Nominative and/vs accusative noun cases in English lang.


I didn’t understand them at all. I already try to find online but their sxplainations isn’t that good for me.(I am also learning Arabic noun cases, if it helps to make better explaination) THANKS!!!

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If a noun is in the “nominative” it usually means it is doing things. It is the subject of a verb.

If a noun is in the “accusative” it usually means it is having things done to it. It is the object of a verb.

> The dog chased the rat.

“the dog” is the thing doing stuff (subject).

“the rat” is the thing having stuff done to it (object).

So “the dog” would be in the nominative case and “the rat” would be in the accusative.

The opposite would be:

> The rat chased the dog.

This sentence has the opposite meaning.

In many languages different cases are marked by changing the words a bit. Each noun will “decline” by having different versions for different cases, often following similar rules. English lost most of this (although we still split most nouns by singular and plural – so “dog” and “dogs”), instead we use the word order to work out which noun is doing things and which noun is having things done to them (not all languages do this – in some word order is used more for emphasis).

If English worked differently maybe we would add “nom” to the end of nouns to show they are nominative and “ac” to show they are in the accusative case. So we could say:

> The dog*nom* chased the rat*ac*.

> The rat*nom* chased the dog*ac*.

It also meant that if we said:

> The dog*nom* the rat*ac* chased.

> The rat*ac* the dog*nom* chased.

we would know what we meant (that it was the rat being chased). We wouldn’t need to rely on the word order.

However, there are some words we use that do decline: notably pronouns.

> I chased them.

> They chased me.

“I” is the nominative form of this word, while “me” is the accusative. Saying “me chased them” would sound incorrect, because “me” is the accusative of this word, not the nominative. Similarly with “they” and “them” – “them” is the accusative, “they” the nominative. We/us, he/him she/her. These are each the same word, just different forms of it (really I/me/we/us are all the same word – nominative singular/accusative singular/nominative plural/accusative plural).

They don’t follow a neat pattern (general rule in language – words that are used the most tend to be the most irregular). It also doesn’t work for “you”, where “you” is the nominative and accusative (and singular and plural).


There are a few other cases. The genitive is a big one, usually linking something to another thing; so “my” is the genitive of “I”; “my banana” means “the banana that belongs to me.” There is also a dative case tends to be used for indirect things, where we would use prepositions in English – so in “He gave the book to me” “He” is the nominative (the thing doing stuff), “the book” is the accusative (the thing having stuff done to it) and “to me” is the dative, something not directly involved in the “giving” but linked to it.

As a general rule, if you want to know whether something is nominative or accusative think about whether you would replace it with “I” (nominative) or “me” (accusative).

There aren’t any for nouns in English, but we do have different cases of pronouns, so

“Alice drinks a coffee”

could be replaced with

* *Alice drinks it*
* *She drinks a coffee*
* *She drinks it*



Not very neat, is it?

The nominative case and the accusative case, in their simplest forms, are used to indicate what part of the sentence is the subject of the sentence (the thing doing the verb – nominative) and the object (the thing that the verb is done to – accusative).

For example:

> The dog saw the cat.

In this example, the dog is the subject (it’s doing the seeing), while the cat is the object (it is being seen). In English, *word order* is typically used to indicate which noun is the subject and which is the object. So, switching the nouns (The cat saw the dog) completely switches the meaning of the sentence. However, in some other languages the word order doesn’t matter as much – instead the subject/object is indicated by adding a suffix to the noun. Latin, Old English, and many other modern languages use this instead of word order to indicate grammatical function.

As a hypothetical example, I will declare that any noun in English that is the subject of a sentence will now end with an -o, while the object will end with an -a.

Now the sentence becomes:

> The dogo saw the cata.

But I can rearange the order without changing he overall meaning.

> The cata saw the dogo.

The dog is still the subject (it’s doing the seeing), even though it appears at the end of the sentence since I have this modifier at the end. I can even rearrange things to be even weirder:

> saw the cata the dogo


> the cata the dogo saw

This is how Old English (and ancient Latin) *used* to work. Overtime, in English, these modifiers were mostly lost and replaced with word order. I say mostly because the most notable example of these nominative/accusative modifiers still existing is in English pronouns. I/me. He/Him/. She/Her. The differences between these pronouns is the first one indicates the subject, while the second indicates the accusative. We kept these from the olden days – but now word order matters so we have to place them in the right place.

> I saw him.

That sounds right.

> Me saw he.

That does *not* sound right – even though our word order should take care of it and it shouldn’t matter. The reason it sounds wrong is because the wrong noun cases are being used, and the cases for our pronouns have been preserved. So we have a weird disagreement where we’re using the wrong word in the right place.