case (grammar)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Pronoun cases in English.


The grammatical relationship of nouns and pronouns to other words in a sentence.

In English, nouns have only one case inflection: the possessive (or genitive). The case of nouns other than the possessive is sometimes called the common case.

Pronouns have three case distinctions:

See Examples and Observations below.

Also see:

From the Latin, "to fall"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Potentially, countable nouns have four case forms: two singular (child, child's), two plural (children, children's). In regular nouns, these manifest themselves only in writing, through the apostrophe (girl, girl's, girls, girls'), since in speech three of the forms are identical. The genitive [or possessive] case is used in two contexts: dependently, before a noun (This is Tom's/his bat), and independently (This bat is Tom's/his). Most personal pronouns have different forms for the dependent and independent genitive: This is your bat and This bat is yours. The genitive case forms of personal pronouns are often called possessive pronouns. A few pronouns have three cases: subjective or nominative, objective or accusative, and genitive or possessive."
    (Sidney Greenbaum, "Case," in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, ed. Tom McArthur. Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • Editing for Case
    • In compound structures, make sure pronouns are in the same case they would be in if used alone (Jake and she were living in Spain).
    • When a pronoun follows than or as, complete the sentence mentally. If the pronoun is the subject of an unstated verb, it should be in the subjective case (I like her better than he [likes her]). If it is the object of an unstated verb, it should be in the objective case (I like her better than [I like] him.).
    (Andrea Lunsford, The St. Martin's Handbook. Bedford, 2008)
  • The Disappearance of Case Endings in English
    "While the stickler might see the misuse and gradual disappearance of 'whom' as proof that education and society have been flushed down the toilet, most linguists--even though they will almost certainly use 'whom' in their written work themselves--see the pronoun's replacement with 'who' as merely another step in English's gradual shedding of case endings. In the era of Beowulf, English nouns had endings that showed what role they played in the sentence, as Latin did. But nearly all of them disappeared by the time of Shakespeare, and a linguist would see the death of 'whom' as simply the conclusion of the process."
    (Robert Lane Greene, You Are What You Speak. Delacorte, 2011)

Pronunciation: KAS