Er lebt gleich einem König.

English Translation

He lives like a king.

This seems like an odd phrasing. I guess I would have expected “er lebt wie ein König”. And I certainly wouldn’t have expected “einem König”… why is it dative case here?


You are absolutely right. “Er lebt wie ein König.” is the normal way to phrase it.
Nevertheless “gleich + Dativ” is also correct but old fashioned.

The most famous example is Goethe’s Prometheus condescending address to Zeus
“… dem Knaben gleich, der Disteln köpft …”.

But it is 18th century poetry, not everyday speech.


There is however one similar expression that is still in use and not 18th century poetry:

Dativ + gleichkommen - to be tantamount to

Example (from Linguee):
Im Bereich der Ideologie und Kultur den Imperialisten die Tür zu öffnen, kommt einem Selbstmord gleich.
Opening door to the imperialists in the ideological and cultural field is tantamount to suicide.