectly.

Here are some more examples of sentences that contain nouns or pronouns in the dative case:

The king gave his son his crown.
Gwen sent her boyfriend a Valentine.
The mother made them Koolaid.
I read my children the Narnia books.
The Eagle Scout built the homeless man a shelter.

TIP: The indirect object always stands between the verb and its direct object. (I suppose it might be possible to find some exceptions in Milton.)

When a personal pronoun is used as an indirect object it will, of course, take the object form: I baked him a cake.

The teaching of formal grammar in the American English classroom has been in decline for many years now. An academic debate about “explicit” and “implicit” grammar instruction rages. As with most debates, each side has valid points to make.

A mind-numbing, isolated exercise approach is not desirable, but neither is throwing out all formal grammar instruction. Students need to be taught the terms–especially if they intend to study a foreign language.

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Attributes – He said, she said

Attribution is the convention in composition of identifying a speaker or writer when you include direct quotes (which should be enclosed in quotation marks) or paraphrases. An entire system of usage — a choreography, if you will — has developed around how to arrange quotations and paraphrases and their attributions. Here are the dance steps:

“The basic setup is to reproduce a single sentence, followed by an attribution,” he began. “Then, if the quotation consists of more than one sentence, follow the attribution with the rest of it.” If the quotation extends for more than one paragraph, do not close the first paragraph with an end quotation mark; this omission signals to the reader that the same person is being quoted in the next paragraph.

In that next paragraph, rinse and repeat. Many publications, however, treat long quotations as extracts, specially formatted with narrower margins, sometimes in a different font or font size, and set off from the rest of the text. The tipping point for minimum word count for an extract varies, starting at about a hundred words.

Attributions can also precede a quotation: “The report concluded, ‘Meanwhile, the ecosystems it is intended to save are in peril.’” Or they can be inserted within one, in a natural breaking point: “‘For millions of people,’ she added, ‘reclaimed water has become as ordinary as storm sewers and summer droughts.’”

Beware of sentences that introduce the attribution before the end of the sentence when there is no internal punctuation. Sometimes it works: “‘The lesson,’ Smith says, ‘is that we should have paid more attention to what nature was telling us.’” Sometimes it doesn’t: “‘We knew,’ Jones says, ‘that Microsoft would eventually become a major competitor.’”

You’ll notice that some attributions in the samples above are in present tense, and some are in past tense. Which is correct? The answer is, either. It depends on the medium. News articles generally employ past tense because they’re reporting on an event that has already occurred or recording what someone said about an event, while features and profiles, crafted to make you feel like you are at the writer’s shoulder, often feature present tense.

Books referring to the past, appropriately, quote historical figures with past-tense attributions, but those with interviews of real, live people are likely to be written with attributions formed in the present tense. In all expository writing, let these parameters be your guides.

And what about fiction? Writing novels in the present tense is rare; it can be distracting — or, worse, exhausting. It’s easier to get away with it in short stories.

Attribution is the convention in composition of identifying a speaker or writer when you include direct quotes (which should be enclosed in quotation marks) or paraphrases. An entire system of usage — a choreography, if you will — has developed around how to arrange quotations and paraphrases and their attributions. Here are the dance steps:

“The basic setup is to reproduce a single sentence, followed by an attribution,” he began. “Then, if the quotation consists of more than one sentence, follow the attribution with the rest of it.” If the quotation extends for more than one paragraph, do not close the first paragraph with an end quotation mark; this omission signals to the reader that the same person is being quoted in the next paragraph.

In that next paragraph, rinse and repeat. Many publications, however, treat long quotations as extracts, specially formatted with narrower margins, sometimes in a different font or font size, and set off from the rest of the text. The tipping point for minimum word count for an extract varies, starting at about a hundred words.

Attributions can also precede a quotation: “The report concluded, ‘Meanwhile, the ecosystems it is intended to save are in peril.’” Or they can be inserted within one, in a natural breaking point: “‘For millions of people,’ she added, ‘reclaimed water has become as ordinary as storm sewers and summer droughts.’”

Beware of sentences that introduce the attribution before the end of the sentence when there is no internal punctuation. Sometimes it works: “‘The lesson,’ Smith says, ‘is that we should have paid more attention to what nature was telling us.’” Sometimes it doesn’t: “‘We knew,’ Jones says, ‘that Microsoft would eventually become a major competitor.’”

