What are the Different Cases of Nouns in English Language

By Avinash Kumar|Updated : February 16th, 2022

In this article, we are providing you with some very important notes on the Different Cases of Nouns in the English Language which will be very helpful to improve your English.                                                             

What are the Different Cases of Nouns in the English Language - Part I

Nouns and Pronouns in English are said to display cases according to their function in the sentence.

Nouns have three cases:

  • Subjective
  • Objective
  • Possessive

The case of the noun depends on how the noun functions in the sentence. Is the noun used as the main subject of the sentence? Is the noun used to show possession of something else? Is the noun in the sentence receiving something from another object? Does the noun follow a preposition? Answering the above questions can help you determine the type of nouns found in a sentence.

Cases of Nouns: Subjective

Subjective nouns are sometimes referred to as nominative nouns. These nouns either are the subject of the sentence or they are used as a predicate noun, which follows a ‘be’ verb and renames the main subject of the sentence.  These are likely the easiest nouns to spot, as they are typically the subject of the verb in the sentence.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of subjective/nominative nouns:

  • Mary drove to the store. Mary is a subjective noun; she is the one who drove.
  • Elvis sang for many years. Elvis was the one doing the singing; Elvis is the subjective noun.

Cases of Nouns: Objective

Nouns are referred to as objective when they function as the recipient of action or are the object of a preposition.  Locating the objective nouns can be a bit trickier than spotting a subjective or predicate noun, but with a little practice, you will have no trouble identifying these cases of nouns in a sentence.

  • Please send him immediately. (In this example, the pronoun him is in the objective case.)
    Dad prepared the dinner.
    Our dog crawled under the fence.
    Mom gave us the money.

Important Points to remember

Examine these sentences:-

  1. John threw a stone.
  2. The horse kicked the boy.

In sentence 1, the noun John is the Subject. It is the answer to the question, “Who threw a stone?

The group of words threw a stone is the Predicate.

The Predicate contains the verb threw.

What did John throw?

- A stone.

Stone is the object which John threw. The noun stone is therefore called the Object.

In sentence 2, the noun horse is the Subject. It is the answer to the question, "Who kicked the boy?

The noun boy is the Object. It is the answer to the question, "Whom did the horse kick?

Note: To find the Nominative, put Who? or What? before the verb.

To find the Accusative put, Whom? or What? before the verb and its subject.

Cases of Nouns: Possessive

Nouns are considered possessive when they are used to show ownership of something. They will sometimes use an apostrophe, but this is not always the case. Pronouns can also be used in the possessive case, as in ‘his backpack’ or ‘her purse’.

Examine the sentence:-

This is Ram's umbrella.

Ram's umbrella = the umbrella belonging to Rama.

The form of the noun Rama is changed to Rama's to show ownership of possession. The

Noun Rama’s is therefore said to be in the possessive (or Genitive) Case

The Possessive answers the question, ‘Whose?’

Whose umbrella? - Rama's.

The Possessive Case does not always denote possession. It is used to denote authorship, origin, kind, etc. as,

  • Shakespeare's plays = the plays written by Shakespeare
  • A mother's love = the love felt by a mother
  • The President's speech = the speech delivered by the President
  • Mr Aggarwal's house = the house where Mr Aggarwal lives
  • Ashok's school = the school where Ashok goes
  • A children's playground = a playground for children
  • A week's holiday = a holiday which lasts a week 

Formation of the Possessive Case

(1) When the noun is Singular, the Possessive Case is formed by adding ‘s to the noun; as,

  • The boy's book; the king's crown.

Note: The letter s is omitted in a few words where too many hissing sounds would come together; as,

  • For conscience' sake; for goodness' sake;
  • For justice' sake; for Jesus' sake; Moses' laws.

(2) When the noun is plural and ends in s, the Possessive Case is formed by adding only an apostrophe; as,

  • Boys' school; girls' school; horses' tails.

(3) When the noun is Plural but does not end in s, the Possessive sign is formed by adding 's as,

  • Men's club; children's books.

(4) When a noun or a title consists of several words, the Possessive sign is attached only to the last word; as,

  • The King of Bhutan's visit.
  • The Prime Minister of Mauritius's speech.

(5) When two nouns are in apposition, the possessive sign is put to the latter only; as,

  • That is Tagore the poet's house.

(6) Also when two nouns are closely connected, the possessive is put to the latter; as,

  • Karim and Salim's bakery.
  • William and Mary's reign.

(7) Each of two or more connected nouns implying separate possession must take the possessive sign; as,

  • Raja Rao's and R.K. Narayan's novels.
  • Goldsmith's and Cowper's poems.

Use of the Possessive Case

The Possessive Case is now used chiefly with the names of living thing; as,

  • The Governor’s bodyguard; the lion’s mane.

So we must say:

  • The leg of the table [not, the table's leg].
  • The cover of the book [not, the book's cover].
  • The roof of the house [not, the house's roof).

NOTE: The Possessive is also used with nouns denoting time, space or weight; as,

  • A day's march; a week's holiday; in a year's time; a stone's throw; a foot's length; a pound's weight.

The following phrases are also in common use:-

  • At his fingers' ends; for mercy's sake; to his heart's content; at his wit's end; a boat's crew.

The possessive of a proper name or of a noun denoting a trade, profession, or relationship may be used to denote a building or place of business (church, house, school, college, shop, hospital, the theatre; etc.) as,

  • She has gone to the baker's (baker's shop).
  • Tonight I am dining at my uncle's (uncle's house).
  • Can you tell me the way to St .Paul's (St. Paul's church)?
  • I attend the Town High School but my cousin attends St. Xavier's.
  • He was educated at St. Joseph's.

When you are in doubt whether to use a noun in the possessive case or with the preposition of, remember that, as a general rule, the possessive case is used to denote possession or ownership. Thus it is better to say 'the defeat of the enemy' than 'the enemy's defeat', even though no doubt as to the meaning would arise.

Sometimes, however, a noun in the possessive case has a different meaning from a noun used with the preposition of; as,

  • ‘The Prime Minister's reception in Delhi’ means a reception held by the Prime Minister in Delhi.
  • ‘The reception of the Prime Minister in Delhi’ means the manner in which the people welcomed him when he entered Delhi.
  • The phrase 'the love of a father' may mean either 'a father's love of his child' or 'a child's love of his father'.

Nouns in Apposition

Read the following sentence:-

Rama, our captain, made fifty runs.

We see that Rama and our captain is one and the same person. The noun captain follows the noun Rama simply to explain which Rama is referred to.

When one noun follows another to describe it, the noun which follows is said to be in apposition to the noun which comes before it.

[Apposition means placing near.]

A noun in apposition is in the same case as the noun which it explains.

In the above sentence, the noun captain is in apposition to the noun Rama and is in the Nominative Case (because Rama is in the Nominative Case.)

Further examples:-

  1. Kabir, the great reformer, was a weaver.
  2. Yesterday I met your uncle, the doctor.
  3. Have you seen Ganguli, the artist's drawings?

In sentence 1, the noun in apposition is in the Nominative Case.

In sentence 2, the noun in apposition is in the Accusative Case. [Why?]

In sentence 3, the noun in apposition is in the Genitive Case. [Why?]

Things to remember:

Except for the possessive forms (usually formed by the addition of an apostrophe and the letter s), nouns do not change form in English. The chart below illustrates the different forms among the cases.

Different Cases of Nouns in English Language

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