Case in English Grammar – Types

We are all acquainted with nouns and pronouns. Nouns are one of the eight parts of speech. They are words that describe a place, person, or thing. And pronouns are simply the words that act as a replacement of nouns to avoid repetition of the same name.

But that is not how a noun stands in a sentence. They have different grammatical functions that indicate their relationship with other words in a sentence. Such functions are expressed by what we call case, our topic for today.

There are mainly four cases of nouns and pronouns in English grammar, and each has different functions and purposes. So, let us have a look at them below and enlighten ourselves with more knowledge.

What is Case in English grammar?

By definition, cases can be understood as the grammatical function or a way of a noun and a pronoun that shows or indicates their relation with the other words present in a sentence. Basically, cases refer to a noun or pronoun’s function concerning its relation with other words existing within a sentence.

In other words, cases can be defined as the function of a noun within that sentence. It shows how a noun stands in a sentence and relates to the other parts of a sentence.

There are mainly four types of cases in English grammar. They are subjective (normative) case, objective case, possessive case, and vocative case. However, in modern English, it is said that there are only three cases that are subjective (normative), objective, and possessive. But in any case, let us discuss the four of them in detail one by one to have a thorough idea of what exactly cases are.

Different types of cases

1. Normative case

Normative case in English grammar is that case that appears when a noun or a pronoun acts directly as the subject of the sentence.

Here, the noun or the pronoun is applied as the subject of a verb. Due to this very reason, a normative case is also commonly called the subjective case, upright case, or straight case.

For example;

  • David wrote all the notes.
  • Sia works in our school as a substitute teacher.
  • I want to eat something heavy and fancy.
  • I want to play basketball right now.

Here, the nouns are behaving as subjects. Thus, this is a normative case.

Similarly, in the case of pronouns, they will act as the subject of a verb. Pronouns that act as a subject are he, she, we, they, you, and I.

  • He ate all the food.
  • She is the best dancer in our town.
  • We went for a long drive last night.

2. Objective case

This is a case that appears when the noun or pronoun of a sentence acts as the object of that sentence. It can be a direct object, indirect object, or even an object of a preposition.

For example;

  • Sia loves eating burgers.
  • Our teacher loves coffee.
  • She asked me to move forward.
  • Jacob met me last week.
  • Sarah wanted to dance with him.

One important point in the objective case is that it significantly changes the personal pronouns. That means the personal pronouns such as he and she acting as an object will change into him and her.

For instance, it is wrong to say “I met he”. In an objective case, it will turn into “I met him”.

This simply means that whenever pronouns are used as objects, they should be in their objective case. They will be as follows:

  • I – me
  • He – him
  • She – her
  • We – us
  • They – them
  • It – it
  • You – you

3. Possessive case

This is a case where the noun or pronoun of a particular sentence shows ownership or possession of something or indicates a relationship between two or more things. In such cases, the nouns will generally have an -’s at the end that shows it owns something. And usually, we apply the word of when there is a relation between things.

For example;

  • Sia’s house is around the corner.
  • Our teacher’s daughter is only one year old.
  • Mike’s bike seems to be broken.
  • Omg! That is Sarah’s kitten.
  • Yes! That is Krista’s house.

In case of things;

  • The texture of the table is really smooth.
  • The last line of this paragraph is the most important one.
  • The color of the book is so bright.

However, when pronouns show possession, they will take their possessive form such as;

  • My – mine
  • Our – ours
  • Your – yours
  • Her – hers
  • His – his
  • Their – theirs
  • Its – its

For example:

  • This book is mine.
  • That stall is hers.
  • Those pretty shoes are mine.

4. Vocative case

This is a type of case where the noun indicates a direct address in a sentence. That means the noun is used to refer to someone we are talking to directly. So, the vocative case basically shows a direct address.

In such a case, the noun is always preceded by a comma. Whenever we take someone’s name and address them directly, that name will always follow a comma.

For example;

  • Good morning, Jack.
  • I don’t know what you are talking about, Ronny.
  • Jacob, please shut the door when you come in.
  • What is going on with you, Jess?
  • How are you doing, Tom?

As we can see, the noun is being directly addressed and follows a comma. Thus, this is a vocative case.

If you are still confused, refer to the differences below;

  1. I understand Sia.
  2. I understand, Sia.

The first sentence is referring that “I” understands “Sia”. This is not a vocative case.

But in the second sentence, “I” is directly addressing “Sia” and is indicating that he/she understands something.

So, these are the four main types of cases in English grammar. For a quick recap:

  • Subjective case: Noun acts as a subject.
  • Objective case: Noun acts as an object.
  • Possessive case: Noun expresses ownership.
  • Vocative case: Noun is directly addressed.

Although in modern English only subjective, objective, and possessive cases are considered, it is always important to have maximum knowledge in order to produce correct sentences. So, make sure you are clear of these basic concepts.

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