Case is usually an inflectional feature of nouns and,
depending on language, other parts of speech (pronouns,
adjectives, determiners, numerals,
verbs) that mark agreement with nouns. In some tagsets
it is also valency feature of adpositions (saying that
the adposition requires its argument to be in that case). Annotating
preposition valency case in UD treebanks would be superfluous because the
same case feature can be found at the nominal to which the preposition
Case helps specify the role of the noun phrase in the sentence, especially in free-word-order languages. For example, the nominative and accusative cases often distinguish subject and object of the verb, while in fixed-word-order languages these functions would be distinguished merely by the positions of the nouns in the sentence.
Here on the level of morphosyntactic features we are dealing with case expressed morphologically, i.e. by bound morphemes (affixes). Note that on a higher level case can be understood more broadly as the role, and it can be also expressed by adding an adposition to the noun. What is expressed by affixes in one language can be expressed using adpositions in another language. Cf. the u-dep/case dependency label.
- [cs] nominative matka “mother”, genitive matky, dative matce, accusative matku, vocative matko, locative matce, instrumental matkou
- [de] nominative der Mann “the man”, genitive des Mannes, dative dem Mann, accusative den Mann
- [en] nominative/direct case he, she, accusative/oblique case him, her.
The descriptions of the individual case values below include semantic hints about the prototypical meaning of the case. Bear in mind that quite often a case will be used for a meaning that is totally unrelated to the meaning mentioned here. Valency of verbs, adpositions and other words will determine that the noun phrase must be in a particular grammatical case to fill a particular valency slot (semantic role). It is much the same as trying to explain the meaning of prepositions: most people would agree that the central meaning of English in is location in space or time but there are phrases where the meaning is less locational: In God we trust. Say it in English.
Note that Indian corpora based on the so-called Paninian model use a
related feature called vibhakti. It is a merger of the Case feature
described here and of various postpositions. Values of the feature are
language-dependent because they are copies of the relevant morphemes
(either bound morphemes or postpositions). Vibhakti can be mapped on
the Case values described here if we know 1. which source values are
bound morphemes (postpositions are separate nodes for us) and 2. what
is their meaning. For instance, the genitive case (
Gen) in Bengali
is marked using the suffix -ra (-র), i.e. vib=era. In Hindi, the
suffix has been split off the noun and it is now written as a separate
word – the postposition kā/kī/ke (का/की/के). Even if the
postpositional phrase can be understood as a genitive noun phrase, the
noun is not in genitive. Instead, the postposition requires that it
takes one of three case forms that are marked directly on the noun:
the oblique case (
Nom: nominative / direct
The base form of the noun, typically used as citation form (lemma). In many languages this is the word form used for subjects of clauses. If the language has only two cases, which are called “direct” and “oblique”, the direct case will be marked Nom.
Acc: accusative / oblique
Perhaps the second most widely spread morphological case. In many languages this is the word form used for direct objects of verbs. If the language has only two cases, which are called “direct” and “oblique”, the oblique case will be marked Acc.
Some languages (e.g. Basque) do not use nominative-accusative to distinguish subjects and objects. Instead, they use the contrast of absolutive-ergative.
The absolutive case marks subject of intransitive verb and direct object of transitive verb.
Some languages (e.g. Basque) do not use nominative-accusative to distinguish subjects and objects. Instead, they use the contrast of absolutive-ergative.
The ergative case marks subject of transitive verb.
In many languages this is the word form used for indirect objects of verbs.
- [de] Ich gebe meinem Bruder ein Geschenk. “I give my brother a present.” (meinem Bruder “my brother” is dative and ein Geschenk “a present” is accusative.)
Prototypical meaning of genitive is that the noun phrase somehow belongs to its governor; it would often be translated by the English preposition of. English has the “saxon genitive” formed by the suffix ‘s; but we will normally not need the feature in English because the suffix gets separated from the noun during tokenization.
Note that despite considerable semantic overlap, the genitive case is not the same as the feature of possessivity (Poss). Possessivity is a lexical feature, i.e. it applies to lemma and its whole paradigm. Genitive is a feature of just a subset of word forms of the lemma. Semantics of possessivity is much more clearly defined while the genitive (as many other cases) may be required in situations that have nothing to do with possessing. For example, [cs] bez prezidentovy dcery “without the president’s daughter” is a prepositional phrase containing the preposition bez “without”, the possessive adjective prezidentovy “president’s” and the noun dcery “daughter”. The possessive adjective is derived from the noun prezident but it is really an adjective (with separate lemma and paradigm), not just a form of the noun. In addition, both the adjective and the noun are in their genitive forms (the nominative would be prezidentova dcera). There is nothing possessive about this particular occurrence of the genitive. It is there because the preposition bez always requires its argument to be in genitive.