You’ll notice that some attributions in the samples above are in present tense, and some are in past tense. Which is correct? The answer is, either. It depends on the medium. News articles generally employ past tense because they’re reporting on an event that has already occurred or recording what someone said about an event, while features and profiles, crafted to make you feel like you are at the writer’s shoulder, often feature present tense.

Books referring to the past, appropriately, quote historical figures with past-tense attributions, but those with interviews of real, live people are likely to be written with attributions formed in the present tense. In all expository writing, let these parameters be your guides.

And what about fiction? Writing novels in the present tense is rare; it can be distracting — or, worse, exhausting. It’s easier to get away with it in short stories.

From: Daily Writing Tips

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Answers to Questions About Non-Bookstore Marketing

“Because of high costs, I need to price my book at $19.95, but my competitor’s book is $14.95. How can I compete with that?” George Lascar   The price of your book is a feature; the value of your book is a benefit. Customers attach value to books in proportion to the extent they believe it will help them solve their problems. If your book is more expensive than competitors’ books, your promotional material must translate the price into value for the consumer. One way to do this is to describe the incremental difference and what the reader receives for it. Since your $19.95 book is $5 more than the competition, demonstrate to the potential buyers what they will gain in exchange for paying $5 more. Or, you could appeal to their fear of making a wrong decision and how much they will lose by not spending the additional $5. In either case you will be more effective if you communicate the value your book offers your customers.   You can also use a surrogate indicator, a cue that takes the place of a buying criterion, to demonstrate the benefits of your higher price. These cues include endorsements, guarantees and slogans. Even the way you write the price makes a difference. For example, which looks like a larger figure, $5 or $5.00? If you want to make a price look smaller do not include the numbers to the right of the decimal point. On the other hand, if you want to accentuate the difference, include the decimal point and zeroes.

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The Squinting Modifier

What Is a Squinting Modifier?

When an adverb or phrase is placed in a sentence so that it can be interpreted as modifying either the words before or after it, then it’s called a “squinting modifier.” Take a look at this example:

Running long distances quickly builds my endurance.

It’s a little hard to tell what this sentence means. Is the person running long distances quickly? Or quickly building their endurance? The squinting modifier here is the word “quickly.” Its position in the sentence makes the meaning murky. Here are some more examples:

Taking time to think clearly improves your test scores.

Helping people often brings pride.

I told my grandma this morning I would visit.

Squinting modifiers are always sandwiched in between two words or phrases. That’s why they’re sometimes called “two-way modifiers.”

Other misplaced modifiers don’t need to be in between two words and phrases. For example, take this famous joke from comedian Groucho Marx:

“One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know!”

In this case, the ambiguity of the misplaced phrase “in my pajamas” is being played for laughs. But, typically, misplaced modifiers do only one thing — confuse a sentence. They make the meaning ambiguous or wrong and should be avoided, unless you’re Groucho Marx.

How to Fix a Squinting Modifier

When speaking, squinting modifiers are rarely an issue because you can convey the meaning with your voice and tone, but writing is a different story.

It may be hard for writers to spot squinting modifiers in their own work. Of course, as the author, you know what you mean. Readers will get confused more easily. Pay attention to adverbs and be wary of words like “only” and “often,” which can subtly change the meaning of a sentence.

Once you spot a squinting modifier, you can usually fix it by rearranging the words in the sentence.

Bad: Having a baby often changes your life.

Better: Often, having a baby changes your life.

Bad: Beating eggs rapidly creates a whipped foam.

Better: Rapidly beating eggs creates a whipped foam.

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Naming a Character

The most unforgettable fictional characters begin as a glimmer in the author’s mind. Only in writing the novel does the character go on to acquire the dimensions that will make him or her live in the imagination of the reader years after the book has been read.

Sherlock Holmes, Captain Ahab, Huckleberry Finn, Jo March, Dorothea Brooke linger in our memories as if they were real people we have known.

These examples are all from the English classics, but even the writer whose ambitions focus on something less monumental than Moby Dick or Middlemarch needs to give adequate thought to the principal character/s who will carry the story, whether it’s a light mystery, a romance, or a middle school adventure.

The place to begin is with the character’s name.

Some writers, in a hurry to start that first draft, will tack the first name that comes to mind on the main character, intending to come up with a better name “later on.”

Bad idea.

A purely practical objection is the danger that the substitute name will creep into a few paragraphs in the completed draft, creating embarrassment for the author and confusion in the reader.

