Subjective, Objective and Possessive Cases of Nouns

Subjective, Objective and Possessive Cases of Nouns


Cases of Nouns
A case noun is the category of a noun expressing relations between the thing denoted by the noun and the other things, properties, or actions. Case nouns have further subclasses, subjective(nominative), objective, and possessive(genitive). 

Subjective and Objective Cases of Nouns

The basic structure of the English language is subject, verb and object. For example 

Ram kicks Shyam.

In this sentence, Ram is the subject and Shyam is the object. Ram is the doer of the action and Shyam is the receiver of the action or the thing in which the action is being executed upon. So when a noun is in the place of the subject, that is,  before the verb, it is known to be in the subjective (nominative) case. When the noun is after the verb or in place of the object, it is known to be in the objective(accusative) case.

In the English language, nouns do not change forms depending on whether if they are in the subjective position or in the objective position. For Example, if we change the above sentence to  

Shyam kicks Ram.

Now Shyam is in the subjective case and Ram is in the objective case, but still, the words remain the same. As far as nouns are concerned the form does not change to one case to the other.

Let us look at the sentences,

a) Ram is in the room.

Ram and room are the two nouns. Ram is in the subjective case, there seems to be no verb, there is a preposition in. In this case, the noun room is working as an object for the preposition. So remember that there is an objective case after the preposition also.

b) Ram gave Shyam a coin.

If there is more than one noun after the verb, then one of them will be a direct object and the other will be the indirect object

In this sentence, there are two nouns (Shyam, coin) after the verb. Here the noun coin is the direct object because if we remove the noun Shyam from the sentence, we get

Ram gave a coin.

So the verb gave is working on the coin. The coin is finally being given to Shyam, Shyam becomes an indirect object of the verb.

Cases of Nouns-Possessive(genitive) 

Nouns are considered possessive(genitive) when they are used to show ownership of something.

(a) In the singular, the possessive(genitive) is formed by adding an apostrophe and s.

The boy's books.
(singular - boy       singular possessive - boy's)

(b) In the plural, when the plural does not end in a sibilant (or an s), the possessive(genitive)  is formed by adding 's.


children's  toys
(plural - children        plural possessive - children's)

men's wear
(plural - men               plural possessive - men's)

women's organizations.
(plural - women          plural possessive - women's)

(c) When the plural noun ends in a sibilant(or an s), the possessive(genitive) is formed by adding the apostrophe only (in writing).


My clients' interests
(plural - clients          plural possessive - clients')

The spies' companions
(plural - spies            plural possessive - spies')

The students' union

(plural - students       plural possessive - students')

The possessive(genitive) case of the noun (formed with 's or just the apostrophe) is referred to as the 's-genitive'. It is usually restricted to nouns referring to persons and higher animals:

Shakespear's plays

My sister's toys
The lion's mane

Nouns referring to objects which essentially involve associations of persons (the army, the town) can also appear in the s-genitive:

A nation's honour

The city's greatness

Mumbai's history

The government's shortcomings

The State's supremacy

In other cases, especially with nouns referring to inanimate objects, the meaning of the possessive(genitive) case is expressed through a construction with of ― the 'of-adjunct':

The legs of the table (the table's legs)

The colour of the walls ( the walls' colour)

The point of the nib (the nib's point)

This last remark above has a number of exceptions. 

For example, we do say:

tomorrow's news

a moment's reflection

at day's end

at a yard's distance

for conscience's sake

for goodness' sake

at arm's length

at a stone's throw

In an expression like my sister's toys, the noun in the possessive(genitive) (sister's) is followed by the head noun (toys). The genitive is used attributively and this use is, by far, the most frequent use of possessive(genitive).

In certain constructions,  however, the noun in the possessive(genitive) appears without a head(leading word).

I am dining at my uncle's tonight.

The 'understood head' of the genitive is always a place(e.g. my uncle's = my uncle's house). The usage is limited to nouns of close family relationship (father, mother, brother, etc.) However, the construction is also found with names of well-known shops, professional establishments, etc: at Greatway's, at Narula's, at my dentist's

The head is also left out in constructions where it can be recovered (by being mentioned elsewhere in the sentence).

My house is smaller than my brother's (instead of brother's house)

I have read most novels of Dickens and some of Thackeray's (instead of Thackeray's novels).

Finally, note that in some constructions the possessive(genitive) may follow the head(leading word): 

A friend of Mary's 

Here the head friend has two modifiers: the article a and the possessive(genitive) expressed by the phrase of Mary's. Since we cannot have: a Mary's friend, the structure becomes a friend of Mary's

a poem of Tagore's

a raincoat of my brother's
a painting of Hussain's

Cases of Nouns - Conclusion

The cases of nouns in the  English language are subjective, objective and possessive(genitive). When a noun is in the place of the subject, it is known to be in the subjective (nominative) case. When the noun is in place of the object, it is known to be in the objective(accusative) case. Possessive case is the case form that a noun acquires to convey certain kinds of relations(e.g.possession) with another noun which follows it.
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