- [cs] Praha je hlavní město České republiky. “Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic.”
Note that in Basque, Gen should be used for possessive genitive (as opposed to locative genitive): diktadorearen erregimena “dictator’s regime”; diktadore “dictator”.
The vocative case is a special form of noun used to address someone. Thus it predominantly appears with animate nouns (see the feature of Animacy). Nevertheless this is not a grammatical restriction and inanimate things can be addressed as well.
- [cs] Co myslíš, Filipe? “What do you think, Filip?”
The locative case often expresses location in space or time, which gave it its name. As elsewhere, non-locational meanings also exist and they are not rare. Uralic languages have a complex set of fine-grained locational and directional cases (see below) instead of the locative. Even in languages that have locative, some location roles may be expressed using other cases (e.g. because those cases are required by a preposition).
In Slavic languages this is the only case that is used exclusively in combination with prepositions (but such a restriction may not hold in other languages that have locative).
- [cs] V červenci jsem byl ve Švédsku. “In July I was in Sweden.”
- [cs] Mluvili jsme tam o morfologii. “We talked there about morphology.” (Non-locational non-temporal example)
Ins: instrumental / instructive
The role from which the name of the instrumental case is derived is that the noun is used as instrument to do something (as in [cs] psát perem “to write using a pen”). Many other meanings are possible, e.g. in Czech the instrumental is required by the preposition s “with” and thus it includes the meaning expressed in other languages by the comitative case.
In Czech the instrumental is also used for the agent-object in passive constructions (cf. the English preposition by).
- [cs] Tento zákon byl schválen vládou. “This bill has been approved by the government.” (Passive example)
A semantically similar case called instructive is used rarely in Finnish to express “with (the aid of)”. It can be applied to infinitives that behave much like nouns in Finnish. We propose one label for both instrumental and instructive (instrumental is not defined in Finnish).
- [fi] lähteä “to leave”; 2003 lähtien “since 2003” (second infinitive in the instructive case)
- [fi] yllättää “to surprise”; sekaantui yllättäen valtataisteluun lit. was-involved-in by-surprise.Ins power-struggle.Ill.
In Finnish the partitive case expresses indefinite identity and unfinished actions without result.
- [fi] kolme taloa “three houses”; (the -a suffix of talo)
- [fi] rakastan tätä taloa “I love this house”
- [fi] saanko lainata kirjaa? “can I borrow the book?” (the -a suffix of kirja)
- [fi]lasissa on maitoa “there is (some) milk in the glass”
Examples comparing partitive with accusative: ammuin karhun “I shot a bear.Acc” (and I know that it is dead); ammuin karhua “I shot at a bear.Par” (but I may have missed).
Using accusative instead of partitive may also substitute the missing future tense: luen kirjan “I will read the book.Acc”; luen kirjaa “I am reading the book.Par”.
The distributive case conveys that something happened to every member of a set, one in a time. Or it may express frequency.
- [hu] fejenként “per capita”
- [hu] esetenként “in some cases”
- [hu] hetenként “once per week, weekly”
- [hu] tízpercenként “every ten minutes”
Ess: essive / prolative
The essive case expresses a temporary state, often it corresponds to
English “as a …” A similar case in Basque is called prolative
and it should be tagged
- [fi] lapsi “child”; lapsena “as a child / when he/she was child”
- [et] laps “child”; lapsena “as a child”
- [eu] erreformista “reformer”; erreformistatzat “as a reformer”
Tra: translative / factive
The translative case expresses a change of state (“it becomes X”, “it changes to X”). Also used for the phrase “in language X”. In the Szeged Treebank, this case is called factive.
- [fi] pitkä “long”; kasvoi pitkäksi “grew long”
- [fi] englanti “English language”; englanniksi “in/into English”
- [fi] kello kuusi “six o’clock”; kello kuudeksi “by six o’clock”
- [et] kell kuus “six o’clock”; kella kuueks “by six o’clock”
- [hu] Oroszlány halott várossá válhat. lit. Oroszlány dead city.Tra could-become. “Oroszlány could become a dead city.”
Com: comitative / associative
The comitative (also called associative) case corresponds to English “together with …”
- [et] koer “dog”; koeraga “with dog”
The abessive case corresponds to the English preposition without.
- [fi] raha “money”; rahatta “without money”
The inessive case expresses location inside of something.
- [hu] ház “house”; házban “in the house”
- [fi] talo “house”; talossa “in the house”
- [et] maja “house”; majas “in the house”
The illative case expresses direction into something.
- [hu] ház “house”; házba “into the house”
- [fi] talo “house”; taloon “into the house”
- [et] maja “house”; majasse “into the house”
The elative case expresses direction out of something.