A more important reason to begin with the most appropriate name is that the name is part of the character’s persona and can inform the developing action. The right name can also send a subliminal message to the reader. Take the name Atticus Finch.

The antique Roman name Atticus suggests formality and is imbued with connotations of law and justice. Finch is the name of a harmless bird and, as such, reflects the title of the book, To Kill a Mocking Bird. Harper Lee may or may not have been aware of the useful qualities of the finch as a destroyer of weeds and harmful insects, but Atticus Finch lives in our memories as a dignified representative of the law doing what he can to protect the social garden from destructive influences.

The very letters in a name can connote characteristics. The k sound suggests strength and courage. Consider: James T. Kirk, Kinsey Millhone, Alex Cross, Brother Caedfal, Kate Beckett.

Other sounds, like those of h and r and the vowels, can suggest such characteristics as weakness, hypocrisy, and—sometimes—evil. Consider: Iago, Humbert Humbert, Professor Moriarty, Dorian Gray, Uriah Heep.

A combination of strong and weak sounds can produce a name that suggests a multi-layered character who possesses strength and courage, together with a willingness to use others to their advantage. Consider: Becky Sharp, Scarlett O’Hara.

The sounds of l and n may suggest sexiness or feminine weakness: Ulalume, Lolita, Annabelle Lee, Anna Karenina.

And, finally, it’s possible to incorporate a suggestive word in the name of a character. Holly GoLightly’s name contains the sexy l ‘s, together with a word that conveys her unconscionable view of life. Bigger Thomas, born in different circumstances, could have had a bigger, better fate. Edward Murdstone has a heart of stone and a murky disposition. Sam Spade digs ploddingly for information, while Mike Hammer gets what he’s after by any means necessary.

Before you get too far into that first draft, take the time to give your protagonist the right name.

 From: Daily Writing Tips

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5 Ways to Minimize Prepositional Phrases

A prepositional phrase is a series of words beginning with a preposition and providing additional information in a sentence that pertains to position (hence the word preposition) or relationship; the phrase “with a preposition” is itself a prepositional phrase. Though such phrases are not inherently undesirable, they are often easily avoidable contributors to compositional clutter. This post lists and describes five strategies for eliminating prepositional phrases by omission or alteration.

1. Use Active Voice

Keeping your writing in active voice is the best way to keep your work fresh and interesting.


 A prepositional phrase beginning with by often signals an opportunity to convert a passively constructed sentence into active voice (and render it more concise), as when “The action was seen by observers as nothing more than a delaying tactic” is revised to “Observers saw the action as nothing more than a delaying tactic.”

2. Omit Prepositions
Many nouns pertaining to a characteristic or a quality are nominalizations, or buried verbs, which are valid words but should be used in moderation, if at all, because they encourage verbose and overly formal composition. The sentence “They conducted an investigation of the incident,” for example, becomes more concise when one converts the noun investigation into its verb form and alters the rest of the sentence accordingly: “They investigated the incident.” (This strategy reduces the three-word prepositional phrase by only the preposition itself, but it further simplifies—and shortens—what comes before.)

3. Omit Prepositional Phrases
In the sentence “John Smith is the best runner on the team,” the prepositional phrase “on the team” may already be apparent from the context, so consider omitting it: “John Smith is the best runner.”

4. Use Adverbs in Place of Prepositional Phrases

Use this recommendation with care. Too many adverbs (ly) words can make your verb usage weak. In this instance, search Roget’s International Thesaurus for a stronger verb that does not require a supporting adverb.


Just as conversion of a nominalization into a verb can render a prepositional phrase unnecessary, such a phrase can be eliminated by changing an adjective to an adverb and further revising the sentence accordingly: “Jane stared at him with a quizzical expression” becomes “Jane stared at him quizzically” (or even, by omitting the sentence’s other prepositional phrase, “Jane stared quizzically”).

5. Use Genitives in Place of Prepositional Phrases
A genitive, or possessive, can substitute for a prepositional phrase beginning with of, as when “John sensed the annoyance of his teacher when he offered yet another glib excuse” is revised to “John sensed his teacher’s annoyance when he offered yet another glib excuse.”

From: Daily Writing Tips

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You Know It’s Creative Writing When…

Five fundamental elements are the clearest way to distinguish between well-written non-creative writing and creative writing. You can write about the same subject matter in a different way, but creative writers will use poetic license and storytelling tools to bring a story to life.

