Grammatical Case of
Nouns and Pronouns

Grammatical Case refers to a set of forms related to a noun's or pronoun's grammatical function (i.e. job) in a sentence.

Forms already seen...

We have already seen two other form-sets: number and gender.

Here's a quick recap of those two using the noun poet.

Number

Refers to singular and plural - a set of forms which conveys meanings of oneness (e.g. poet) and manyness (e.g. poets).

Gender

Consists of masculine, feminine, common, neuter forms - this form-set conveys meanings of maleness (as in poet) or femaleness (as in poetess).

What is Case in Grammar?

Case is a third set of forms and the most important.

Case is that form of a noun (or pronoun) which tells us about it's grammatical function in a sentence.

Note there are forms and functions.

Different Case Forms

Can you notice the different forms of the first person pronoun I and the noun poet in the two sets of sentences below?

Set 1

  • I saw the boy.
  • The boss called me.
  • That book is mine.
and...

Set 2

  • The poet came here.
  • We called the poet.
  • That book is the poet's.

I, me, and mine are different forms of the first person pronoun I and poet, and poet's are different forms of the noun poet.

These different forms illustrated above are associated with different functions in sentences.

I is used for the subject and me for the object.

You cannot say...

  • *Me saw the boy. (* means grammatically incorrect)
  • *The boss called I.

I, me, mine and poet, poet's are called Case forms. These forms signal to us the functions performed by nouns and pronouns in sentences.

So what you have to do boils down to...
learning the forms and their associated functions.

Peculiarity of English Case forms

In English, there is no one-to-one correspondence between forms and functions. See the word poet performing two functions in the sentences we have seen above.

There are five cases in English...but all of them do not have unique sets of forms today.

  1. Nominative case.

  2. Accusative case. (for the nouns you have the same form for both nominative and accusative)

  3. Genitive case

  4. Dative case (In modern English, the dative is identical to the accusative)

  5. Vocative Case (this case has the same form as the nominative)

So, you end up having three sets of forms for the pronouns and two for the nouns!

Grammatical Case-Forms in English

They are as follows:

nominative case accusative case genitive case
I me mine (my)
we us ours (our)
you you yours (your)
he him his
she her hers (her)
it it its
they them theirs (their)
boy boy boy's
boys boys boys'
lady lady lady's
ladies ladies ladies'
man man man's
men men men's
child child child's
children children children's
potato potato potato's
potatoes potatoes potatoes'

In modern English...

  • the dative case has the same form as that of the accusative.
  • the vocative case form is identical to the nominative.

Grammatical Case Functions

The Nominative Case

used for the following functions:

The Accusative Case

used for these functions:

  • object of a transitive verb
  • object of a preposition
  • object of a non-finite verb
  • objective complement

The Genitive Case

is used for showing:

  • possession
  • ownership
  • relationship

The Dative Case

is used for the indirect object of a ditransitive verb.

The Vocative Case

is used when we address someone.

Concluding Comment

What is important in grammar is to learn first the different forms and then the functions associated with those forms.

Grammatical Case is expecially important because it relates to the noun's syntax, i.e. its relationship with other words in a sentence.

For Further Reading and Study...


English Grammar
Matters

New Ezine.
Watch this space.

Related Pages

What is a Noun?

Kinds of Nouns

Common Nouns

Proper Nouns

Collective Nouns

Concrete and Abstract Nouns

Countable Nouns

Forms and Functions

Number

Gender

Case