- [hu] ház “house”; házból “from the house”
- [fi] talo “house”; talosta “from the house”
- [et] maja “house”; majast “from the house”
Distinguished by some scholars in Estonian, not recognized by traditional grammar, exists in the Multext-East Estonian tagset and in the Eesti keele puudepank. It has the meaning of illative, and some grammars will thus consider the additive just an alternative form of illative. Forms of this case exist only in singular and not for all nouns.
- [et] riik “government”; riigisse “to the government” (singular illative); riiki “to the government” (singular additive)
The adessive case expresses location at or on something. The corresponding directional cases are allative (towards something) and ablative (from something).
- [hu] pénztár “cash desk”; pénztárnál “at the cash desk”
- [fi] pöytä “table”; pöydällä “on the table”
- [et] laud “table”; laual “on the table”
Note that adessive is used to express location on the surface of something in Finnish and Estonian, but does not carry this meaning in Hungarian.
The allative case expresses direction to something (destination is adessive, i.e. at or on that something).
- [hu] pénztár “cash desk”; pénztárhoz “to the cash desk”
- [fi] pöytä “table”; pöydälle “onto the table”
Prototypical meaning: direction from some point.
- [hu] a barátomtól jövök “I’m coming from my friend”
- [fi] pöydältä “from the table”; katolta “from the roof”; rannalta “from the beach”
Used, chiefly in Hungarian, to indicate location on top of something or on the surface of something.
- [hu] asztal “table”; asztalon “on the table”
- [hu] könyvek “books”; könyveken “on books”
The sublative case is used in Finno-Ugric languages to express the destination of movement, originally to the surface of something (e.g. “to climb a tree”), and, by extension, in other figurative meanings as well (e.g. “to university”).
- [hu] Belgrádtól 150 kilométerre délnyugatra lit. Belgrade.Abl 150 kilometer.Sub southwest.Sub “150 kilometers southwest of Belgrade”
- [hu] hajó “ship”; hajóra “onto the ship”
- [hu] bokorra “on the shrub”
Used, chiefly in Hungarian, to express the movement from the surface of something (like “moved off the table”). Other meanings are possible as well, e.g. “about something”.
- [hu] asztal “table”; az asztalról “off the table”
- [hu]Budapestről jövök “I am coming from Budapest”
Lat: lative / directional allative
The lative case denotes movement towards/to/into/onto something. Similar case in Basque is called directional allative (Spanish adlativo direccional). However, lative is typically thought of as a union of allative, illative and sublative, while in Basque it is derived from allative, which also exists independently.
- [eu] behe “low”; beherantz “down”
The temporal case is used to indicate time.
- [hu] hétkor “at seven (o’clock)”; éjfélkor “at midnight”; karácsonykor “at Christmas”
Ter: terminative / terminal allative
The terminative case specifies where something ends in space or time. Similar case in Basque is called terminal allative (Spanish adlativo terminal).
- [et] jõeni “down to the river”; kella kuueni “till six o’clock”
- [hu] a házig “up to the house”; hat óráig “till six o’clock”
- [eu] erdi “half”; erdiraino “up to the half”
Cau: causative / motivative / purposive
Noun in this case is the cause of something. In Hungarian it also seems to be used frequently with currency (“to buy something for the money”) and it also can mean the goal of something.
- [hu] Egy világcég benzinkútjánál 7183 forintért tankoltam. lit. a world-wide.company petrol.station.Ade 7183 forint.Cau refueled “I refueled my car at the petrol station of a world-wide company for 7183 forints.”
- [hu] Elmentem a boltba tejért. lit. went the shop.Ill milk.Cau “I went to the shop to buy milk.”
- [eu] jokaera “behavior”; jokaeragatik “because of behavior”
Ben: benefactive / destinative
The benefactive case corresponds to the English preposition for.
- [eu] mutil “boy”; mutilarentzat “for boys”
The comparative case means “than X”. It marks the standard of comparison and it differs from the comparative Degree, which marks the property being compared. It occurs in Dravidian and Northeast-Caucasian languages.
The equative case means “X-like”, “similar to X”, “same as X”. It marks the standard of comparison and it differs from the equative Degree, which marks the property being compared. It occurs in Turkish.
- [tr] ben “I”; bence “like me”
Case in other languages: [am] [ar] [bg] [bxr] [ca] [ckb] [cop] [cs] [cu] [da] [de] [el] [en] [es] [et] [eu] [fa] [fi] [fo] [fr] [ga] [gl] [got] [grc] [he] [hi] [hr] [hu] [id] [it] [ja] [kk] [kmr] [ko] [la] [lv] [mr] [nl] [no] [pl] [pt] [ro] [ru] [sa] [sk] [sla] [sl] [so] [sr] [sv] [swl] [ta] [tr] [u] [ug] [uk] [ur] [urj] [vi] [yue] [zh]