Luke 8:30 Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

σοι (soi)
Personal / Possessive Pronoun - Dative 2nd Person Singular
Strong's Greek 4771: You. The person pronoun of the second person singular; thou.

Mark 5:34 Daughter, your faith has healed you.

σου (sou)
Personal / Possessive Pronoun - Genitive 2nd Person Singular
Strong's Greek 4771: You. The person pronoun of the second person singular; thou.

What is the difference between dative possessive and genitive possessive?

  • 2
    We have an identical construct in Romanian: Care ti-e numele ? The dative behaves towards a verb (in this case, to be) in the same manner in which the genitive behaves towards a noun.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 0:57

2 Answers 2


In the phrase «Τί σοι ἐστιν ὄνομά» in Luke 8:30, the 2nd person personal pronoun σοι is declined in the dative case. Literally translated as “What is the name to you?”, it is understood as “What is your name?” This type of dative is known as the dative of possession.1 This Greek construction is not a Hebraism, but Hebrew does share a similar construction when it uses the prefixed ל (lamed) to indicate possession.2 Indeed, Donaldson wrote, “In Hebrew there is no other means of expressing the verb “to have” than by this use of the dative.”3


        1 Blass, p. 111–112, §37, 3.; Bullions, p. 222–223, §148; Crosby, p. 248–249, §459; Donaldson, p. 494, §dd; Goodwin, p. 248, §1173; Wallace, p. 149, §7; Winer, p. 264
        2 For example, in Psa. 50:10: כִּי לִי כָל חַיְתוֹ יָעַר—literally, “For every beast of the forest is to me,” but understood as, “For every beast of the forest is mine.” Also, cf. Gesenius, Hebrew Grammar, p. 419–420, §129; Gesenius, Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, p. 422, lamed, 4., b.; HALOT, p. 509, lamed, 11.
        3 Donaldson, p. 494, §dd

Regarding the difference between the dative of possession and genitive of possession, Herbert Weir Smyth wrote,4

The dative of the possessor denotes that something is at the disposal of a person or has fallen to his share temporarily. The genitive of possession lays stress on the person who owns something. The dative answers the question what is it that he has?, the genitive answers the question who is it that has something? The uses of the two cases are often parallel, but not interchangeable. ... With a noun in the genitive the dative of the possessor is used (τῶν ἑκατέροις ξυμμάχων T. 2.1); with a noun in the dative, the genitive of the possessor (τοῖς ἑαυτῶν ξυμμάχοις 1.).

However, Peter Bullions wrote,5

it appears often to have been a matter of indifference which of them was used; so much so, that a sentence sometimes begins with the one construction and ends with the other.


        4 Smyth, p. 342, §1480
        5 Bullions, p. 222–223, §148


Blass, Friedrich Wilhelm. Grammar of New Testament Greek. Trans. Thackeray, Henry St. John. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.

Bullions, Peter. The Principles of Greek Grammar: Comprising the Substance of the Most Approved Greek Grammars Extant, for the Use of Schools and Colleges. 21st ed. New York: Pratt, 1851.

Crosby, Alpheus. A Compendious Grammar of the Greek Language. New York: Woolworth, 1871.

Donaldson, John William. A Complete Greek Grammar for the Use of Students. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Deighton, 1862.

Gesenius, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm. Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Trans. Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. London: Bagster, 1860.

Goodwin, William Watson. A Greek Grammar. Boston: Ginn, 1895.

Gesenius, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm. Hebrew Grammar. 2nd ed. Trans. Cowley, Arthur Ernest. Oxford: Clarendon, 1910.

Koehler, Ludwig; Baumgartner, Walter. A Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Trans. Richardson, M. E. J. Ed. Baumgartner, Walter; Stamm, Johann Jakob. Leiden: Brill, 2002.

Smyth, Herbert Weir. A Greek Grammar for Colleges. New York: American Book, 1920.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Winer, George Benedikt. A Treatise on the Grammar of New Testament Greek. 3rd ed. Trans. Moulton, William Fiddian. Edinburgh: Clark, 1882.


There is a subtlety here. The two different declensions of "ego" (the personal pronoun) convey something about what is going on.

  1. In Mark 5:34 we have (literally), "Daughter, the faith/trust of you (Genetive) has healed you".

  2. In Luke 8:30, we have (literally), "What to/for you (Dative) name is?" That is, what name is given to you, as distinct from you actual name.

In the first, Mark 5:34 the genitive is used signifying actual possession or ownership - the person's faith. [Note that the genitive in Greek is just a versatile as in English meaning that, "John's Car" could mean either, (a) the car belonging to and owned by John, (b) the car that John built/made but is now owned by others, etc.]

In the second, Luke 8:30 the dative is used in an odd way. First, it appears that while Jesus addressed the demons in the singular, they said that they were "many" (a legion is possibly hyperbolic?) Thus, while each demon presumably had an individual name, the group (singular) was called by a given name, "legion". [Using the above example, the Dative possessive might indicate that John is driving and using a car that is owned by someone else, that is, it is the car allocated to/for him but which he does not own.]

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