What is an Accusative Case? A Deep Look at an Unknown Concept

What is an accusative case? Though not important in modern English, this idea is still worth exploring for skilled linguists.

Case refers to the grammar category that is used for the infection of nouns and pronouns in the sentence. It refers to how those nouns and pronouns interact with other words in the sentence. The English language has four cases, including the accusative case.

To become a skilled writer, you need a thorough understanding of all cases, including the accusative case. It has little to do with actually accusing someone, but rather with studying verbs that have a direct object.

The accusative case is not often taught in English grammar classes for native English speakers. However, it is worth knowing what this case is in order to be a better speaker and writer of the language.

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Exploring What Is an Accusative Case

What is an accusative case?

The accusative case shows the direct object of the sentence. it is another term for the direct object. You find this word by asking “whom” or “what” in regard to the verb.

Here is an example:

  • The dog chased the cat

In this sentence, the verb “chased” is directly connected to the direct object “the cat.” The phrase “the cat” is in the accusative case.

Accusative Case and English Nouns

The accusative case does not do much to a sentence when you are using nouns as the direct object. In the above example, “the cat” would be worded the same whether the feline was the subject or direct object of the sentence. The word order tells the reader what the object of the sentence is.

In other languages, this is not always the case. Some languages change the noun form when it is in the accusative case, but in English, the noun stays the same.

Accusative Case and English Pronouns

For pronouns, the accusative case changes the form of the noun. For example:

  • After writing the tickets, the police gave them to the illegally parked cars’ drivers.

In this sentence, “them” is in the accusative case, and the form of the pronoun changes from “they” to “them.” If this same pronoun were used as the subject of the sentence, it would be “they.”

Accusative Case and the Object of a Preposition

When using a noun or pronoun as the object of a preposition, you will also use the accusative case. Though it is technically not the direct object of the sentence, the object of the prepositional phrase is still in the accusative case.

Here are some examples:

  • They moved around the neighborhood while looking for a garage sale. (neighborhood and sale are both accusative)
  • She made a cake for him on his birthday. (birthday and him are accusative)
  • Please park near us when you arrive. (us is accusative)

Other Cases to Explore

In addition to the accusative case, English writers can come across other cases. They are the nominative case, genitive case, and dative case.

Nominative Case

The nominative case is the case that you use when you write the subject of the sentence. Here are some examples:

  • We cooked our dinner together

In this sentence, “we” is in the nominative case and it serves as the subject of the sentence. Also:

  • Lucy spent all afternoon worrying about what would happen when her friends arrived.

In this sentence, “Lucy” is in the nominative case.

Genitive Case

The genitive case is used when you are showing ownership over a noun. For example:

  • We cooked our dinner together.

In this sentence, “our” is in the genitive case.

  • Lucy spent all afternoon worrying about what would happen when her friends arrived.

In this sentence, “her” is also genitive. For a possessive noun, you typically add an apostrophe followed by an “s.”

Dative Case

Finally, if a noun or pronoun is an indirect object, it uses the dative case. This shows to whom or to what the action happened. For example:

  • She gave him a boutonniere to wear for the prom.

In this sentence, “him” shows who or what received the boutonniere. It serves as the direct object and thus is in the dative case.

Dative Case Vs. Accusative Case

Dative case and accusative case are hard to distinguish because they use the exact same form of the verb. However, because cases have their roots in Latin, these cases retain their Latin name. 

If you have a transitive verb followed by an object, the object is in the accusative case. If you add an indirect object, it will have the same form as the word, but the indirect object is in the dative case.

For sentences with intransitive verbs, the accusative case is not present. 

For example:

  • I gave him the gift.

In this sentence, “him” is the dative case because it is the indirect object, while “gift” is the accusative case because it is the direct object.

Prepositions and Case

Prepositional phrases themselves can take a case as well. If the preposition is showing action to or toward something, the prepositional phrase is accusative. For example:

  • He gave to the charity. (to the charity is the accusative case)

If the preposition is expressing action from or motion from an object, it is considered genitive. For example:

  • He took from his checking account. (from his checking account is the genitive case)

Finally, if the preposition shows rest or no motion at all, it is dative. For example:

  • She rested by the couch. (by the couch is the dative case)

German Cases and Modern English

The idea of cases also comes from the German language, especially as it relates to prepositions. In German, word order does not matter in the sentence as much as case, and words change based on the case they demonstrate in the sentence.

German has a number of prepositions that directly translate into English and have an impact on the case of the object of the preposition.

List of Accusative Prepositions

The idea of accusative prepositions comes from the German language. Here is a list of accusative prepositions and their English translations:

  • Durch: through
  • Ohne: Without
  • Gegen: Against
  • Fur: For
  • Um: Around

If you use any of these prepositions, you will write the noun or pronoun in the accusative case.

List of Dative Prepositions

List of dative prepositions
If your writing uses these, then you must use the dative case for the object of the preposition

The following German prepositions are dative, along with their English counterparts.

  • Aus: From/out of
  • Außer: Except for/besides
  • Bei: At/near/with
  • Mit: With/by
  • Nach: After/to
  • Seit: Since/for
  • Von: By/from
  • Zu: At/to

If your writing uses these, then you must use the dative case for the object of the preposition.

List of Genitive Prepositions

Finally, if you use these prepositions, they are in the genitive case. Here are the German prepositions and their English counterparts.

  • Anstatt/Statt: Instead of
  • Außerhalb: Outside of
  • Innerhalb: Inside of
  • Trotz: Despite
  • Wahrend: During
  • Wegen: Because of 

The noun or pronoun following these prepositions is in the genitive case.

A Final Word On What Is An Accusative Case

The accusative case is a term not commonly seen in modern English instruction, but it is seen in foreign languages. Understanding what it means will help you become a better student.

Specifically, the accusative is the case used for a noun or pronoun that is the object of a sentence. It is also used for some prepositions.

The accusative case does not change the form of nouns, but it does change the form of personal pronouns. Instead of the nominative case, you will use the objective case for pronouns that are used as an accusative object.

FAQs on What Is an Accusative Case

What is the accusative case?

The accusative case is the case used for the object of a sentence. This includes the direct object, object of a preposition, and indirect object. The accusative case is also used to describe some prepositions.

What is the accusative case in German?

The accusative case is commonly taught when teaching German grammar. This case conveys the direct object of the sentence. Because the word form changes in German to indicate this objective case, the word order in the sentence is less important.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.