Nominative, Accusative And Possessive Case

Case shows how a noun or a pronoun is related to another word in a sentence. A noun or pronoun can be in the following cases:

1) Nominative case
2) Objective (or accusative) case
3) Dative case
4) Vocative case
5) Case in apposition
6) Possessive case

Nominative and Objective Case

Read the following sentence.

  • John broke the window.

Here John is the subject of the verb broke. When a noun or a pronoun is used as the subject of a verb, it is said to be in the nominative case.

Now read the following sentence.

  • He wrote a letter.

Here ‘a letter’ is the object of the verb ‘wrote’. When a noun or pronoun is used as the object of a verb, it is said to be in the objective case. A noun which comes after a preposition is also said to be in the objective case, the noun being the object of the preposition.

  • She sat beside him.

(Here the noun him is the object of the preposition beside. It is therefore in the objective case.)

Dative and Vocative Case

Some verbs take two objects: a direct object and an indirect object.

  • She gave me a book.

Here me is the indirect object of the verb gave while book is the direct object. A noun used as the direct object of the verb is said to be in the objective case, whereas a noun used as the indirect object of the verb is said to be in the dative case.

Vocative case

Read the following sentences.

  • John, come here.

Here the noun John is used for addressing a person or thing. A noun used to address a person or thing is said to be in the vocative case.

Case in Apposition

Read the following sentences.

  • Alice, my sister, is a journalist.
  • They called John, the doctor.

Here the nouns Alice and my sister refer to the same person. Similarly, the nouns John and the doctor refer to the same person. When a noun follows another noun or pronoun denoting the same person, it is said to be in Case in apposition to the noun or pronoun coming before it.

Here the noun my sister is case in apposition to the noun Alice. Similarly, the noun doctor is case in apposition to the noun John.

Possessive Case

Read the following sentence.

  • This is Ram’s house.

Here the noun Ram’s is in the possessive case. A noun which shows ownership or possession is said to be in the possessive case.

How the possessive case is formed

1. When the noun is singular, the possessive case is formed by adding ’s to the noun.

John’s mother
Mary’s goat

2. When the noun is plural and does not end in -s, the possessive case is formed by adding ’s to the noun.

Men’s hostel
The people’s voice

3. To form the possessive case of a plural noun ending in –s, we simply add an apostrophe (’) without -s.

A boys’ school

4. Singular nouns ending in –s may form the possessive by adding apostrophe (’) with or without –s.

Thomas’s house OR Thomas’ house
Yeats’s poems OR Yeats’ poems

5. In compound nouns, ’s is added to the last word.

My sister-in-law’s daughter

Notes

The letter –s is omitted and only apostrophe (’) is added when too many hissing sounds occur in a word.

For conscience’ sake
For goodness’ sake
For Jesus’ sake

Use of the possessive Case

Possessive case is mainly used with the names of living things. Sometimes, it is also used with personified objects.

Krishna’s palace
Girls’ school
Children’s newspaper
The bird’s eggs

Possessive case is also used with nouns of space, time or weight.

A month’s salary
A yard’s length

Possessive case is not normally used with non-living things. You cannot say ‘a table’s leg’ or ‘clock’ hand’. Instead, say ‘the leg of the table’ or ‘the hand of the clock’.

Possessive Case Exercise

Correct the following sentences.

1. The house’s roof was blown off in the storm.
2. Have you seen Tagore’s, the poet’s paintings?
3. These are the student’s bags who are playing.
4. It is his mother’s brother’s son’s house.

Answers

1. The roof of the house was blown off in the storm. (The possessive case is not normally used with non-living things)
2. Have you seen Tagore, the poet’s paintings? (When two nouns in the possessive case are in apposition, the ’s is added to the second noun.)
3. These are the bags of the students who are playing.
4. It is his cousin’s house.

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