grammatical case

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grammatical case
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{{Grammatical categories}}File:Number of grammatical cases hic01.png|thumb|400px|The number of grammatical case inflections in European languagesEuropean languagesCase is a special grammatical category of a noun, pronoun, adjective, participle or numeral whose value reflects the grammatical function performed by that word in a phrase, clause or sentence. In some languages, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, determiners, participles, prepositions, numerals, articles and their modifiers take different inflected forms, depending on their case. As a language evolves, cases can merge (for instance, in Ancient Greek, the locative case merged with the dative case), a phenomenon formally called syncretism.{{sfn |Clackson|2007|page=91}}English has largely lost its inflected case system although personal pronouns still have three cases, which are simplified forms of the nominative, accusative and genitive cases. They are used with personal pronouns: subjective case (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who, whoever), objective case (me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom, whomever) and possessive case (my, mine; your, yours; his; her, hers; its; our, ours; their, theirs; whose; whoseverThe Chambers Dictionary, 11th edition). Forms such as I, he and we are used for the subject ("I kicked the ball"), and forms such as me, him and us are used for the object ("John kicked me").Languages such as Ancient Greek, Armenian, Assamese, most Balto-Slavic languages, Basque, most Caucasian languages, German, Icelandic, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Sanskrit, Tamil, Tibetan (one of a few tonal languages), the Turkic languages and the Uralic languages have extensive case systems, with nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and determiners all inflecting (usually by means of different suffixes) to indicate their case. The number of cases differs between languages: Esperanto has two; modern English has three but for pronouns only; German and Icelandic have four; Romanian has five; Latin, Russian and Turkish each have at least six; Armenian, Czech, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Serbian, Croatian, Slovak and Ukrainian have seven; Sanskrit and Tamil have eight; Estonian has 14; Finnish has 15; Hungarian has 18 and Tsez has 64 cases. Commonly encountered cases include nominative, accusative, dative and genitive. A role that one of those languages marks by case is often marked in English with a preposition. For example, the English prepositional phrase with (his) foot (as in "John kicked the ball with his foot") might be rendered in Russian using a single noun in the instrumental case or in Ancient Greek as ({{grc-tr|τῷ ποδί}}, meaning "the foot") with both words (the definite article, and the noun ({{grc-tr|πούς}}) "foot") changing to dative form.More formally, case has been defined as "a system of marking dependent nouns for the type of relationship they bear to their heads".Blake, Barry J. Case. Cambridge University Press: 2001.{{rp|p.1}} Cases should be distinguished from thematic roles such as agent and patient. They are often closely related, and in languages such as Latin, several thematic roles have an associated case, but cases are a morphological notion, and thematic roles a semantic one. Languages having cases often exhibit free word order, as thematic roles are not required to be marked by position in the sentence.


It is widely accepted that the Ancient Greeks had a certain idea of the forms of a name in their own language. A fragment of Anacreon seems to prove this. Nevertheless, it cannot be inferred that the Ancient Greeks really knew what grammatical cases were. Grammatical cases were first recognized by the Stoics and from some philosophers of the Peripatetic school.WEB,weblink Linguaggio nell'Enciclopedia Treccani, BOOK,weblink English Grammatical Categories: And the Tradition to 1800, 9780521143264, Michael, Ian, 2010-06-10, The advancements of those philosophers were later employed by the philologists of the Alexandrian school.JOURNAL, 43646836, The Stoic Notion of a Grammatical Case, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, 39, 13–24, Frede, Michael, 1994,


The English word case used in this sense comes from the Latin , which is derived from the verb {{wikt-lang|la|cado|cadere}}, "to fall", from the Proto-Indo-European root (wikt:Appendix:Proto-Indo-European/ḱad-|{{PIE|*ḱad-}}).{{OEtymD|case}} The Latin word is a calque of the Greek , {{grc-tr|πτῶσις}}, lit. "falling, fall"."L. {{wikt-lang|la|cāsus}} used to translate Gr. lit. 'falling, fall'. By Aristotle was applied to any derived, inflected, or extended form of the simple {{wikt-lang|grc|ὄνομα}} or {{wikt-lang|grc|ῥῆμα}} (i.e. the nominative of nouns, the present indicative of verbs), such as the oblique cases of nouns, the variations of adjectives due to gender and comparison, also the derived adverb (e.g. was a of {{wikt-lang|grc|δίκαιος}}), the other tenses and moods of the verb, including its interrogative form. The grammarians, following the Stoics, restricted to nouns, and included the nominative under the designation". {{OED|case}} The sense is that all other cases are considered to have "fallen" away from the nominative. This imagery is also reflected in the word declension, from Latin {{wikt-lang|la|declino|declinere}}, "to lean", from the PIE root (wikt:Appendix:Proto-Indo-European/ḱley-|{{PIE|*ḱley-}}).The equivalent to "case" in several other European languages also derives from casus, including {{wikt-lang|fr|cas}} in French, {{wikt-lang|es|caso}} in Spanish and {{wikt-lang|de|Kasus}} in German. The Russian word (padyézh) is a calque from Greek and similarly contains a root meaning "fall", and the German {{wikt-lang|de|Fall}} and Czech {{wikt-lang|cs|pád}} simply mean "fall", and are used for both the concept of grammatical case and to refer to physical falls. The Finnish equivalent is {{wikt-lang|fi|sija}}, whose main meaning is "position" or "place".

