Case 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 what case they are in. As a language evolves, cases can merge (for instance, in Ancient Greek, the locative case merged with the dative), a phenomenon formally called syncretism.[2]

English has largely lost its case system, although personal pronouns still have three cases that are simplified forms of the nominative, accusative and genitive cases that 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; whosever[3]). Forms such as I, he and we are used for the subject ("I kicked the ball"), whereas forms such as me, him and us are used for the object ("John kicked me").

Languages such as Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, Latin, Armenian, Hungarian, Hindi, Tibetan, Czech, Slovak, Turkish, Tamil, Romanian, Russian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Estonian, Finnish, Icelandic, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Basque and the majority of the Caucasian 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; German and Icelandic have four; Turkish, Latin and Russian each have at least six; Armenian, Czech, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian have seven; Sanskrit has eight; Estonian has fourteen and Finnish has fifteen, Hungarian has eighteen and Tsez has sixty-four.

Commonly encountered cases include nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. A role that one of these languages marks by case will often be marked in English using 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 τῷ ποδί (tôi podí, meaning "the foot") with both words (the definite article, and the noun πούς (poús) "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".[4]: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, whereas thematic roles are a semantic one. Languages having cases often exhibit free word order, because thematic roles are not required to be marked by position in the sentence.


The English word case used in this sense comes from the Latin casus, which is derived from the verb cadere, "to fall", from the Proto-Indo-European root *ḱad-.[5] The Latin word is a calque of the Greek πτῶσις, ptôsis, lit. "falling, fall".[6] The sense is that all other cases are considered to have "fallen" away from the nominative. This picture is also reflected in the word declension, from Latin declinere, "to lean", from the PIE root *ḱley-.

The equivalent to "case" in several other European languages also derives from casus, including cas in French, caso in Spanish and Kasus in German. The Russian word паде́ж (padyézh) is a calque from Greek and similarly contains a root meaning "fall", and the German Fall and Czech pád simply mean "fall", and are used for both the concept of grammatical case and to refer to physical falls. The Finnish equivalent is sija, which can also mean "position" or "support".

Indo-European languages

On this sign in Russian memorializing an anniversary of the city of Balakhna, the word Balakhna on the right is in the nominative case, whereas the word Balakhne is in the dative case in Balakhne 500 Let ('Balakhna is 500 years old', or more literally 'To Balakhna 500 (of) years') on the front of the sign. Furthermore, let is in the genitive (plural) case.

Although not very prominent in modern English, cases featured much more saliently in Old English and other ancient Indo-European languages, such as Latin, Ancient Greek[disputed ], 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 Bulgarian[7]), 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:

Case Indicates Sample case words Sample sentence Interrogative Notes
Nominative Subject of a finite verb we We went to the store. Who or what? Corresponds to English's subject pronouns.
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 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 Movement away from from us The victim went from us to see the doctor. Whence? From where/whom?
Genitive Possessor of another noun 's,
of (the),
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 Addressee John John, are you all right?
Hello, John!
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 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 from language to language, and are often quite complex. Case is based fundamentally on changes to the noun to indicate the noun's role in the sentence. This is not how English works; word order and prepositions are used to achieve this.


Modern English has largely abandoned the inflectional case system of 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).[a]

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:[4]:p.89

nominativeaccusative or ergativegenitivedativelocative or prepositionalablative and/or instrumentalothers.

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 AD:

There are five Cases, the right [nominative], the generic [genetive], the dative, the accusative, and the vocative.[14]

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 Russian or 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:

Case рыба, ryba
fish f. anim.
стол, stol
table m. inan.
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative rýba rýba stol stolý
Accusative rýbu ryb
Genitive rýby stolá stolóv
Dative rýbe rýbam stolú stolám
Instrumental rýboj rýbami stolóm stolámi
Prepositional rýbe rýbax stolé stoláx
aqua, aquae
water f.
bellum, bellī
war n.
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative aqua aquae bellum bella
Accusative aquam aquās
Genitive aquae aquārum bellī bellōrum
Dative aquīs bellō bellīs
Ablative aquā

Case concord systems

In the most common[4] 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, Balto-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]

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.[15] 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:

  • Кот (NOM, animate, zero ending) ло́вит мыше́й. ((The) cat catches mice)
  • Столб (NOM, inanimate, zero ending) де́ржит кры́шу. ((The) pillar holds a/the roof)


  • Пётр гла́дит кота́ (ACC, animate, -a ending). (Peter strokes a/the cat) or (Peter is stroking a/the cat)


  • Пётр лома́ет столб (ACC, inanimate, zero ending). (Peter breaks a/the pillar) or (Peter is breaking a/the pillar)



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.