1. It’s told from a specific point of view

Point of view humanizes a narrative by offering personal insights and perspectives. Unlike news reporting, which aims to be impartial and objective, creative writing leans into the fact that each writer has a unique personality, and uses this to its advantage. From using first person and owning your ‘I’ to express your feelings or experiences, to dramatizing the gaps of communication between characters in a fictional piece, contrasting viewpoints make a work ever more immersive, vivid, and inherently interesting to read.

Need an example? Take Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and contrast it with news accounts of the same murder. Capote’s book gives the reader a closer perspective of the killers, making an effort to understand them, whereas news reports simply list the facts in chronological order.

2. Its narrative structure is designed to engage readers

Fiction and nonfiction share an important unifying core: that of narrative structure. Both use the principles of storytelling to express events, realizations, or complicated plots and subplots. Regardless of what happens in each narrative, the opening, ending, and in-between sections of a piece of writing need to be tightly structured for cohesion and coherence. 

A personal essay that does this well is Lilly Dancyger’s essay “Don’t Use My Family For Your True Crime Stories”. Instead of a chronological retelling of her cousin’s murder and her own subsequent grief and aversion to true crime writing, Dancyger opens by introducing the fact of the murder then briefly visits the present to explain her current feelings, before returning to the past to narrate how she and her family heard of Sabina’s murder. This structure allows the reader to empathize by mirroring the shock of death: being taken by surprise is followed by a need for facts and explanations. 

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

3. Tension is used to make readers feel invested

Whether the tension arises from an impending realization or comes in the form of suspense as the perpetrator of a crime is about to be revealed, the existence of tension means that a writer has managed to write something where the stakes are high, and the reader feels emotionally or intellectually invested. The Serial podcast, for example, does this particularly well, as it tells a true story in a serialized form with cliffhangers and a central mystery. 

4. A central theme is used to organize the narrative

Life, it must be said, is not quite as neat as literary theme analysis will have you think. Writing, however, tends to operate as an opportunity for thoughts, feelings, and events to be organized into information the reader can process. Because of this process of organizing thought, certain central themes appear in each work. In a memoir, for example, that might be the lessons someone has learned, or the principle they believe best represents their experiences. To give you an example, Michelle Obama’s aptly named Becoming keeps returning to the same conclusion after reviewing each of her experiences: that you, too, can become whatever you want, despite adversity. In this case, the story’s recurring themes are hope, growth, and perseverance in the face of discouragement. Unlike the dry Wikipedia page giving Michelle Obama’s biography, Becoming is a compelling piece of creative writing that tells a cohesive story by focusing on this central theme.

5. Literary devices are used freely

Imagine reading the newspaper and encountering a report of an accident that begins with this sentence:

 “The sun had just begun to awaken, emerging sleepily from the shadowy depths behind the skyscrapers and casting a pale yellow light onto the street when Yamada Kumiko had a terrible accident.” 

That’s a tad too poetic for a newspaper article, isn’t it? Aside from being tragically insensitive given the accident context, the reason this sentence feels so wrong is that it uses figurative language in a way that is not common for factual journalism. That’s because literary devices (and some rhetorical devices, too) are generally reserved for work considered to be creative writing, instead. Otherwise, it might feel a little bit like the writer is showing off in the wrong context — if your washing machine troubleshooting guide is all ornate turns of prose, something’s gone wrong (and your machine is likely to stay broken).

We hope this guide has armed you with the questions you need to ask if you’re ever unsure about whether something is considered to be ‘creative writing’ — why not turn your attention to trying creative writing yourself next? May your writing flow not like a faucet, but a waterfall: abundant, uninhibited, and breathtaking to all who behold it.

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Stay Trim and Tidy

Short, efficient sentences are easier to read. To get really concise, try the Hemingway Editor, an online editor or a Desktop package ($19.99) that will make your prose as linguistically efficient as the renowned author’s.

A few pro tips for trimming down the word count:

“That” is a word that you do not need. Take out the second “that” in the previous sentence, and it still makes perfect sense.

No need to use multiple syllables or extra words when one will do. “Utilize” → “Use.” “In order to” → “To.”

Be spartan with your adverbs and adjectives. Too many are distracting.

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Irregular Verbs

The simple answer is: Any verb that doesn’t follow standard rules of conjugation. Unfortunately, there are so many “irregular” verbs in the English language that the title doesn’t really make sense. These grammar anomalies have been lurking in plain sight for yearsand they might just come naturally to you, but we’re still going to take a closer look.