Indo-European languages

File:E7127-Balakhna-500-Years.jpg|thumb|On this sign in Russian memorializing an anniversary of the city of BalakhnaBalakhnaAlthough not very prominent in modern English, cases featured much more saliently in Old English and other ancient Indo-European languages, such as Latin, Old Persian, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Historically, the Indo-European languages had eight morphological cases, though modern languages typically have fewer, using prepositions and word order to convey information that had previously been conveyed using distinct noun forms. Among modern languages, cases still feature prominently in most of the Balto-Slavic languages (except Macedonian and BulgarianSlavic Languages on {{webarchive|url= |date=2009-11-21 }}), with most having six to eight cases, as well as Icelandic, German and Modern Greek, which have four. In German, cases are mostly marked on articles and adjectives, and less so on nouns. In Icelandic, articles, adjectives, personal names and nouns are all marked for case, making it, among other things, the living Germanic language that could be said to most closely resemble Proto-Germanic.The eight historical Indo-European cases are as follows, with examples either of the English case or of the English syntactic alternative to case:{| class="wikitable"!Case!Indicates!Sample case words!Sample sentence!Interrogative!Notes
Nominative case>Nominative Subject (grammar)>Subject of a finite verb|we|We went to the store.|Who or what?|Corresponds to English's subject pronouns.
Accusative case>Accusative|Direct object of a transitive verb|us,for us,the (object)|The clerk remembered us.'John waited for us at the bus stop.'Obey the law.|Whom or what?|Corresponds to English's object pronouns and preposition for construction before the object, often marked by a definite article the. Together with dative, it forms modern English's oblique case.
Dative case>Dative|Indirect object of a verb |us,to us,to the (object)|The clerk gave us a discount.'The clerk gave a discount to us.'According to the law...|Whom or to what?Corresponds to English's object pronouns and preposition to construction before the object, often marked by a definite article the. Together with accusative, it forms modern English's oblique case.
Ablative case>Ablative|Movement away from|from us|The victim went from us to see the doctor.|Whence? From where/whom?|
Genitive case>Genitive|Possessor of another noun|'s,of (the),his|John's book was on the table.'The pages of the book turned yellow.'Table made out of wood.'To each his' own. |Whose? From what or what of?|Roughly corresponds to English's possessive (possessive determiners and pronouns) and preposition of'' construction.
Vocative case>Vocative|Addressee|John|John, are you all right? Hello, John!||
Locative case>Locative|Location, either physical or temporal|in China,at the bus stop,in the future|We live in China.'John is waiting for us at the bus stop.We will see what will happen in the future'.|Where or wherein? When?|Roughly corresponds to English prepositions in, on, at, and by and other less common prepositions.
Instrumental case>Instrumental|A means or tool used or companion present in/while performing an action|with a mop,by hand|We wiped the floor with a mop.'This letter was written by hand'.|How? With what or using what? By what means?With whom?|Corresponds to English prepositions by, with and via as well as synonymous constructions such as using, by use of and through''.
All of the above are just rough descriptions; the precise distinctions vary significantly from language to language, and as such they are often more complex. Case is based fundamentally on changes to the noun to indicate the noun's role in the sentence – one of the defining features of so-called fusional languages. Old English was a fusional language, but Modern English does not work this way.

