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, making it an indirect object.

The accusative case existed in Proto-Indo-European and is present in some Indo-European languages (including Latin, Sanskrit, Greek, German, Polish, Swedish, Russian, Ukrainian), in the Uralic languages, in Altaic languages, and in Semitic languages (such as Classical Arabic). 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, does not have an explicitly marked accusative case even in the pronouns. Such forms as whom, them, and her derive rather from the old Germanic dative forms, of which the -m and -r endings are characteristic. These words can 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). Hine, a true accusative masculine third person singular pronoun, is attested in some northern English dialects as late as the 19th century.[1]



The English name "accusative (case)" is an Anglicisation of the Latin accūsātīvus (cāsus),[2] which was translated from Ancient Greek (ptôsis) aitiatikḗ.[3] The Greek term can mean either "(inflection) for something caused" or "for an accusation".[4] The intended meaning was likely the first, which would be translated as Latin causātīvus[5] or effectīvus,[6] but the Latin term was a translation of the second. Compare Russian вини́тельный vinítel’nyj, from винить vinít’ "to blame".


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 the 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 the accusative case.


Indo-European languages


In Latin, nouns, adjectives, or pronouns 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.
  • as the subject of an indirect statement (e.g. Dixit me fuisse saevum, "He said that I had been cruel;" in later Latin works, such as the Vulgate, such a construction is replaced by quod and a regularly structured sentence, having the subject in the nominative: e.g., Dixit quod ego fueram saevus).
  • with case-specific prepositions such as "per" (through), "ad" (to/toward), and "trans" (across).
  • in exclamations, such as me miseram, "wretched me" (spoken by Circe to Ulysses in Ovid's Remedium Amoris; note that this is feminine: the masculine form would be me miserum).

For the accusative endings, see Latin declension.


German uses the accusative to mark direct objects and objects of certain prepositions, or adverbs relating to time. The accusative is marked for masculine articles, pronouns, and adjectives.

German articles

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, neutral and plural forms do not 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 (the object) of the sentence.
German pronouns

Some German pronouns also change in the accusative case.

German prepositions

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 or action 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.

German adjectives

Adjective endings also change in the accusative case. Another factor that determines the endings of adjectives 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
German adverbial use

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, although not a direct object.


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.

In fact Russian almost lost the real PIE accusative case, since only singular feminine nouns ending in 'a' have a distinct form. Other words use the genitive case or the nominative case in place of the accusative, depending on their animacy.


While the Armenian dialects both have a de facto accusative case, Eastern Armenian uses an accusative marker for transitive verbs[7]


գիրք - girkh - book (Nominative)
ուսուցիչ - usuchičh - teacher (Nominative)

Արամը վերցրեց գիրքը:
Aramë verchrech girkhë
Aram took the book.

Արամը սիրում է իր ուսուցչին:
Aramë sirum ē ir usuchičhin
Aram loves his teacher.

Constructed languages


Esperanto grammar involves only two cases, a nominative and an accusative. The accusative is formed by 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.


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, especially by beginners, but it is considered incorrect while in Ido it is the norm.

Uralic languages


According to traditional Finnish grammars, 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 case.


The accusative case in Hungarian applies to nouns, pronouns; even to adjectives and numerals when either of them stands alone in the sense of direct object.

Accusative is formed by the suffix -t. In many cases, -t is preceded by a suffix-initial vowel, primarily based on specific vowel harmony, resulting in -at, -et, -ot, or -öt. The rules are complex, also involve consonants, and have exceptions. Thus: kertet (garden), kéket (blue); falat (wall), hatot (six); polcot (shelf), nyolcat (eight); ködöt (fog), könyvet (book).

In fewer cases, the root of the word is also affected. Word endings -a or -e will (even if they are the endings of a preceding suffix) change to and , respectively, before -t. E.g.: fa (tree) -> fát. The long vowel of a one-syllable word may get shortened. E.g.: úr (lord) -> urat. But: búr (Boer) -> búrt. If a word has more than one syllable and the last syllable ends in a consonant, the vowel of the last syllable may drop. E.g.: köröm (fingernail) -> körmöt. But: köröm (my circle) -> körömet. Notably, the first-person and second-person personal pronouns have quite unique accusative forms (indeed, as indicated in the table, in the singular case the ending -et is rather optional, even considered archaic).

Nominative Accusative
first-person singular (I) én engem(et)
second-person singular (you) te téged(et)
third-person singular (he/she/it) ő őt
first-person plural (we) mi minket
second-person plural (you) ti titeket
third-person plural (they) ők őket

Semitic languages

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


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

Classical 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


  1. ^ Oxford University Press. Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed..Oxford, 1989
  2. ^ accūsātīvus. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  3. ^ αἰτιατική. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at Perseus Project
  4. ^ "accusative". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  5. ^ Harper, Douglas. "accusative". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  6. ^ Herbert Weir Smyth. A Greek grammar for colleges. p. 353, sect. 1551.a.: name of the accusative.
  7. ^

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • accusative case — case which indicates the direct object of a finite verb (Grammar) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • accusative case — noun the case of nouns serving as the direct object of a verb • Syn: ↑accusative, ↑objective case • Derivationally related forms: ↑accusative (for: ↑accusative) • Hypernyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • accusative case — noun case used to mark the immediate object (direct object) on which the action or influence of a transitive verb has its limited influence. I see the car. Syn: objective case …   Wiktionary

  • accusative case —    Auialo …   English-Hawaiian dictionary

  • accusative — [ə kyo͞o′zə tiv] adj. [ME acusatif < L accusativus < accusare, ACCUSE: L mistransl. (by PRISCIAN) of Gr grammatical term correctly rendered causativus, causative: the goal or end point of an action was orig. considered to be its cause] 1.… …   English World dictionary

  • accusative Grammar — [ə kju:zətɪv] adjective denoting a case which expresses the object of an action or the goal of motion. noun a word in the accusative case. Origin ME: from L. (casus) accusativus, translating Gk (ptōsis) aitiatikē (the case) showing cause …   English new terms dictionary

  • Accusative — Ac*cu sa*tive, n. (Gram.) The accusative case. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • case — case1 [kās] n. [ME & OFr cas, an event < L casus, a chance, lit., falling, pp. of cadere, to fall < IE base * k̑ad , to fall > Sans s̍ad , to fall off] 1. an example, instance, or occurrence [a case of carelessness, a case of measles] 2 …   English World dictionary

  • accusative — accusatively, adv. /euh kyooh zeuh tiv/, adj. 1. Gram. a. (in certain inflected languages, as Latin, Greek, or Russian) noting a case whose distinctive function is to indicate the direct object of a verb or the object of certain prepositions. b.… …   Universalium

  • accusative — I. adjective Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo French or Latin; Anglo French acusatif, from Latin accusativus, from accusatus, past participle of accusare Date: 15th century 1. of, relating to, or being the grammatical case that marks the… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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