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The accusative case (abbreviated ACC) is a linguistics term for a grammatical case relating to how some languages typically mark a direct object of a transitive verb. Among those languages, analogous marking principles often apply to the objects of (some or all) prepositions. The characteristics of an accusative case often entail (such as in Latin) what generally is termed the nominative case.
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 Armenian, Latin, Sanskrit, Greek, German, Polish, Russian), Serbian, in the Finno-Ugric languages (such as Finnish and Estonian), in all Turkic languages, and in Semitic languages (such as Arabic). Balto-Finnic languages, such as Latvian and Lithuanian, 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 whom, them, and her, which merges the accusative and dative functions, and originates in old Germanic dative forms (see Declension in English).
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.
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, (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 miser);
- to indicate purpose, e.g., ad profiscendum, "for the purpose of leaving"; 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.
In fact Russian almost lost the real PIE accusative case, since only feminine nouns ending in 'a' have a distinct form. Other words use the genitive case in place of the accusative.
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. Direct object example: "Red apple": Ruĝa pomo; "I have a red apple.": Mi havas ruĝan pomon.
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.
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.
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In Japanese, the accusative case is marked by placing を (wo, pronounced /o̞/) between the noun and the verb.
- Karlsson, Fred (2018). Finnish - A Comprehensive Grammar. London and New York: 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.