Modern English

Modern English has largely abandoned the inflectional case system of Proto-Indo-European in favor of analytic constructions. The personal pronouns of Modern English retain morphological case more strongly than any other word class (a remnant of the more extensive case system of Old English). For other pronouns, and all nouns, adjectives, and articles, grammatical function is indicated only by word order, by prepositions, and by the "Saxon genitive" (-'s).{{efn|The status of the possessive as an affix or a clitic is the subject of debate.BOOK, 9789027273000, 2013, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Morphosyntactic Categories and the Expression of Possession, Börjars, Kersti, Denison, David, David Denison, Scott, Alan, A cognitive analysis of John's hat, Hudson, Richard, Richard Hudson (linguist), 123–148, BOOK, 9789027273000, 2013, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Morphosyntactic Categories and the Expression of Possession, Börjars, Kersti, Denison, David, David Denison, Scott, Alan, Expression of Possession in English, Börjars, Kersti, Denison, David, David Denison, Krajewski, Grzegorz, Scott, Alan, 149–176, It differs from the noun inflection of languages such as German, in that the genitive ending may attach to the last word of the phrase. To account for this, the possessive can be analysed, for instance as a clitic construction (an "enclitic postposition"BOOK, [the -s ending is] more appropriately described as an enclitic postposition', 328, Quirk, Randolph, Randolph Quirk, Greenbaum, Sidney, Sidney Greenbaum, Leech, Geoffrey, Geoffrey Leech, Svartvik, Jan, 1985, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Harlow, Longman, 978-0-582-51734-9, registration,weblink ) or as an inflectionBOOK, In speech the genitive is signalled in singular nouns by an inflection that has the same pronunciation variants as for plural nouns in the common case, 109–110, Greenbaum, Sidney, Sidney Greenbaum, The Oxford English Grammar, 1996, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-861250-6, BOOK, In writing, the inflection of regular nouns is realized in the singular by apostrophe + s (boy's), and in the regular plural by the apostrophe following the plural s (boys{{', )|last1=Quirk|first1=Randolph |last2=Greenbaum |first2=Sidney |last3=Leech |first3=Geoffrey |last4=Svartik |first4=Jan |title=A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language |publisher=Longman |year=1985|page=319}} of the last word of a phrase ("edge inflection").BOOK, We conclude that both head and phrasal genitives involve case inflection. With head genitives it is always a noun that inflects, while the phrasal genitive can apply to words of most classes., 479–481, Nouns and noun phrases, Payne, John, Huddleston, Rodney, Rodney Huddleston, Huddleston, Rodney, Rodney Huddleston, Pullum, Geoffrey, Geoffrey Pullum, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, 2002, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; New York, 978-0-521-43146-0, }}Taken as a whole, English personal pronouns are typically said to have three morphological cases: Most English personal pronouns have five forms: the nominative and oblique case forms, the possessive case, which has both a determiner form (such as my, our) and a distinct independent form (such as mine, ours) (with two exceptions: the third person singular masculine and the third person singular neuter it, which use the same form for both determiner and independent [his car, it is his]), and a distinct reflexive or intensive form (such as myself, ourselves). The interrogative personal pronoun who exhibits the greatest diversity of forms within the modern English pronoun system, having definite nominative, oblique, and genitive forms (who, whom, whose) and equivalently coordinating indefinite forms (whoever, whomever, and whosever).Though English pronouns can have subject and object forms (he/him, she/her), nouns show only a singular/plural and a possessive/non-possessive distinction (e.g. chair, chairs, chair's, chairs'). Note that chair does not change form between "the chair is here" (subject) and "I saw the chair" (direct object), a distinction made by word order and context.

Hierarchy of cases

Cases can be ranked in the following hierarchy, where a language that does not have a given case will tend not to have any cases to the right of the missing case:{{rp|p.89}}
nominative → accusative or ergative → genitive → dative → locative or prepositional → ablative and/or instrumental → others.
This is, however, only a general tendency. Many forms of Central German, such as Colognian and Luxembourgish, have a dative case but lack a genitive. In Irish nouns, the nominative and accusative have fallen together, whereas the dative–locative has remained separate in some paradigms; Irish also has genitive and vocative cases. In Punjabi, the accusative, genitive, and dative have merged to an oblique case, but the language still retains vocative, locative, and ablative cases. Old English had an instrumental case, but not a locative or prepositional.

Case order

The traditional case order (nom-gen-dat-acc) was expressed for the first time in The Art of Grammar in the 2nd century BC:{{Verse translation|s:|There are five Cases, the right [nominative], the generic [genitive], the dative, the accusative, and the vocative.BOOK, The grammar of Dionysios Thrax, Tomas Davidson, St. Loius, Studley, 1874, 10,weblink }} The Russian language uses a similar case order.((:ru:Русский язык#Имя существительное))Latin grammars, such as Ars grammatica, followed the Greek tradition, but added the ablative case of Latin. Later other European languages also followed that Graeco-Roman tradition.However, for some languages, such as Latin, due to case syncretism the order may be changed for convenience, where the accusative or the vocative cases are placed after the nominative and before the genitive. For example:{|||{| class="wikitable"|+ Latin! rowspan="2" |! colspan="2" | {{wikt-lang|la|aqua|aqua, aquae}}water {{abbr|f.|feminine}}! colspan="2" | {{wikt-lang|la|bellum|bellum, bellī}}war {{abbr|n.|neuter}}
! Singular! Plural! Singular! Plural
! Nominative
aqua rowspan="2" | aquae bellum rowspan="3" | bella
! Vocative
! Accusative
| aquās
! Genitive
aquae aquārum| bellōrum
! Dative
aquīs bellō rowspan="2" | bellīs
! Ablative| aquā

Case concord systems

In the most common case concord system, only the head-word (the noun) in a phrase is marked for case. This system appears in many Papuan languages as well as in Turkic, Mongolian, Quechua, Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, and other languages. In Basque and various Amazonian and Australian languages, only the phrase-final word (not necessarily the noun) is marked for case. In many Indo-European, Finnic, and Semitic languages, case is marked on the noun, the determiner, and usually the adjective. Other systems are less common. In some languages, there is double-marking of a word as both genitive (to indicate semantic role) and another case such as accusative (to establish concord with the head noun).{{citation needed|date=October 2013}}JOURNAL, Campbell, Lyle, Glossary of historical linguistics,weblink en,

