Grammatical case in English
Modern English has just three grammatical cases:
- The subjective or nominative case
- The objective or accusative case
- The genitive or possessive case
The grammatical case shows the relationship that one word has with another word in the sentence.
In English, case applies only to nouns and pronouns.
When a noun or a pronoun is used as the subject of a verb, it is said to be in the subjective or nominative case.
- The boy said a naughty word. (Here the noun ‘boy’ is the subject of the verb and hence it is in the nominative case.)
- The girl was playing with her dolls.
A noun used as the complement of a copular verb is also said to be in the nominative case.
- My sister is a nurse.
Here the nouns ‘sister’ and ‘nurse’ are in the nominative case. ‘Sister’ is the subject of the verb. ‘Nurse’ is the complement of the copular verb ‘be’.
When a noun or a pronoun is used as the object of a verb or a preposition, it is said to be in the objective case.
- The boy killed the spider.
Here the noun spider is the object of the verb killed and hence it is in the objective case.
Note that both the direct object and the indirect object are in the objective case.
As you can see, nouns have the same form in the objective and subjective cases. However, pronouns are different.
The nominative pronoun I becomes me in the objective case. In the same way, we becomes us, he becomes him, they becomes them and she becomes her.
The pronouns you and it have the same form in the nominative and the objective cases.