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Cases in Italian, German, English

by Thomas Sims

A grammar category of case is represented in different languages by the inflected forms of a noun, adjective, pronoun or prepositions, as well as with the certain word order in a sentence. The case expresses the semantic relation of the word to other words in the sentence.

Syntactic relations that are expressed by a case, usually have semantic and sometimes communicative meaning. However, there are cases of semantically degenerate syntactic relations, when a case does not bear any meaning and expresses only the fact of syntactical relation of inflected word with other element (elements) of the sentence structure.

The main object of theoretical grammar different lanuages are case categories of nouns (and other substantive words, such as pronouns, cardinal numerals etc), which have complicated system of functions and meanings.

English

In Old English there were nominative, vocative, genitive, dative, accusative, and instrumental cases of nouns. Over time, they lost value and merged into subjective (nominative), objective (accusative) and possessive (genitive) cases in modern English language.

A noun does not change its form in any of the cases except of the possessive case. A pronoun, however, changes its form in all the cases, so it requires addional attention. In the table 1 you will find cases of English pronouns.

Nominative (subject) Accusative (object) Genitive (possessive)
I me my, mine
you you your, yours
he him his
she her hers
it it its
we us our, ours
they them their, theirs

Possessive case of English nouns is formed by the addition of an apostrophe with or without adding an “s”:

Bob Miller’s house, Martha’s book, students’ tests.

Italian

In Italian language there are four cases, that describe functions of nouns, pronouns and noun phrases, marking whether they are the subject or a subordinate object in the clause. All the cases in Italian language are conveyed by prepositions and pronouns in one of their grammatical forms.

Nominative case (Caso nominativo)

The nominative case in Italian language (also called subjective) marks the subject in a sentence.

Person Singular Plural
I Io I Noi We
II Tu You Voi You
III Lui, Lei He, She
(person only)
Loro, Essi
(people and objects)
They

Objective case (Pronomi diretti, forma tonica)

The objective case is used for pronouns, which function as objects. It is also could be combined with the accusative or dative cases.

Person Singular Plural
I a me a noi
II a te a voi
III a lui
a lei
a Lei
a loro

Accusative case (Caso accusativo)

The accusative case deals with direct objects.

Person Singular Plural
I mi si
II ti vi
III lo
la
si
li
le
si

Dative case (Caso dativo)

The indirect objects in the sentence are marked with dative case.

Person Singular Plural
I mi ci
II ti vi
III gli
le
Le
gli

German language

German language has only 4 cases: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative. The cases in German language affect the changes in endings of adjectives, indefinite articles and also the use of personal pronouns.

The nominative case answers to questions “Who?” (wer?) and “What?” (was?).

Das Baby schläft. ⇨ Who sleeps?

Es ist eine schöne Blume. ⇨ What is beautiful?

The genitive case is German language answers to question “Whose?” (wessen?) and is used to show relations of possession/belonging.

Die Tasche der Frau ist schwarz. ⇨ Whose bag is black?

Das Haus des Mannes ist hoch. ⇨ Whose house is high?

The dative case marks the indirect object of a verb and answers the question “Whom?” (wem?)

Er hilft die Mutter beim Putzen. ⇨ Whom did he help to clean?

There are several prepositions, which are always used with Dative case:

mit, nach, aus, zu von, bei.

meiner Meinung nach ⇨ in my view

aus dem Weg gehen ⇨ keep out of the way

Note: in the genitive case, -s is added to masculine and neuter nouns ending in: en, el or er.

der Lehrer → des Lehrers

der Geldbeutel → des Geldbeutels

das Eisen → des Eisens

and -es is added to the most masculine and neuter nouns of one syllable ending in a consonant.

der Mann → des Mannes

das Pferd → des Pferdes

The accusative case describes the person, the animal or the thing that is directly affected by the predicate of the sentence. The accusative case gives answer to “What?” (was?), “Who?” (wen?) and “Where?” (wohin?) question.

Ich sehe das Auto. ⇨ What do I see?

Wir haben die Suppe gegessen. ⇨ What have we eaten?

Er hat ein Bild gemacht. ⇨ What has he made?

The prepositions bis (before), durch (through), für (for), gegen (around, opposite, to), ohne (withous), um (about, around) are always followed by accusative case.

bis zum Ende ⇨ until the end

durch den Wald ⇨ through the forest

Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe ⇨ Many thanks for your help

gegen Uhrzeigersinn ⇨ counterclockwise

About the writer

Thomas Sims is the treacher of the Italian language. Also he knows Japanese, Russian and a bit of German. Permanently works as an editor at EduBirdie writing service.

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