Declension paradigms

Declension is the process or result of altering nouns to the correct grammatical cases. Languages with rich nominal inflection (use grammatical cases for many purposes) typically have a number of identifiable declension classes, or groups of nouns with a similar pattern of case inflection or declension. Sanskrit has six declension classes, whereas Latin is traditionally considered to have five, and Ancient Greek three declension classes.Frank Beetham, Learning Greek with Plato, Bristol Phoenix Press, 2007. For example, Slovak has fifteen noun declension classes, five for each gender (the number may vary depending on which paradigms are counted or omitted, this mainly concerns those that modify declension of foreign words; refer to article).In Indo-European languages, declension patterns may depend on a variety of factors, such as gender, number, phonological environment, and irregular historical factors. Pronouns sometimes have separate paradigms. In some languages, particularly Slavic languages, a case may contain different groups of endings depending on whether the word is a noun or an adjective. A single case may contain many different endings, some of which may even be derived from different roots. For example, in Polish, the genitive case has -a, -u, -ów, -i/-y, -e- for nouns, and -ego, -ej, -ich/-ych for adjectives. To a lesser extent, a noun's animacy or humanness may add another layer of complexity. For example, in Russian:
  • (NOM, animate, zero ending) ((The) cat catches mice)
  • (NOM, inanimate, zero ending) ((The) pillar holds a/the roof)
  • (ACC, animate, -a ending). (Peter strokes a/the cat)
  • (ACC, inanimate, zero ending). (Peter breaks a/the pillar)


{{Globalize|date=April 2016|section}}


Assamese has ten cases.{| class="wikitable"!!English!Significance!Usual Suffixes!Transliteration of Suffixes! Example with চুলি (suli, “hair”)|(I)
Absolutive case>Absolutive|Subject of sentence|Ø|Ø|suli
Ergative case>Ergative|Agent|এ (য়ে, ৱে), ই|e, i|sulie
Accusative case>Accusative|Object of action|অক / ক (animate); Ø (inanimate)|ok / k; Ø|sulik; suli
Genitive case>Genitive|Possessive|অৰ|or / r|sulir
Dative case>Dative|Object to whom action is performed, object for whom action is performed|অক / ক|ok / k|sulik
Dative case>Dative of motion form|Object to whom action is performed, object for whom action is performed|অলৈ / লৈ|oloi / loi|suliloi
Terminative case>Terminative||অলৈকে / লৈকে|oloike / loike|suliloike
Instrumental case>Instrumental of motion from|Means by which action is done|এৰে / ৰে|ere / re|sulire
Locative case>Locative|Place in which, On the person of (animate) in the presence of|অত / ত|ot / t|sulit
Vocative case>Vocative|Addressing, calling|অ, Ø, হে|o, Ø, he|o suli!, suli!, he suli!


An example of a Belarusian case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Belarusian term for "country," which belongs to Belarusian's first declension class.
  • (nominative) "[the] country" [as a subject] (e.g. – this country is located in Europe)
  • (genitive) "[the] country's / [of the] country" (e.g. – the Dutch government is situated in The Hague, but the country's capital is Amsterdam)
  • (dative) "[to/for the] country" [as an indirect object] (e.g. – there were no natural resources left for the new country)
  • (accusative) "country" [as a direct object] (e.g. – I often visit this country)
  • (instrumental) "[with the] country/[by the] country/[be a] country" (e.g. – Singapore was a poor country)
  • (locative) "[in the] country" [as a direct object] (e.g. – There is not enough food in the country)


In German, grammatical case is largely preserved in the articles and adjectives, but nouns have lost many of their original endings. Below is an example of case inflection in German using the masculine (wikt:der#German|definite article) and one of the German words for "sailor".
  • (nominative) "the sailor" [as a subject] (e.g. Der Seemann steht da – the sailor is standing there)
  • (genitive) "the sailor's / [of] the sailor" (e.g. – the name of the sailor is Otto)
  • (dative) "[to/for] the sailor" [as an indirect object] (e.g. – I gave a present to the sailor)
  • (accusative) "the sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. – I saw the sailor)
An example with the feminine definite article with the German word for "woman."
  • die Frau (nominative) "the woman" [as a subject] (e.g. Die Frau isst - the woman eats)
  • der Frau (genitive) "the woman's / [of] the woman" (e.g. Die Katze der Frau ist weiß - the cat of the woman is white)
  • der Frau (dative) "[to/for] the woman" [as an indirect object] (e.g. Ich gab der Frau ein Geschenk - I gave a present to the woman)
  • die Frau (accusative) "the woman" [as a direct object] (e.g. Ich sah die Frau - I see the woman)
An example with the neuter definite article with the German word for "book."
  • das Buch (nominative) "the book" [as a subject] (e.g. Das Buch ist gut - the book is good)
  • des Buch(e)s (genitive) "the book's/ [of] the book" (e.g. Die Seiten des Buchs sind grün - the pages of the book are green)
  • dem Buch (dative) "[to/for] the book" [as an indirect object] (e.g. Ich gab dem Buch - I gave the book)
  • das Buch (accusative) "the book" [as a direct object] (e.g. Ich sah das Buch - I saw the book)


