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This page pertains to UD version 2.

Case: case

Values: Core: Abs Acc Erg Nom
Non-core: Abe Ben Cau Cmp Cns Com Dat Dis Equ Gen Ins Par Tem Tra Voc
Local: Abl Add Ade All Del Ela Ess Ill Ine Lat Loc Per Sbe Sbl Spl Sub Sup Ter

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.

Case can also be a lexical feature of adpositions and describe the case meaning that the adposition contributes to the nominal in which it appears. (This usage of the feature is typical for languages that do not have case morphology on nouns. For languages that have both adpositions and morphological case, the traditional set of cases is determined by the nominal forms and it does not cover adpositional meanings.) In some non-UD tagsets, case of adpositions is used as a valency feature (saying that the adposition requires its nominal argument to be in that morphological case); however, annotating adposition valency case in UD treebanks would be superfluous because the same case feature can be found at the nominal to which the adposition belongs.

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.


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 (Acc).

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.


Abs: absolutive

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.


Erg: ergative

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.


Dat: dative

In many languages this is the word form used for indirect objects of verbs.


Gen: genitive

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.


Note that in Basque, Gen should be used for possessive genitive (as opposed to locative genitive): diktadorearen erregimena “dictator’s regime”; diktadore “dictator”.

Voc: vocative

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.


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).


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).


Par: partitive

In Finnish the partitive case expresses indefinite identity and unfinished actions without result.


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”.

Dis: distributive

The distributive case conveys that something happened to every member of a set, one in a time. Or it may express frequency.


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 Ess too.


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.


Com: comitative / associative

The comitative (also called associative) case corresponds to English “together with …”


Abe: abessive / caritive / privative

The abessive case (also called caritive or privative) corresponds to the English preposition without.


Cau: causative / motivative / purposive

Noun in this case is the cause or purpose 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.


Ben: benefactive / destinative

The benefactive case corresponds to the English preposition for.


Cns: considerative

The considerative case denotes something that is given in exchange for something else. It is used in Warlpiri (Andrews 2007, p.164).


Cmp: comparative

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.


Equ: equative

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.


Location and direction

Loc: locative

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).


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.


Ibarretxe-Antuñano (2004: 282) says about directional and terminal allative in Basque: “What crucially distinguishes these two cases from the allative is that, on top of profiling the goal, they also profile the path, or to be more precise, some of the components of the path.”

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). While the lative (or directional allative) specifies only the general direction, the terminative (terminal allative) also says that the destination is reached.


Internal location

Ine: inessive

The inessive case expresses location inside of something.


Ill: illative / inlative

The illative case expresses direction into something.


Ela: elative / inelative

The elative case expresses direction out of something.


Add: additive

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.


External location

Ade: adessive

The adessive case expresses location at, on the surface, or near something. The corresponding directional cases are allative (towards something) and ablative (from something).


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.

All: allative / adlative

The allative case expresses direction to something (destination is adessive, i.e. at or on that something).


Abl: ablative / adelative

Prototypical meaning: direction from some point. In systems that distinguish different source locatins (e.g. in Uralic languages), this case corresponds to the “adelative”, that is, the source is adessive.


Higher location

Sup: superessive

Used to express location higher than a reference point (atop something or above something). Attested in Nakh-Dagestanian languages and also in Hungarian (while other Uralic languages express this location with the adessive case, Hungarian has both adessive and superessive).


Spl: superlative

The superlative case is used in Nakh-Dagestanian languages to express the destination of movement, originally to the top of something, and, by extension, in other figurative meanings as well.

Note that Hungarian assigns this meaning to the sublative case, which otherwise indicates that the destination is below (not above) something.


Del: delative / superelative

Used in Hungarian and in Nakh-Dagestanian languages to express the movement from the surface of something (like “moved off the table”).

Other meanings are possible as well, e.g. “about something”.


Lower location

Sub: subessive

Used to express location lower than a reference point (under something or below something). Attested in Nakh-Dagestanian languages.


Sbl: sublative

The original meaning of the sublative case is movement towards a place under or lower than something, that is, the destination is subessive. It is attested in Nakh-Dagestanian languages. Note however that like many other cases, it is now used in abstract senses that are not apparently connected to the spatial meaning: for example, in Lezgian it may indicate the cause of something.

Hungarian uses the sublative label for what would be better categorized as superlative, as it expresses the movement to the surface of something (e.g. “to climb a tree”), and, by extension, other figurative meanings as well (e.g. “to university”).


Sbe: subelative

Used to express movement or direction from under something.


Per: perlative

The perlative case denotes movement along something. It is used in Warlpiri (Andrews 2007, p.162). Note that Unimorph mentions the English preposition “along” in connection with what they call prolative/translative; but we have different definitions of those two cases.


Tem: temporal

The temporal case is used to indicate time.



Case in other languages: [am] [apu] [arr] [bej] [bg] [cs] [el] [eme] [en] [es] [ess] [et] [fi] [ga] [gn] [grc] [gub] [hu] [hy] [ka] [kmr] [koi] [kpv] [ky] [mdf] [myu] [myv] [pcm] [pt] [qpm] [ru] [sl] [sv] [tl] [tpn] [tr] [tt] [u] [uk] [urb] [urj]