  • краіна (nominative) "[the] country" [as a subject] (e.g. Гэта краіна знаходзіцца ў Еўропе – this country is located in Europe)
  • краіны (genitive) "[the] country's / [of the] country" (e.g. Урад Нідэрландаў знаходзіцца ў Гаазе, але сталіца краіны - Амстэрдам – the Dutch government is situated in The Hague, but the country's capital is Amsterdam)
  • краіне (dative) "[to/for the] country" [as an indirect object] (e.g. Новай краіне не засталося ніякіх прыродных рэсурсаў – there was no natural resources left for the new country)
  • краіну (accusative) "country" [as a direct object] (e.g. Я часта наведваю гэту краіну – I often visit this country)
  • краінай (instrumental) "[with the] country/[by the] country/[be a] country" (e.g. Сінгапур быў беднай краінай – Singapore was a poor country)
  • у краіне (locative) "[in the] country" [as a direct object] (e.g. У краіне не хапае ежы – 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 definite article and one of the German words for "sailor".

  • der Seemann (nominative) "the sailor" [as a subject] (e.g. Der Seemann steht da – the sailor is standing there)
  • des Seemannes (genitive) "the sailor's / [of] the sailor" (e.g. Der Name des Seemannes ist Otto – the name of the sailor is Otto)
  • dem Seemann(e) (dative) "[to/for] the sailor" [as an indirect object] (e.g. Ich gab dem Seemann ein Geschenk – I gave a present to the sailor)
  • den Seemann (accusative) "the sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. Ich sah den Seemann – I saw the sailor)


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 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 – ο ουρανός / οι ουρανοί
  • Genitive – του ουρανού / των ουρανών
  • Accusative – τον ουρανό / τους ουρανούς
  • Vocative – ουρανέ / ουρανοί

Ancient Greek had one additional case, the dative. At some point, it was replaced with the preposition εις, 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 εις was left and got attached to the article, except when an article is not used and it becomes σε instead. Note that this is not a different case from the accusative.

Below is an example with the dative case of the word πόλη (city):

  • Nominative – η πόλη / οι πόλεις
  • Genitive – της πόλης / των πόλεων
  • Dative – τη πόλη / ταις πόλεσι
  • Accusative – την πόλη / τις πόλεις
  • Vocative – πόλη / πόλεις


Cases in Japanese are marked by particles placed after the nouns.[16] 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
  • Genitive - (no)
  • Dative - (ni)
  • Accusative - (wo)
  • Lative - (e), used for destination direction (like in "to some place")
  • Ablative - から (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 and 은/는) 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 - 이/가 (i/ga) for the subject, 은/는 (eun/neun) for the topic
  • Genitive - (ui; although transliterated as ui, nowadays it is pronounced the same as 에)
  • Dative - 에게 (ege), 한테 (hante)
  • Accusative - 을/를 (eul/reul)
  • Lative - (e), used for destination direction (like in "to some place")
  • Ablative - 에서 (eseo), used for source direction (like in "from some place")
  • Instrumental - 로/으로 (ro/uro)
  • Vocative - 아/야 (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 Latin's second declension class.

