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In the English language, the only words that occur in the accusative case are pronouns: 'me,' 'him,' 'her,' 'us,' and ‘them’. The spelling of those words will change depending on how they are used in a sentence. For example, the pronoun they, as the subject of a sentence, is in the nominative case ("They wrote a book"); but if the pronoun is instead the object, it is in the accusative case and they becomes them ("The book was written by them").
The English term, "accusative", derives from the Latin accusativus, which, in turn, is a translation of the Greek αἰτιατική. The word may also mean "causative", and this may have been the Greeks' intention in this name, but the sense of the Roman translation has endured and is used in some other modern languages as the grammatical term for this case, for example in Russian (винительный).
The accusative case is typical of early Indo-European languages and still exists in some of them (including Albanian, Armenian, Latin, Sanskrit, Greek, German, Polish, Russian, and Serbian), in the Finno-Ugric languages (such as Finnish and Hungarian), in all Turkic languages, and in Semitic languages (such as Arabic). Some Balto-Finnic languages, such as Finnish, 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 almost entirely lacks declension in its nouns; pronouns, however, have an oblique case as in them, her, him and whom, which merges the accusative and dative functions, and originates in old Germanic dative forms (see Declension in English).
In the sentence The man sees the dog, the noun phrase the dog is the direct object of the verb "see". In English, which has mostly lost the case system, the definite article and noun – "the dog" – remain in the same form regardless of the grammatical role played by the words, though an artifact of it can be seen in the verb, which changes to "sees". One can correctly use "the dog" as the subject of a sentence also: "The dog sees the cat."
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, "the dog" is der Hund. 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 – Der Mann sieht den Hund (The man sees the dog). In German, masculine nouns change their definite article from der to den in the accusative case.
The accusative case in Latin has minor differences from the accusative case in Proto-Indo-European (PIE). Nouns 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 with the verb in the subjunctive mood, (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 and the verb in the indicative mood, 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);
- to indicate purpose, e.g., ad proficiscendum, "for the purpose of departing"; ad effēminandōs animōs, "for the purpose of weakening [or, effeminating] the spirit".
For the accusative endings, see Latin declensions.
The accusative case is used for the direct object in a sentence. 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.
|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.
Some German pronouns also change in the accusative case.
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.
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).
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.
The PIE accusative case has nearly eroded in Russian, merging with the genitive or the nominative in most declensions. Only singular first-declension nouns (ending in 'а', 'я', or 'ия') have a distinct accusative ('у', 'ю', or 'ию').
Traditional Finnish grammars say 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.
Accusative in Akkadian
- Nominative: awīlum (a/the man)
- Accusative: apaqqid awīlam (I trust a/the man)
Accusative in 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.
Accusative in Hebrew
- Nominative: tapuakh (an apple) (kh=ח/خ/כ/Voiceless uvular fricative)
- Accusative: Akhalti ET hatapuakh (I ate the apple)
- In Hebrew, if the object of the sentence is a pronoun (eg I, you, s/he) and the transitive verb requires a direct object, the word ET is combined with the pronoun into an object pronoun.
- the combined words are:
- Me = oti/אותי
- you (singular) = otkha/אותך (M) or otakh/אותך (F)
- him = oto/אותו
- her = ota/אותה
- we = otanu/אותנו
- you (plural) = otkhem/אותכם (M) or otkhen/אותכן (F)
- them = otam/אותם (M) or otan/אותן (F)
In Japanese, cases are marked by placing particles after nouns. The accusative case is marked with を (wo, pronounced /o̞/).
In Turkish, cases are marked with suffixes. Accusative case is marked with suffixes -ı, -i, -u, -ü, depending on the vowel harmony. An example is Arabayı, the word araba is marked with the suffix with the buffer letter y added because in Turkish, two vowels next to each other is not allowed. (The exception is words loaned from other languages such as saat, şiir etc.)
- Karlsson, Fred (2018). Finnish - A Comprehensive Grammar. London, England; New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-82104-0.
- Anhava, Jaakko (2015). "Criteria For Case Forms in Finnish and Hungarian Grammars". journal.fi. Helsinki: Finnish Scholarly Journals Online.