Accusative case

Accusative case

The accusative case (abbreviated ACC) of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of (some or all) prepositions. It is a noun that is having something done to it, usually joined (such as in Latin) with the Nominative case.

The accusative case exists (or existed once) in all the Indo-European languages (including Latin, Sanskrit, Greek, German, Polish, Russian), in the Finno-Ugric languages, and in Semitic languages (such as Arabic). It should be noted that Balto-Finnic languages such as Finnish and Estonian have two cases to mark objects, the accusative and the partitive case. In morphosyntactic alignment terms, both perform the accusative function, but the accusative object is telic, while the partitive is not.

Modern English, which almost entirely lacks declension in its nouns, still has an explicitly marked accusative case in a few pronouns as a remnant of Old English, an earlier declined form of the language. "Whom" is the accusative case of "who"; "him" is the accusative case of "he"; and "her" is the accusative case of "she". These words also serve as the dative case pronouns in English and could arguably be classified in the oblique case instead. Most modern English grammarians feel that due to the lack of declension except in a few pronouns, where accusative and dative have been merged, that making case distinctions in English is no longer relevant, and frequently employ the term "objective case" instead (see Declension in English).

Example

In the sentence I see the car, the noun phrase the car is the direct object of the verb "see". In English, which has mostly lost the case system, the definite article and noun "the car" remain in the same form regardless of the grammatical role played by the words. One can correctly use "the car" as the subject of a sentence also: "The car is parked here."

In a declined language, the morphology of the article or noun changes in some way according to the grammatical role played by the noun in a given sentence. For example, in German, one possible translation of "the car" is der Wagen. This is the form in nominative case, used for the subject of a sentence. If this article/noun pair is used as the object of a verb, it (usually) changes to the accusative case, which entails an article shift in German Ich sehe den Wagen. In German, masculine nouns change their definite article from der to den in accusative case.

The accusative case in Latin

Nouns in the accusative case (Accusativus) can be used

  • as a direct object.
  • to indicate duration of time. E.g. multos annos, "for many years"; ducentos annos, "for 200 years." This is known as the accusative of duration of time.
  • to indicate direction towards which. E.g. domum, "homewards"; Romam, "to Rome" with no preposition needed. This is known as the accusative of place to which, and is equivalent to the lative case found in some other languages.
  • in indirect statements.
  • with case-specific prepositions such as "per" (through), "ad" (to/toward), and "trans" (across).
  • it can also be used in exclamations, such as 'me miseram'-wretched me, spoken by Circe to Ulysses in Ovid's Remedium Amoris.

For the accusative endings, see Latin declensions.

The accusative case in German

The accusative case is used for the direct object in a sentence. The masculine forms for German articles, e.g. 'the', 'a/an', 'my', etc. change in the accusative case: they always end in -en. The feminine, neuter and plural forms don't change.
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Definite article (the) den die das die
Indefinite article (a/an) einen eine ein -

For example, "Hund" (dog) is a masculine (der) word, so the article changes when used in the accusative case:

  • Ich habe einen Hund. (lit.: I have a dog.) In the sentence "a dog" is in the accusative case as it is the second idea of the sentence.

Some German pronouns also change in the accusative case.

The accusative case is also used after particular German prepositions. These include bis, durch, für, gegen, ohne, um, after which the accusative case is always used, and an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zwischen which can govern either the accusative or the dative. The latter prepositions take the accusative when motion is specified (being done into/onto the space), but take the dative when location is specified (being done in/on that space). These prepositions are also used in conjunction with certain verbs, in which case it is the verb in question which governs whether the accusative or dative should be used.

Adjective endings also change in the accusative case. There is also another factor that determines the endings of adjectives and that is whether the adjective is being used after a definite article (the), after an indefinite article (a/an) or without any article before the adjective (many green apples).

Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Definite article -en -e -e -en
Indefinite Article -en -e -es -en
No article -en -e -es -e

In German, the accusative case is also used for some adverbial expressions, mostly temporal ones, as in "Diesen Abend bleibe ich daheim" (This evening I'm staying at home), where "diesen Abend" is marked as accusative, while not being a direct object.

The accusative case in Russian

In Russian, accusative is used not only to display the direct object of an action, but also to indicate the destination or goal of motion. It is also used with some prepositions. The prepositions в and на can both take accusative in situations where they are indicating the goal of a motion.

In the masculine, Russian also distinguishes between animate and inanimate nouns with regard to the accusative: only the animates carry a marker in this case.

The accusative case in Esperanto

Esperanto grammar involves only two cases, a nominative, and an accusative. The accusative is formed with the addition of -n to the nominative form, and is the case used for direct objects. Other objective functions, including dative functions are achieved with prepositions, all of which normally take the nominative case. Direction of motion can be expressed either by the accusative case, or by the preposition al (to) with the nominative.

The accusative case in Ido

In Ido the -n suffix is optional, as subject-verb-object order is assumed when it is not present. Note that this is sometimes done in Esperanto, specially by beginners, but it is considered incorrect while in Ido it is the norm.

The accusative in Finnish

According to traditional Finnish grammars, in Finnish the accusative is the case of a total object, while the case of a partial object is the partitive. The accusative is identical either to the nominative or the genitive, except for personal pronouns and the personal interrogative pronoun kuka/ken, which have a special accusative form ending in -t

The major new Finnish grammar, Iso suomen kielioppi, breaks with the traditional classification to limit the accusative case to the special case of the personal pronouns and kuka/ken. The new grammar considers other total objects as being in the nominative or genitive.

The accusative in Semitic languages

Accusative case marking existed in Proto-Semitic, Akkadian, and Ugaritic. It is preserved today only in literary Arabic.

Accusative in Akkadian

Nominative: awīlum (a/the man)
Accusative: apaqqid awīlam (I trust a/the man)

Accusative in Arabic

Nominative: rajulun (a man)
Accusative: as'alu rajulan (I ask a man) as'alu ar-rajula (I ask the man)

The accusative case is called in Arabic النصب an-naṣb, and it has many other uses in addition to marking the object of a verb.

See also

External links

Search another word or see accusative caseon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature