Examples of English Grammatical Case Forms
In English, things we speak about by means of nounsOpens in new window stand in various relations to other things, and to actions and attributes. Hence, when these relations are expressed in language,Opens in new window nouns have various relations to other words in the sentences in which they are applied.
Take for example, in the sentence, “The horse eats the man’s hay,”
- horse stands for that which does the action expressed by the verb;
- hay stands for that upon which the action is done;
- man’s is used to indicate ‘to whom the hay belongs.’
The words horse and hay have with each other a certain connection with the action verb eats, and man’s has a certain connection with the noun hay.
What then is Case?
Some languages have several endings which nouns are made to assume, to indicate the various relations in which they stand to other words. These different forms of the noun are what is called case. On this note, we look at the definition of case.
In simple words, Case is a set of endings that words take to indicate its function and relationship to other words in the sentence.
The process of forming the different cases of a noun is called inflectionOpens in new window.
The English language has three forms of case; namely:
- The Subjective or Nominative CaseOpens in new window
- The Objective or Accusative CaseOpens in new window
- The Possessive or Genitive CaseOpens in new window
These three cases are all different in pronouns; in nouns the nominative and objective cases (or accusative case) are alike.
1. The Nominative Case
The Nominative Case is also known as the subjective case. In English the subjectOpens in new window of a verb is usually in the nominative caseOpens in new window. This can be a nounOpens in new window, noun–phraseOpens in new window or pronounOpens in new window. The subject in the nominative case answers the question “Who or what is performing the action?”
In this sentence, the noun 'Gretchen', denotes the subject in relation to the verb 'studies'; it is also the doer of the action, expressed by the verb 'studies'. Thus Gretchen is in the nominative case.
How to identify the nominative case in a sentence
To identify the nominative case insert who? or what? before the verb:
Nouns, pronouns and noun phrases Opens in new window always appear in the nominative case. The main function of the Nominative Case is to indicate the subject of the sentence.
2. The Accusative Case
You identify words in the accusative case by inserting whom? or what? before the verb and its subject:
3. The possessive case
A noun or a pronoun which denotes possessor or owner of something is said to be in the possessive case. A possessive caseOpens in new window answers the question “whose”. Pronouns in the possessive case include: my, our, your, his, her, its, their.
An apostrophe is used to mark the possessive case of nouns; this is usually formed in the singular number by adding to the nominative an –s with an apostrophe (‘) before it, as in:
one’s home, by day’s end, John’s pet, the witness’s testimony, a fox’s habitat, the knife’s edge, etc.
Likewise in the plural, by simply tagging along its tail with this mark, as in:
the Ages’ voice, boys’ school, girls’ squad, horses’ tails.
However, when the noun is in plural, but does not end in –s the possessive is formed by adding ’s as in: men’s club, children’s books, etc.
The following are examples of the declension of nouns in English:
|Nominative Case||Objective Case||Possessive Case|