Monday, September 9, 2013


Today I begin learning a new language, German. So, I decided to create a couple of tools to help in translating. Here is my basic explanation of the cases of nouns. In most languages the nouns will appear in a number of different cases. This is especially evident for those who study Greek, Latin, German, etc. Knowing what the noun case means is essential for interpretation. This is because the same word takes on a different meaning in a sentence based upon its case. Take, for example, the same noun - God - used in two different cases in the following two sentences. "The love of God is unending." "We show our love to God by loving one another." In both sentences we have a noun, God, in the first sentence it is the Genitive case, in the second sentence it is in the Accusative case. In the first sentence the love that is talked about is the love that belongs to or is possessed by God. In the second sentence God is the beloved who is receiving the love. In both sentences "love" is also a noun, and in both sentences love is in a different case. Can you figure out which case "love" is in? The main noun cases that are found in the majority of languages are as follows.

1.      Nominative – The nominative is the subject of the sentence. It is used for designation. In many languages the nominative will be preceded by either a definite or indefinite article. For example, in English we use the definite article “the” and the indefinite article “a” or “an”. In languages such as Latin, Greek and German the nouns will be either masculine, feminine or neutral. The gender of the noun is frequently shown by the form of the article. In French, which only has the masculine and feminine genders “le” designates the masculine noun, and “la” designates a feminine noun. In German “Der” designates a masculine noun, “Die” a feminine noun, and “Das” a neutral noun. Greek and Latin integrate the gender of the nouns into the word itself.

2.      Vocative – The vocative is the subject when it is addressed by the speaker. It designates the person being spoken to. As when I speak to my son for any reason. “Israel, let’s go play Baseball.” Israel is the vocative case of the noun. The Vocative will have the same form as the Nominative.

3.      Genitive – The genitive is the compliment of the noun or pronoun. In French it is preceded by “de”, which in English would be translated as “of”, or “from”. It is used for describing the noun by attributing a quality to the noun.

4.      Ablative – The ablative is the circumstantial complement (referring to origin or usage, instrumentality), and is usually preceded by a preposition. It is used to describe the indirect object of a verb.

5.      Dative – The dative is the compliment of the verb, expressing the indirect object of the verb. In French it is preceded by “à”, in English by “to”.

6.      Accusative – The accusative is the complement of the direct object of the verb. It marks the limit or end of an action.

7.      Locative – This case describes the place where an action took place, the location or the position. Seeing as it has the same form as the dative it is frequently described as a form of the dative.