Nominative Case

What is Nominative Case?

Basic idea of nominative case
Basic Idea of Nominative case

The Nominative Case (also called Subjective case) is the case form under which a nounOpens in new window is used when it is the subject of a verbOpens in new window. This case form primarily expresses the idea of subject and predicateOpens in new window. A subject heads a sentence, and requires the verb to agree with it.

In traditional English the subjects of verbs, which can be nounsOpens in new window, noun–phrasesOpens in new window, or pronounsOpens in new window, are always in the nominative case. The subject in the Nominative Case answers the question “Who or what is performing the action?”

Consider the example given below
  • Gretchen studies English.
  • The boy was struck by his brother.

Looking at the first sentence, we can tell that the noun Gretchen:

  • stands for that about which something is said by means of the verb studies;
  • indicates the subject of the verb studies, because it answers the question who or what performed the action described by the verb.
  • Therefore the noun, Gretchen, is marked in the nominative case.
  • Likewise, in the second sentence, the noun, boy, stand for that about which something is said by means of the verb was struck, and therefore the noun boy is marked in the nominative case, because it is the subject of the verb was struck.
Important Hint  

Note that if the verb of the sentence is marked in the active voice (as we witnessed above), the subject of the verb stands for the doer of the action described by the verb. But, supposing the verb occurs in the passive voiceOpens in new window, the subject of the verb stands for the object of the action described by the verb. In either case the subject stands for that about which something is said by means of the verb.

Guidelines for Identifying the Nominative Case

To identify the nominative case insert who? or what? before the verb:

Observe the following examples:
    1. Genesis shot the video.
  • Who shot the video? (the answer is) Genesis
  • Therefore, Genesis is in the Nominative case.
  • 2.  Worries make Alice unhappy.
  • What make Alice unhappy? (the answer is) Worries
  • Therefore, Worries is in the Nominative case.
  • 3.  The school gate is opened at 6:30 a.m.
  • What is opened at 6:30 a.m? (the answer is) The school gate
  • Therefore, The school gate is the Nominative case.
  • 4.  Salary was paid to the workers.
  • What was paid to the workers? (the answer is) Money
  • Therefore, money is in the Nominative case.

Pronouns in the Nominative case

The English pronounsOpens in new window, I, he, she, they, and (in some dialects) who are typically nominative. These pronouns can only be used as subjects; we can say, for instance, I bake cakes (and not Me bake cakes).

Other pronouns: you, it and one are not typically nominative, because they can only serve as objects, or, typically serve as objects in the objective or accusative caseOpens in new window.

Consider the following:
    1.  I build office equipment and machines.
  • Who build ...? (the answer is) I
  • Therefore, I is in the Nominative Case.
  • 2.  We are computer engineers.
  • Who are computer ...? (the answer is) We
  • Therefore, We is in the Nominative Case.
  • 3.  He drives an SUV
  • Who drives an SUV? (the answer is) He
  • Therefore, he is in the Nominative Case.
  • 4.  They spent longer hours fixing the machine.
  • Who spent ...? (the answer is) They
  • Therefore, they is in the Nominative Case.

Relationship with other Cases

The Nominative Case, like all other cases, is assigned primarily to nouns, pronouns and noun phrases, as only these can be subjects of verbs. In languages with extensive case systems (e.g. Latin, Russian), other parts of speech, such as demonstratives, articles, and adjectives can also receive case markings, including nominative, by agreement with nouns.

However, all verbs types, including transitive and intransitive, occur with items in the nominative case, as all have subjects. And by contrast only transitive verbs can take items in the accusative or objective case, as only they have objects.

Important Hints 

Nouns, pronouns and Noun phrases always appears in the nominative case. The main function of the Nominative Case is to indicate the subject of the sentence.
Any noun put in apposition with the subject is also in the nominative case.