Irregular Verbs and the Past Tense

Typically, it’s correct (and easy enough) to say the past tense of a verb ends in an “-ed.” For example, “I drop the kids off in the morning” in the present tense becomes, “I dropped the kids off this morning.” Or, “I scrub the dishes,” in the present changes to “I scrubbed the dishes” in the past tense. Those two letters added to the end of a word are a pretty good indicator of past tense.

Then you come across a verb like “speak.” In the present tense, you’d say, “I speak.” In the past tense, you would not say, “I speaked.” Instead, you’d say, “I spoke.”

Boom. You’ve just found an irregular verb. As you might have guessed, irregular verbs break the standard rule of ending in “-ed” in the past tense.

To further confuse the issue, irregular verbs have no discernible pattern themselves. They’re just … irregular. These irregular verbs are some of the most commonly used in English — “go,” “say,” “see,” “think,” “make,” “take,” “come,” and “know.” These workhorse verbs take on different spellings in the past tense.

In general, irregular verbs are easy enough to spot in the past tense — if it doesn’t end in “-ed,” it’s irregular.

Spotting More Irregular Verbs

Test yourself: Which of these examples of irregular verbs are correct?

  1. She drunk the glass of water.
  2. The phone rung and rung.
  3. The pants shrunk in the dryer.

Answer: Only number three is correct. In one, the correct past tense is “drank,” and in number two, the phone “rang.”

It’s still quite easy to get confused by irregular verbs, especially when you look at the difference between simple past tense and past participles.

For example, “Stacy drived to the public pool where she swum for hours.” Hopefully this sounds wrong to your ears, because it’s just an irregular mess.

There are two irregular verbs in this example, but neither is correct. The first is obvious – “drived” attempts to follow the regular verb “-ed” ending. It sounds awkward, because it’s not a real word at all. The correct (irregular) past tense is “drove.”

The second one is a little trickier. “Swum” is in fact the past participle of the verb “to swim,” but it’s not the simple past, which is “swam.”

The correct version of Stacy’s day at the pool is, “Stacy drove to the public pool where she swam for hours.”

As confusing as irregular verbs may seem, they start to come naturally with practice. What irregular verbs do you still stumble over?

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The Dash Family’s Roles

From: Daily Writing Tips

The en dash is the oft-neglected middle sibling of the horizontal-line family of symbols that serve to connect words and numbers for various reasons.

The em dash (—) is the dashing member of the brood, used somewhat sparingly to indicate a sudden break in syntax—either to signal a shift in sentence construction, as here, or joining with a twin to frame a parenthetical word or phrase (just as a pair of commas would be used in the midst of a sentence or two parentheses would be employed anywhere).

The smallest, the hyphen (-), is the busiest, indicating connections between words, such as when the phrase “highest scoring” is hyphenated to signal its combined modification of the word that follows in the phrase “highest-scoring player” or to link two numbers in reference to a score or vote.

The en dash (–), however, sometimes steps in to take the place of the hyphen: It is employed when an open compound is part of the phrasal adjective, signaling that the entire compound, not just the last word in the compound, is linked to the next word, as in “Civil War–era artifacts” (rather than “Civil War-era” or “Civil-War-era”) or “Los Angeles–to–San Francisco flight” (rather than in “Los Angeles-to-San Francisco flight” or “Los-Angeles-to-San-Francisco flight”).

Note, however, that open compounds need not be proper nouns, as this quip about an advertising agency with a name consisting of a sequence of initials demonstrates: “This alphabet soup–named firm helps get clients on the gravy train.” If a hyphen were used in place of an en dash here, the reference would (confusingly) be to a soup-named agency of an alphabet nature. (Also, some publishers, presumably for aesthetic reasons, employ en dashes in place of em dashes.)

The other major function of an en dash, by the way, is to replace to to indicate a number range, as in “Answer quiz questions 1–10.” (Remember that because scores are not number ranges, a hyphen is the correct symbol for linking two totals.) In both types of usage, a hyphen is often erroneously employed in place of an en dash (though for the sake of simplicity, some publications, especially newspapers, deliberately avoid use of the en dash).

Also, note that although both hyphens and en dashes are employed as minus signs, the minus sign is technically a distinct symbol that in formal publishing is set using a distinct code. In informal usage, an en dash, more equivalent in size to plus and equal signs than a hyphen, is preferable.

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