Modern Greek has four cases: nominative, genitive, accusative, and vocative. For neuters and most groups of feminines and plural masculines, the genitive case differs from the other three. Below is an example of the declension of {{wikt-lang|el|ουρανός}} (sky), which has a different form in the singular of all four cases, together with the appropriate article in both the singular and the plural:
  • Nominative – Genitive – Accusative – Vocative –
Ancient Greek had one additional case, the dative. At some point, it was replaced with the preposition , followed by the accusative. This became necessary when pronunciation simplified, merging the two long vowels eta and omega to short. The result was that dative did not sound much different from the accusative in the singular of the first two groups. However, the dative case is still used in many expressions.With time, only the sigma of was left and got attached to the article, except when an article is not used and it becomes instead. Note that this is not a different case from the accusative.Below is an example with the dative case of the word (city):
  • Nominative – Genitive – Dative – Accusative – Vocative –


Cases in Japanese are marked by particles placed after the nouns.BOOK, Takahashi, Tarou, A Japanese Grammar, 2010, Hitsuji Shobou, Japan, 978-4-89476-244-2, 27, etal, Japanese, 4, A distinctive feature of Japanese is the presence of two cases, which are roughly equivalent to the nominative case in other languages: one representing the sentence topic, the other representing the subject. The most important case markers are the following:
  • Nominative - (ga) for subject, (wa) for the (Topic markerJapanese: は|topic)
  • Genitive - (no)
  • Dative - (ni)
  • Accusative - (wo)
  • Lative - (e), used for destination direction (like in "to some place")
  • Ablative - (kara), used for source direction (like in "from some place")
  • Instrumental - (de)


Cases in Korean are marked by particles placed after the nouns, similar to Japanese. Like Japanese, the nominative case has two distinctions, one representing the topic of a sentence and the other the subject. In informal speech, nominative (이/가, 께서, and 에서) and accusative (을/를) particles are often omitted, while dative (에게) and ablative (에서) are shortened to simply 에, if the meaning of the sentence can easily be inferred from context. Most common case markers are the following:
  • Nominative - (i/ga) for the subject, (kkeseo) for the subject with being respectful, (eseo) for the subject of multitude or organism
  • Genitive - (ui; although transliterated as ui, nowadays it is pronounced the same as 에)
  • Dative - (ege), 한테 (hante)
  • Accusative - (eul/reul)
  • Lative - (e), used for destination direction (like in "to some place")
  • Ablative - (eseo), used for source direction (like in "from some place")
  • Instrumental - (ro/uro)
  • Vocative - (a/ya)


An example of a Latin case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Latin term for "cook," which belongs to (wikt:Appendix:Latin second declension|Latin's second declension class).
  • {{wikt-lang|la|coquus}} (nominative) "[the] cook" [as a subject] (e.g. – the cook is standing there)
  • (genitive) "[the] cook's / [of the] cook" (e.g. – the cook's name is Claudius)
  • (dative) "[to/for the] cook" [as an indirect object] (e.g. – I gave a present to the cook)
  • (accusative) "[the] cook" [as a direct object] (e.g. – I saw the cook)
  • (ablative) "[by/with/from/in the] cook" [in various uses not covered by the above] (e.g. – I am taller than the cook: ablative of comparison)
  • (vocative) "[you] the cook" [addressing the object] (e.g. – I thank you, cook)


Latvian nouns have seven grammatical cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative and vocative. The instrumental case is always identical to the accusative in the singular and to the dative in the plural. It is used as a free-standing case (without a preposition) only in highly restricted contexts in modern Latvian.An example of a Latvian case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Latvian term for "man," which belongs to the first declension class.
  • Nominative: Genitive: Dative: Accusative: Instrumental: Locative: Vocative:


In Lithuanian, only the inflection usually changes in the seven different grammatical cases:
  • Nominative ({{wikt-lang|lt|vardininkas}}): – – "This is a dog."
  • Genitive ({{wikt-lang|lt|kilmininkas}}): – – "Tom took the dog's bone."
  • Dative ({{wikt-lang|lt|naudininkas}}): – – "He gave the bone to another dog."
  • Accusative ({{wikt-lang|lt|galininkas}}): – – "He washed the dog."
  • Instrumental ({{wikt-lang|lt|įnagininkas}}): – – He scared the cats with (using) the dog.
  • Locative ({{wikt-lang|lt|vietininkas}}): – – "We'll meet at the White Dog (Cafe)."
  • Vocative ({{wikt-lang|lt|Å¡auksmininkas}}): – – "He shouted: Hey, dog!"


Vocative forms are given in parentheses after the nominative, as the only pronominal vocatives that are used are the third person ones, which only occur in compoundsMalayalam grammar#Personal pronouns{{Circular reference|date=May 2019}}.{| class="wikitable"! rowspan="1" |! colspan="4" | Singular! colspan="4" | Plural! colspan="1" | Case! colspan="1" | First person! colspan="1" | Second person! colspan="1" | Third person (masculine)! colspan="1" | Third person (feminine)! colspan="1" | First person (exclusive)! colspan="1" | First person (inclusive)! colspan="1" | Second person! colspan="1" | Third Person
! Nominative
| avar (voc. avarē)
! Genitive
| avaruá¹­e
! Dative
| avarkku
! Accusative
| avaru
! Instrumental
| avarāl
! Locative
| avaril (also avaṟkal)
! Sociative
| avarōṭu