  • coquus (nominative) "[the] cook" [as a subject] (e.g. coquus ibī stat – the cook is standing there)
  • coquī (genitive) "[the] cook's / [of the] cook" (e.g. nōmen coquī Claudius est – the cook's name is Claudius)
  • coquō (dative) "[to/for the] cook" [as an indirect object] (e.g. coquō dōnum dedī – I gave a present to the cook)
  • coquum (accusative) "[the] cook" [as a direct object] (e.g. coquum vīdī – I saw the cook)
  • coquō (ablative) "[by/with/from/in the] cook" [in various uses not covered by the above] (e.g. sum altior coquō – I am taller than the cook: ablative of comparison)
  • coque (vocative) "[you] the cook" [addressing the object] (e.g. grātiās tibi agō, coque – 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: vīrs
  • Genitive: vīra
  • Dative: vīram
  • Instrumental: ar vīru
  • Accusative: vīru
  • Locative: vīrā
  • Vocative: vīr


In Lithuanian, only the inflection usually changes in the seven different grammatical cases:

  • Nominative (vardininkas): Tai yra šuo – "This is a dog."
  • Genitive (kilmininkas): Tomas paėmė šuns kaulą – "Tom took the dog's bone."
  • Dative (naudininkas): Jis davė kaulą kitam šuniui – "He gave the bone to another dog."
  • Accusative (galininkas): Jis nuprausė šunį – "He washed the dog."
  • Instrumental (įnagininkas): Jis šunimi išgąsdino kates – He scared the cats with (using) the dog.
  • Locative (vietininkas): Susitiksime "Baltame šunyje – "We'll meet at the White Dog (Cafe)."
  • Vocative (šauksmininkas): Jis sušuko: Ei, šunie! – "He shouted: Hey, dog!"


An example of a Polish case inflection is given below, using the singular forms of the Polish terms for "human" (człowiek) and "monkey" (małpa)


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.

lakás – flat/apartment
Suffix Meaning Example Meaning of the example Case name
subject 'lakás' flat/apartment (as a subject) Nominative case
-ot/(-at)/-et/-öt/-t direct object 'lakást' flat/apartment (as an object) Accusative case
-nak/-nek indirect object 'lakásnak' to the flat/apartment Dative case
-val/-vel (Assim.) with 'lakással' with the flat/apartment Instrumental-comitative case
-ért for, for the purpose of 'lakásért' for the flat/apartment Causal-final case
-vá/-vé (Assim.) into 'lakássá' [turn] into a flat/apartment Translative case
-ig as far as, up to 'lakásig' as far as the flat/apartment Terminative 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":

  • Băiatul (nominative) "[the] boy" [as a subject] (e.g. Băiatul a stat acasă – the boy stayed home)
  • Băiat (accusative) "boy" [as a direct object] (e.g. L-am văzut aseară pe băiat – I saw the boy last night)
  • Băiatului (genitive) "[the] boy's / [of the] boy" (e.g. Bicicleta băiatului s-a stricat – the boy's bike broke down)
  • Băiatului (dative) "[to the] boy" (e.g. I-am dat un cadou băiatului – I gave the boy a gift)
  • Băiete! (vocative) "Boy!" (e.g. Stai acasă, băiete! – 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.

  • моря́к (nominative) "[the] sailor" [as a subject] (e.g. Там стоит моряк: The sailor is standing there)
  • морякá (genitive) "[the] sailor's / [of the] sailor" (e.g. Сын моряка — художник: The sailor's son is an artist)
  • моряку́ (dative) "[to/for the] sailor" [as an indirect object] (e.g. Моряку подарили подарок: (They/Someone) gave a present to the sailor)
  • морякá (accusative) "[the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. Вижу моряка: (I) see the sailor)
  • моряко́м (instrumental) "[with/by the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. Дружу с моряком: (I) have a friendship with the sailor)
  • о/на/в моряке́ (prepositional) "[about/on/in the] sailor" [as a direct object] (e.g. Думаю о моряке: (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 (в лесу́, на мосту́, в слеза́х), partitive (ча́ю, са́хару, песку́), and two forms of vocative — old (Го́споди, Бо́же, о́тче) and neo-vocative (Маш, пап, ребя́т). 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,[17] which by default are related to the following eight Sanskrit cases in order:[18]

