Með is one of those tricky prepositions that can take the accusative case or the dative, and the meaning changes depending on which one it takes. That’s oh so very confusing, so let’s make it a little easier.
Rule of Thumb
Basically, it works like this.
If you want to get clear on the difference between vera með (have) and hafa (have), check out my article on how to say have.
Accusative or Dative?
In many instances, you can use either the accusative or the dative, and the meaning changes depending on which one you use.
- Að vera með + accusative usually translates as have.
- A verb of motion + accusative usually translates as bring. A verb of motion is a verb like come or go.
- Með + dative usually translates as with.
Now what we need are some examples to really get a feel for that difference. The sentences here all come in pairs: first in the accusative, then in the dative. Notice that the only thing that changes is the case after með, but it has a big effect on the translation.
- Þeir eru með son minn > They have my son.
- Þeir eru með syni mínum > They are with my son.
- Ertu með gíslana? > Do you have the hostages?
- Ertu með gíslunum? > Are you with the hostages?
- Kalli er með dúkkurnar sínar > Kalli has his dolls.
- Kalli er með dúkkunum sínum > Kalli is with his dolls.
- Logi fór með vin sinn á spítalann > Logi brought his friend to the hospital (maybe the friend was too sick or injured to go alone).
- Logi fór með vini sínum á spítalann > Logi went to the hospital with his friend (maybe the friend didn’t want to go alone because he was nervous. God knows hospitals make me a bit nervous).
- Eiki fór með Halldór í skólann > Eiki brought Halldór to school.
- Eiki fór með Halldóri í skólann > Eiki went to school with Halldór.
- Jóhanna kom með vinkonu sína > Jóhanna brought her friend.
- Jóhanna kom með vinkonu sinni > Jóhanna came with her friend.
People versus things?
I’ve been talking about how with + accusative means have or bring, and how with + dative means with. I sometimes hear this explained as being about people (dative) versus things (accusative), or something similar, like animate versus inanimate, or living things versus dead things. This is a decent simplification, perhaps, but misleading.
You can use the accusative OR dative with BOTH people and things.
Að vera með + accusative > to have, to bring
- Pabbinn er með stelpuna í kvöld > The dad has the girl tonight (so mom can party, perhaps).
- Litli strákurinn er með dúkkurnar sínar > The little boy has his dolls.
Að vera með + dative > with
- Pabbinn er með stelpunni í kvöld > The dad is with the girl tonight (could be the girl he met while partying last weekend, who knows?)
- Litli strákurinn er með dúkkunum sínum > The little boy is with his dolls.
As a rule of thumb, just remember this chart.