An example of a Polish case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Polish terms for "human" () and "monkey" ()
  • Nominative ({{wikt-lang|pl|mianownik}}): Genitive ({{wikt-lang|pl|dopeÅ‚niacz}}): Dative ({{wikt-lang|pl|celownik}}): Accusative ({{wikt-lang|pl|biernik}}): Instrumental ({{wikt-lang|pl|narzÄ™dnik}}): Locative ({{wikt-lang|pl|miejscownik}}): Vocative ({{wikt-lang|pl|woÅ‚acz}}): (or ),


Hungarian declension is relatively simple with regular suffixes attached to the vast majority of nouns. The following table lists a few of the many cases used in Hungarian.{| class="wikitable"{{wikt-lang>hu|lakás|i=-}} – flat/apartment! Suffix! Meaning! Example! Meaning of the example! Case name
∅}}| subjectNominative case
Accusative case
Dative case
Assimilation (linguistics)>Assim.)| withInstrumental-comitative case
Causal-final case
Assimilation (linguistics)>Assim.)| into (used to show transformation)Translative case
Terminative case
| -ba/-be|into (location)|lakásba|into the a flat/apartment| Illative case


Romanian is the only modern major Romance language with a case system for all nouns, whereas all other Romance languages dropped the cases for nouns replacing them by prepositions. An example of Romanian case inflection is given below, using the singular form of the word "boy":
  • (nominative) "(the) boy" [as a subject] (e.g. – The boy stayed home.)
  • (accusative) "(the) boy" [as a direct object] (e.g. – I saw the boy last night.)
  • (genitive) "(the) boy's / of a/the boy" (e.g. – The boy's bike broke down.)
  • (dative) "to a/the boy" (e.g. – I gave the boy a gift.)
  • (vocative) "Boy!" (e.g. – Stay at home, boy!)


An example of a Russian case inflection is given below (with explicit stress marks), using the singular forms of the Russian term for "sailor," which belongs to Russian's first declension class.
  • {{wikt-lang|ru|моря́к}} (nominative) "[the] sailor" [as a subject] (e.g. : The sailor is standing there)
  • (genitive) "[the] sailor's / [of the] sailor" (e.g. : The sailor's son is an artist)
  • (dative) "[to/for the] sailor" [as an indirect object] (e.g. : (They/Someone) gave a present to the sailor)
  • (accusative) "[the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. : (I) see the sailor)
  • (instrumental) "[with/by the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. : (I) have a friendship with the sailor)
  • (prepositional) "[about/on/in the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. : (I) think about the sailor)
Up to ten additional cases are identified by linguists, although today all of them are either incomplete (do not apply to all nouns or do not form full word paradigm with all combinations of gender and number) or degenerate (appear identical to one of the main six cases). The most recognized additional cases are locative (), partitive (), and two forms of vocative — old () and neo-vocative (). Sometimes, so called count-form (for some countable nouns after numerals) is considered to be a sub-case. See details.


Grammatical case was analyzed extensively in Sanskrit. The grammarian Pāṇini identified six semantic roles or kāraka,Pieter Cornelis Verhagen, Handbook of oriental studies: India. A history of Sanskrit grammatical literature in Tibet, Volume 2, BRILL, 2001, {{ISBN|90-04-11882-9}}, p. 281. which by default are related to the following eight Sanskrit cases in order:s:Sanskrit Grammar/Chapter V#Nouns and Adjectives|W.D. Whitney, Sanskrit Grammar]]{| class="wikitable"|+ Sanskrit cases! Order !!Default thematic role !! English case!Example with राम (singular, dual, plural)
Kartṛ >nominative case>Nominative|रामः (rāmaḥ), रामौ (rāmau), रामाः (rāmāḥ)
Karman >Accusative case>Accusative|रामम् (rāmam), रामौ (rāmau), रामान् (rāmān)
Karaṇa >Instrumental case>Instrumental|रामेण (rāmeṇa), रामाभ्याम् (rāmābhyām), रामैः (rāmaiḥ)
Sampradāna >Dative case>Dative|रामाय (rāmāya), रामाभ्याम् (rāmābhyām), रामेभ्यः (rāmebhyaḥ)
Apādāna >Ablative case>Ablative|रामात् (rāmāt), रामाभ्याम् (rāmābhyām), रामेभ्यः (rāmebhyaḥ)
Sambandha >Genitive case>Genitive|रामस्य (rāmasya), रामयोः (rāmayoḥ), रामाणाम् (rāmāṇām)
Adhikaraṇa >Locative case>Locative|रामे (rāme), रामयोः (rāmayoḥ), रामेषु (rāmeṣhu)
Sambodhana >Vocative case>Vocative|हे राम (he rāma), हे रामौ (he rāmau), हे रामाः (he rāmāḥ)
For example, in the following sentence leaf is the agent (kartā, nominative case), tree is the source (apādāna, ablative case), and ground is the locus (adhikaraṇa, locative case). The declensions are reflected in the morphemes -āt, -am, and -au respectively.{| style="white-space: nowrap; text-align: center;"vṛkṣ-āt >parṇ-am >bhūm-au >| patati
from the tree >to the ground >| falls
However, the cases may be deployed for other than the default thematic roles. A notable example is the passive construction. In the following sentence, Devadatta is the kartā, but appears in the instrumental case, and rice, the karman, object, is in the nominative case (as subject of the verb). The declensions are reflected in the morphemes -ena and -am.{| style="white-space: nowrap; text-align: center;"devadatt-ena >odan-am >| pacyati
by Devadatta >| is cooked


The Tamil case system is analyzed in native and missionary grammars as consisting of a finite number of cases.WEB,weblink PDF, The Tamil Case System,, 20 November 2014, JOURNAL, Dravidian Case-Suffixes: Attempt at a Reconstruction, K. V. Zvelebil, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 92, 2, 1972, 272–276, 600654, 10.2307/600654, The usual treatment of Tamil case (Arden 1942)Arden, A. H. 1942, repr. 1969. A Progressive Grammar of the Tamil Language. Madras: Christian Literature Society. is one in which there are seven cases: nominative (first case), accusative (second case), instrumental (third), dative (fourth), ablative (fifth), genitive (sixth), and locative (seventh). In traditional analyses, there is always a clear distinction made between post-positional morphemes and case endings. The vocative is sometimes given a place in the case system as an eighth case, but vocative forms do not participate in usual morphophonemic alternations and do not govern the use of any postpositions. Modern grammarians, however, argue that this eight-case classification is coarse and artificial and that Tamil usage is best understood if each suffix or combination of suffixes is seen as marking a separate case.JOURNAL, Standardization or restandardization: The case for "Standard" Spoken Tamil, Harold F. Schiffman, Language in Society, 27, 3, June 1998, 359–385, 10.1017/S0047404598003030, {| class="wikitable"! Tamil !! English !! Significance !! Usual suffixes!Suffixes in Tamil !! Example
nominative case>Nominative Subject of sentence [Zero]| mannan (மன்னன்)
Accusative case>Accusative Object of action -ai | mannanai (மன்ன்னை)
Instrumental case>Instrumental, Social Means by which action is done (Instrumental), Association, or means by which action is done (Social) -al, -udan, -kondu| mannanaal, mannanudan, mannanOdu, (மன்னனால், மன்னனுடன், மன்னனோடு)
Dative case>Dative Object to whom action is performed, Object for whom action is performed (u)kku. poruttu, aaga| mannanukku, mannanin poruttu, mannanukkaaga (மன்னனுக்கு, மன்னனின் பொருட்டு, மன்னனுக்காக)
Ablative case>Ablative of motion from Motion from an animate/inanimate object -in, -il, -ilrundu| mannanin, mannanil, mannanilirundu (மன்னனின், மன்னனில், மன்னனிலிருந்து)
Genitive case>Genitive Possessive athu, udaiya| mannanadu, mannanudaiya (மன்னனது, மன்னனுடைய)
Locative case>Locative Place in which, On the person of (animate) in the presence of -il, -idam; kaṇ (Old Tamil)| vīṭṭil, mannanidam (வீட்டில், மன்னனிடம்); பூரியார்கண் = கீழோரிடம்; பற்றற்றகண்ணும் = செல்வமில்லாத நிலையிலும்
Vocative case>Vocative Addressing, calling e, a| mannanE, mannavaa (மன்னனே, மன்னவா)


Telugu has eight cases.{| class="wikitable"!!Telugu!English!Significance!Usual Suffixes!Transliteration of Suffixes|(I)|Prathamā Vibhakti (ప్రథమా విభక్తి)
Nominative case>Nominative|Subject of sentence|డు, ము, వు, లు|ḍu, mu, vu, lu
|(II)|Dvitīyā Vibhakti (ద్వితీయా విభక్తి)
Accusative case>Accusative|Object of action|నిన్, నున్, లన్, కూర్చి, గురించి|nin, nun, lan, kūrchi, gurinchi
|(III)|Trutīyā Vibhakti (తృతీయా విభక్తి)
Instrumental case>Instrumental, Social|Means by which action is done (Instrumental); Association, or means by which action is done (Social)|చేతన్, చేన్, తోడన్, తోన్|chētan, chēn, tōḍan, tōn
|(IV)|Chaturthi Vibhakti (చతుర్థి విభక్తి)
Dative case>Dative|Object to whom action is performed, object for whom action is performed|కొఱకున్, కై|korakun, kai
|(V)|Panchamī Vibhakti (పంచమీ విభక్తి)
Ablative case>Ablative of motion from|Motion from an animate/inanimate object|వలనన్, కంటెన్, పట్టి|valanan, kaṃṭen, paṭṭi
|(VI)|Shashthī Vibhakti (షష్ఠీ విభక్తి)
Genitive case>Genitive|Possessive|కిన్, కున్, యొక్క, లోన్, లోపలన్|kin, kun, yokka, lōn, lōpalan
|(VII)|Saptamī Vibhakti (సప్తమీ విభక్తి)
Locative case>Locative|Place in which, On the person of (animate) in the presence of|అందున్, నన్|aṃdun, nan
|(VIII)|Sambodhanā Prathamā Vibhakti (సంబోధనా ప్రథమా విభక్తి)
Vocative case>Vocative|Addressing, calling|ఓ, ఓయీ, ఓరీ, ఓసీ|ō, ōī, ōrī, ōsī