Sanskrit cases
Order Default thematic role English case Example with राम
Case 1 प्रथमा Kartṛ Nominative रामः (rāmaḥ), रामौ (rāmau), रामाः (rāmāḥ)
Case 2 द्वितीया Karman Accusative रामम् (rāmam), रामौ (rāmau), रामान् (rāmān)
Case 3 तृतीया Karaṇa Instrumental रामेण (rāmeṇa), रामाभ्याम् (rāmābhyām), रामैः (rāmaiḥ)
Case 4 चतुर्थी Sampradāna Dative रामाय (rāmāya), रामाभ्याम् (rāmābhyām), रामेभ्यः (rāmebhyaḥ)
Case 5 पञचमी Apādāna Ablative रामात् (rāmāt), रामाभ्याम् (rāmābhyām), रामेभ्यः (rāmebhyaḥ)
Case 6 षष्ठी Sambandha Genitive रामस्य (rāmasya), रामयोः (rāmayoḥ), रामाणाम् (rāmāṇām)
Case 7 सप्तमी Adhikaraṇa Locative रामे (rāme), रामयोः (rāmayoḥ), रामेषु (rāmeṣhu)
Case 8 सम्बोधन Sambodhana 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.

vṛkṣ-āt parṇ-am bhūm-au patati
from the tree a leaf 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.

devadatt-ena odan-am pacyati
by Devadatta the rice is cooked


The Tamil case system is analyzed in native and missionary grammars as consisting of a finite number of cases.[19][20] The usual treatment of Tamil case (Arden 1942)[21] 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[20] and that Tamil usage is best understood if each suffix or combination of suffixes is seen as marking a separate case.[22]

Tamil English Significance Usual suffixes Suffixes in Tamil
First case(எழுவாய் வேற்றுமை) Nominative Subject of sentence [Zero]
Second case (செயப்படுபொருள் வேற்றுமை) Accusative Object of action -ai
Third case (கருவி/துணை வேற்றுமை) Instrumental, Social Means by which action is done (Instrumental), Association, or means by which action is done (Social) -al, -udan, -kondu ஆல், உடன், கொண்டு
Fourth case Dative Object to whom action is performed, Object for whom action is performed (u)kku கு
Fifth case Ablative of motion from Motion from an animate/inanimate object -in இன்
Sixth case Genitive Possessive athu அது
Seventh case Locative Place in which, On the person of (animate) in the presence of -kan கண்
Eighth case (விளி வேற்றுமை) Vocative Addressing, calling e, a


Telugu has eight cases.

Telugu English Significance Usual Suffixes Transliteration of Suffixes
(I) Prathamā Vibhakti (ప్రథమా విభక్తి) Nominative Subject of sentence డు, ము, వు, లు ḍu, mu, vu, lu
(II) Dvitīyā Vibhakti (ద్వితీయా విభక్తి) Accusative Object of action నిన్, నున్, లన్, కూర్చి, గురించి nin, nun, lan, kūrchi, gurinchi
(III) Trutīyā Vibhakti (తృతీయా విభక్తి) 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 Object to whom action is performed, object for whom action is performed కొఱకున్, కై korakun, kai
(V) Panchamī Vibhakti (పంచమీ విభక్తి) Ablative of motion from Motion from an animate/inanimate object వలనన్, కంటెన్, పట్టి valanan, kaṃṭen, paṭṭi
(VI) Shashthī Vibhakti (షష్ఠీ విభక్తి) Genitive Possessive కిన్, కున్, యొక్క, లోన్, లోపలన్ kin, kun, yokka, lōn, lōpalan
(VII) Saptamī Vibhakti (సప్తమీ విభక్తి) 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 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 two: a direct case (for subjects and direct objects) and an oblique case.[23] 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.[4]: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.[24] 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

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.

With a few exceptions, most languages in the Uralic family make extensive use of cases. Finnish has 15 cases according to the traditional understanding (or up to 30 depending on the interpretation).[25] However, only 12 are commonly used in speech (see Finnish noun cases). Estonian has 14 and Hungarian has 18, both with additional archaic cases used for some words.

Some languages have very many cases. For example, Tsez, a Northeast Caucasian language, has 64 cases.

