instrumental role

Instrumental case

The instrumental case (also called the eighth case) is a grammatical case used to indicate that a noun is the instrument or means by or with which the subject achieves or accomplishes an action. The noun may be either a physical object or an abstract concept.

For example, in this Russian sentence:

Я написал письмо пером. (ya napisal pis'mo perom)

the inflection of the noun indicates its instrumental role the nominative перо changes its ending to become пером. Modern English, lacking an instrumental case, might use a preposition (usually with) to express the same meaning:

I wrote the note with/by means of a pen.

However, such a sentence structure is often altogether avoided in English by transforming the noun into a past-tense verb, e.g. "I penned the book." Technical descriptions often use the phrase "by means of", which has often conventionally been replaced by "via", which is a Latin instrumental ablative of the nominative (with the same form) via, meaning road, route, or way. In the ablative this means by way of.

The instrumental case appears in Old English, Georgian, Basque, Sanskrit, and the Balto-Slavic languages. An instrumental/comitative case is arguably present in Turkish and other Altaic languages, as well as in Tamil. Also, Uralic languages reuse the adessive case where available, or locative case if not, to mark the same category. For example, the Finnish kirjoitan kynällä does not mean "I write on a pen", but "I write using a pen", even if the adessive -llä is used. In Ob-Ugric languages, the same category may also mark agents with verbs that use an ergative alignment, like "I give you, using a pen".

The instrumental case is most notably used in Russian, where the case is called творительный падеж (tvoritelnij padezh). Though exceptions exist, the instrumental case in Russian can generally be distinguished by the -ом ("-om") suffix for most masculine and neuter nouns, the -oй ("-oy") suffix for most feminine nouns and -ами ("-ami") for either gender in the plural.

However, in Russian, as with many Slavic languages, the instrumental case is not only used to denote the mean of a certain action, but also:

  • to denote a time where an action occurs ("during"). For example, in the sentence "я работаю утром" (ya rabotayu utrom), which means "I work during the day," the word утро (utro, "day, morning") in its instrumental case denotes the time in which the action (in the case of this example, "working") takes place ("during the day").
  • to denote a change of status. For example, in the sentence "сегодня я стал американским гражданином" (sevodnya ya stal amerikanskim grazhdaninom), which means "Today I became an American citizen," the word гражданин (grazhdanin, "citizen") is used in the instrumental case because it denotes a change of status (in this case, possibly from an immigrant to a citizen). However, it's not exclusively used with стать (stat', "to become"), but also other verbs too. For example, "сегодня я проснулся больным" (sevodnya ya prosnulsya bol'nym) means "I woke up sick today" ("больным" is the instrumental of "больной" (bol'noi), "sick").
  • to emphasize an attribute or profession, where in English "as" would be used. For example, "Я работаю переводчиком" (Ya rabotayu perevodchikom) means "I work as a translator" (contrast this with "я - переводчик" (Ya - perevodchik), which means "I'm a translator").
    • (Logically speaking, the profession is the means by which one does his or her job, hence the reason it's deployed in the instrumental case.)

Though the instrumental case does not exist in many languages, some languages use other cases to denote the means, or instrument, of an action. In Classical Greek, for example, the dative case is used as the instrumental case. This can be seen in the sentence "..με κτείνει δόλῳ," or " ktenei dolôi" (Book IX, line 407 of the Odyssey), which means "he kills me with a bait." Here, "δόλῳ," the dative of "δόλος" ("dolos" - a bait) is used as the instrumental case (the mean or instrument here is, obviously, the bait). In Latin, the ablative case is used, as in oculīs vidēre, "to see with the eyes".

Instrumental in Hungarian

The instumental case is present in the Hungarian language, where is serves several purposes. The main purpose is the same as the above, i.e. the means with which an action occurs. It has a role in the -(t)at- form of verbs, that is, the form of a verb that shows the the subject caused someone else to action the verb. In this sense, the instrumental case is used to mark the person that was caused to execute the verb. It is also used to quantify or qualify words such as better or ago, such as sokkal jobban (much better, literally 'with-much better'); hét évvel ezelőtt (seven years ago, literally 'seven with-years before this'). See the links section below for a more detailed article.

Instrumental in Czech

Just as above. The Object with which the action is done or completed is declined Examples 1. Pisu perem (Verb Psat = To write, Pisu = I write. Pero = Pen, Perem = with a pen) 2. Jedu do Skoly autobusem (Jet = To go via transport, Jedu = I go. Skola = School, do Skoly = to school Genetive, Autobus = Bus, Autobusem = with/ by means of a bus) or Auto = Car, autem = with / by means of a car


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