As languages evolve, case systems change. In early Ancient Greek, for example, the genitive and ablative cases became combined, giving five cases, rather than the six retained in Latin. In modern Hindi, the Sanskrit cases have been reduced to three: a direct case (for subjects and direct objects) and oblique case, and a vocative case.R. S. McGregor, Outline of Hindi Grammar, Oxford University Press, 1972.Spencer, A. (2005). Case in Hindi. In Proceedings of the LFG05 Conference. Retrieved fromweblink In English, apart from the pronouns discussed above, case has vanished altogether except for the possessive/non-possessive dichotomy in nouns.The evolution of the treatment of case relationships can be circular.{{rp|pp.167–174}} Adpositions can become unstressed and sound like they are an unstressed syllable of a neighboring word. A postposition can thus merge into the stem of a head noun, developing various forms depending on the phonological shape of the stem. Affixes can then be subject to various phonological processes such as assimilation, vowel centering to the schwa, phoneme loss, and fusion, and these processes can reduce or even eliminate the distinctions between cases. Languages can then compensate for the resulting loss of function by creating adpositions, thus coming full circle.Recent experiments in agent-based modeling have shown how case systems can emerge and evolve in a population of language users.Remi van Trijp, "The Evolution of Case Systems for Marking Event Structure {{webarchive|url= |date=2013-06-18 }}". In: Steels, Luc (Ed.), Experiments in Cultural Language Evolution, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2012, p. 169-205. The experiments demonstrate that language users may introduce new case markers to reduce the cognitive effort required for semantic interpretation, hence facilitating communication through language. Case markers then become generalized through analogical reasoning and reuse.

Linguistic typology

Morphosyntactic alignment

Languages are categorized into several case systems, based on their morphosyntactic alignment—how they group verb agents and patients into cases:
  • Nominative–accusative (or simply accusative): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is in the same case as the agent (subject) of a transitive verb; this case is then called the nominative case, with the patient (direct object) of a transitive verb being in the accusative case.
  • Ergative–absolutive (or simply ergative): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is in the same case as the patient (direct object) of a transitive verb; this case is then called the absolutive case, with the agent (subject) of a transitive verb being in the ergative case.
  • Ergative–accusative (or tripartite): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is in its own case (the intransitive case), separate from that of the agent (subject) or patient (direct object) of a transitive verb (which is in the ergative case or accusative case, respectively).
  • Active–stative (or simply active): The argument (subject) of an intransitive verb can be in one of two cases; if the argument is an agent, as in "He ate," then it is in the same case as the agent (subject) of a transitive verb (sometimes called the agentive case), and if it is a patient, as in "He tripped," then it is in the same case as the patient (direct object) of a transitive verb (sometimes called the patientive case).
  • Trigger: One noun in a sentence is the topic or focus. This noun is in the trigger case, and information elsewhere in the sentence (for example a verb affix in Tagalog) specifies the role of the trigger. The trigger may be identified as the agent, patient, etc. Other nouns may be inflected for case, but the inflections are overloaded; for example, in Tagalog, the subject and object of a verb are both expressed in the genitive case when they are not in the trigger case.
The following are systems that some languages use to mark case instead of, or in addition to, declension:
  • Positional: Nouns are not inflected for case; the position of a noun in the sentence expresses its case.
  • Adpositional: Nouns are accompanied by words that mark case.

Language families

  • With a few exceptions, most languages in the Uralic family make extensive use of cases. Finnish has 15 cases according to the traditional description (or up to 30 depending on the interpretation).WEB,weblink Finnish Grammar – Adverbial cases,, 15 September 2014, However, only 12 are commonly used in speech (see Finnish noun cases and Finnish locative system). Estonian has 14 (see Estonian locative system) and Hungarian has 18, both with additional archaic cases used for some words.
  • Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages also exhibit complex case systems. Since the abovementioned languages, along with Korean and Japanese, shared certain similarities, linguists proposed an Altaic family and reconstructed its case system; although the hypothesis had been largely discredited.
  • The Tsez language, a Northeast Caucasian language, has 64 cases.
  • The original version of John Quijada's constructed language Ithkuil has 81 noun cases,WEB,weblink A Philosophical Grammar of Ithkuil, a Constructed Language – Chapter 4: Case Morphology,, 15 September 2014, dead,weblink" title="">weblink June 8, 2009, and its descendent Ilaksh and Ithkuil after the 2011 revision both have 96 noun cases.WEB,weblink Chapter 4, 15 September 2014, dead,weblink" title="">weblink March 12, 2009, WEB,weblink A Grammar of the Ithkuil Language – Chapter 4: Case Morphology,, 15 September 2014,
The lemma form of words, which is the form chosen by convention as the canonical form of a word, is usually the most unmarked or basic case, which is typically the nominative, trigger, or absolutive case, whichever a language may have.

See also





General references

External links

{{Grammatical cases}}

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