The original version of John Quijada's constructed language Ithkuil has 81 noun cases,[26] and its descendent Ilaksh and Ithkuil after the 2011 revision both have 96 noun cases.[27][28]

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


  1. ^ The status of the possessive as an affix or a clitic is the subject of debate.[8][9] 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"[10]) or as an inflection[11][12] of the last word of a phrase ("edge inflection").[13]


  1. ^ "Grammatical Features - Associativity". www.grammaticalfeatures.net. 
  2. ^ Clackson 2007, p. 91.
  3. ^ The Chambers Dictionary, 11th edition
  4. ^ a b c d Blake, Barry J. Case. Cambridge University Press: 2001.
  5. ^ Harper, Douglas. "case". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  6. ^ "L. cāsus used to translate Gr. πτῶσις lit. 'falling, fall'. By Aristotle πτῶσις was applied to any derived, inflected, or extended form of the simple ὄνομα or 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. δικαίως was a πτῶσις of δίκαιος), the other tenses and moods of the verb, including its interrogative form. The grammarians, following the Stoics, restricted πτῶσις to nouns, and included the nominative under the designation". "case". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ Slavic Languages on quickia.com Archived 2009-11-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Hudson, Richard (2013). "A cognitive analysis of John's hat". In Börjars, Kersti; Denison, David; Scott, Alan. Morphosyntactic Categories and the Expression of Possession. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 123–148. ISBN 9789027273000. 
  9. ^ Börjars, Kersti; Denison, David; Krajewski, Grzegorz; Scott, Alan (2013). "Expression of Possession in English". In Börjars, Kersti; Denison, David; Scott, Alan. Morphosyntactic Categories and the Expression of Possession. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 149–176. ISBN 9789027273000. 
  10. ^ Quirk, Randolph; Greenbaum, Sidney; Leech, Geoffrey; Svartvik, Jan (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Harlow: Longman. p. 328. ISBN 978-0-582-51734-9. [the -s ending is] more appropriately described as an enclitic postposition' 
  11. ^ Greenbaum, Sidney (1996). The Oxford English Grammar. Oxford University Press. pp. 109–110. ISBN 0-19-861250-8. 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 
  12. ^ Quirk, Randolph; Greenbaum, Sidney; Leech, Geoffrey; Svartik, Jan (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Longman. p. 319. 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') 
  13. ^ Payne, John; Huddleston, Rodney (2002). "Nouns and noun phrases". In Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 479–481. ISBN 0-521-43146-8. 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. 
  14. ^ The grammar of Dionysios Thrax. Translated by Tomas Davidson. St. Loius: Studley. 1874. p. 10. 
  15. ^ Frank Beetham, Learning Greek with Plato, Bristol Phoenix Press, 2007.
  16. ^ Takahashi, Tarou; et al. (2010). A Japanese Grammar (in Japanese) (4 ed.). Japan: Hitsuji Shobou. p. 27. ISBN 978-4-89476-244-2. 
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ W.D. Whitney, Sanskrit Grammar
  19. ^ "The Tamil Case System" (PDF). Ccat.sas.upenn.edu. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  20. ^ a b K. V. Zvelebil (1972). "Dravidian Case-Suffixes: Attempt at a Reconstruction". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 92 (2): 272–276. doi:10.2307/600654. JSTOR 600654. 
  21. ^ Arden, A. H. 1942, repr. 1969. A Progressive Grammar of the Tamil Language. Madras: Christian Literature Society.
  22. ^ Harold F. Schiffman (June 1998). "Standardization or restandardization: The case for "Standard" Spoken Tamil". Language in Society. 27 (3): 359–385. doi:10.1017/S0047404598003030. 
  23. ^ R. S. McGregor, Outline of Hindi Grammar, Oxford University Press, 1972.
  24. ^ Remi van Trijp, "The Evolution of Case Systems for Marking Event Structure Archived 2013-06-18 at the Wayback Machine.". In: Steels, Luc (Ed.), Experiments in Cultural Language Evolution, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2012, p. 169-205.
  25. ^ "Finnish Grammar – Adverbial cases". Users.jyu.fi. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  26. ^ "A Philosophical Grammar of Ithkuil, a Constructed Language – Chapter 4: Case Morphology". Ithkuil.net. Archived from the original on June 8, 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "Chapter 4". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on March 12, 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  28. ^ "A Grammar of the Ithkuil Language – Chapter 4: Case Morphology". Ithkuil.net. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 

General references

External links