Accusative Case

The English Accusative Case Treated with Examples

In English and some European language, when a verbOpens in new window (a participleOpens in new window or gerundOpens in new window) indicates an action which is directed towards some object, the word indicating that objectOpens in new window stands in the objective relation to the verb. Thus, the Accusative case (or, as it is usually called, Objective case), is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. In other words, it is the case which a nounOpens in new window or pronounOpens in new window takes when it stands for the object of the action spoken of in some verb, or when it comes after a prepositionOpens in new window.

Consider the following sentences:
  • The stone struck the boy.
  • John was riding in a coach.

In the sentence, “The stone struck the boy,” the act of striking is spoken of as being directed to a certain object, (namely, boy). The word boy, which indicate the object of the action, is called object of the verb, and is in the objective relation (accusative case) to the verb 'struck'. However, in the second sentence, “John was riding in a coach,” the noun coach, which comes after the preposition in, is in the objective relation (accusative case) to the preposition 'in'.

Consider also the following:
  • Seeing the tumult, I went out.
    (tumult is in the objective relation (accusative case) to the participle ‘seeing’.
  • Hating one’s neighbor is forbidden by the Gospel.
    (Here, neighbor is in the objective relation (accusative case) to the gerund ‘hating’.
Note the following:
  1. The object of a verb is the word, phraseOpens in new window, or clauseOpens in new window which stands for the object of the action described by the verb.
  2. As an action can be exerted only upon a thing, it is only a substantiveOpens in new window, or a phrase or clause which is equivalent to substantive, that can stand in the objective relation to a verb, participle, or gerund. An adjectiveOpens in new window cannot be the object of a verb.
  3. The objective relation is expressed by the rule, that “transitive verbsOpens in new window, with their imperfect participles and gerunds, govern nouns and pronouns in the accusative case.”
  4. In compound sentences an entire clause may be in the objective relation to a verb, participle, or gerund.

More on Accusative case

When a noun in the objective case is governed by a verb, the noun in the objective case answers to the question formed by putting whom or what before the verb and its subjectOpens in new window. This is so in the example we observed in the beginning of this study, “Whom or what did the stone strike?” (the answer is “boy.”)

Consider the following examples:
    1.  She studies English.
  • What does she study? (the answer is) English
  • Therefore, English is in the Accusative Case.
  • 2.  Genesis manufacture computer programs.
  • What do Genesis manufacture? (the answer is) computer programs
  • Therefore, computer programs is in the Accusative Case.
  • 3.  He loves Alice
  • Whom does he love? (the answer is) Alice
  • Therefore, Alice is in the Accusative Case.

In some European languages including LatinOpens in new window, GermanOpens in new window, RussianOpens in new window, there are case–systems which allow direct objects to take specific accusative forms. The English language is not structured that way except for the personal pronounsOpens in new window, many of which have a special accusative form. For instance, me is the accusative case form of I. This is simply because: we can’t use I immediately after a verb; we use me instead.

For example, saying “Gretchen teach I sounds awkward in standard English (though it may be acceptable in some dialects); using the accusative pronoun “me”, as in: “Gretchen teach me, is the standard way of saying this.

The distinct accusative forms in English are the pronouns: me, him, her, us, them and (in some dialects) whom. However, in earlier English, thee existed as the accusative corresponding to thou.

Examples include:
    1. The welfare service sponsored him.
  • Whom did the welfare service sponsor? (the answer is) him.
  • Therefore, “him” being the direct object of the verb “sponsored,” is in the accusative case.
  • 2. John helped her?
  • Whom did John advise? (the answer is) her.
  • Therefore, “her” being the direct object of the verb “helped,” is in the Accusative Case.
  • 3. He taught me.
  • Whom did he teach? (the answer is) me.
  • Therefore, “me” being the direct object of the verb “taught,” is in the Accusative Case.

The Accusative case or the Objective case, as otherwise known, can also occur in the appositive.

Consider the following:
    Gretchen helped John, her friend.
  • We saw Mr. Ephraim, our class teacher.
  • The principal rewarded Alice, the cheer–leader.

All the underlined words are put in apposition with the objects. So, they are in the Accusative Case.

A noun which comes after a preposition is also said to be in the accusative case:

Examples include:
  • The bible is on the table.

The underlined noun “bible”, is in the accusative case, governed by the preposition “in”. Also in the following sentences, the nouns – the shelf, the west, and the county bus are governed by the prepositions on, in and for respectively. These nouns we mentioned are also in the Accusative cases.

  • The book is on the shelf.
  • The sun sets in the west.
  • I have been waiting for  the county bus.

Contrast and Relationship — In nouns the accusative case is the same in form as the nominativeOpens in new window, the form of a noun which is the subject of the verb. Thus, a noun in the nominative case is generally put before the verb (in assertions, not in questions): the noun which is the object of the verb is generally put after the verb. These rules, we must beware, are by no means invariable. The former is frequently ignored in poetry, or when an adverb or adverbial phrase is used before the verb and its subject; as “On rushed the foe;” “By the wayside sate an old man.” The second rule is also sometimes neglected for the sake of emphasis: as in such a sentence as, “The two brothers were equally guilty; John he punished, but Williams he forgave.”

Important Hint  

Note that the verbs in the sentences above are intransitive but they are followed by a preposition, and the preposition is followed by a noun and the noun is marked in the accusative case.

In languages with extended agreement systems in addition to case systems, Accusative Case (and other cases) can occur on such parts of speech as adjectives, articles and demonstratives, by agreement with a noun serving as a direct object.