Conquering Case-Inflected Nouns

Today, we’re diving into an intriguing aspect of language: case inflected nouns. If you’re scratching your head wondering what these are, don’t worry. We’re breaking it down into bite-sized pieces.

In studying the inflection of nouns and pronouns, we have to consider gender, number, person, and case.


Gender is how we categorize people based on their sex. We show gender, whether it’s masculine, feminine, or neutral, by the noun’s meaning or by the pronouns we use with it (like ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘they’).


Numbers help us know if a word is about one or many things (like one dog, two dogs)


Person tells us if the nouns refer to
1. the speaker,
2. the person being talked to, or
3. the person or thing being talked about.

You can usually figure out who it’s talking about from the context, pronouns, and verb choice.


Nouns change case to show their relationship to verbs, prepositions, or other noun. (like ‘the dog’s bone’ showing possession).

In this blog, we’re chatting about case, but click the links for more info on other inflection methods.

What are Case-Inflected Nouns?

Consider yourself the director of a movie, where each noun is a talented actor. Just like actors take on different roles, nouns can take on different “cases” to show their role in a sentence.

This could be the subject doing the action, the object receiving the action, or showing ownership, among others. The twist? The form of the noun changes based on its role

Types of Case Inflected Nouns

There are three cases: the nominative, the objective, and the possessive.

The form of a noun remains the same in both the nominative and objective cases. However, certain pronouns have a distinction (e.g., I, me, she, him).

The Nominative Case

Typically, people use the nominative case for:

Subject Nominative

The subject of a verb is in the nominative case.

Water freezes.
She climbed a mountain.
John and Sarah are going to the concert.

The Predicate Nominative

The predicate nominative or when a noun renames the subject. (Sometimes people also refer to it as the subject complement or an attribute).

♦ Lobsters are crustaceans.
♦ My brother is a doctor.
♦ The winner of the contest was Alice.

The Vocative Nominative

The Vocative expression, aka when addressing someone directly.

♦ Hey, Tasha, could you pass the salt?
Sanjay, you did an excellent job on the project.
Brenna, it is your turn.

The Exclamatory Nominative

You use the exclamatory nominative when you’re super excited or surprised about something or someone. It can standalone in a sentence. Sometimes, people classify certain exclamatory words as interjections.

♦ What a game that was!
♦ Such a beautiful painting!
♦ Look! a balloon!

Appositive with a Nominative

A noun or noun phrase that gives more details about another noun is called an appositive.

♦ The river, the Nile, is famous worldwide.
♦ Ms. Fleury, my teacher, is here.
♦ Her favourite book, Pride and Prejudice, is a classic.

Note. Apposition means attachment. Appositive means “attached noun or pronoun.” An appositive changes the noun it’s next to, similar to an adjective. That’s why it’s called an adjective modifier.

Nominative Absolute

The nominative absolute is a noun phrase that begins with a noun (or a pronoun) and has a participle or a participial phrase in it. It’s separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma and adds more info, but it’s not directly related to the main part of the sentence

♦ Her exams completed, she took a long vacation.
♦ Weather permitting, we’ll go to the beach tomorrow.
♦ After work, I’m getting pizza.

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The Objective Case

We use the objective case for nouns that function as direct objects, and indirect objects.

Direct Object

A direct object in a sentence is the noun or noun phrase that receives the action of the verb directly. These are called transitive verbs. The direct object is often called the object complement, or the object of the verb.

It’s basically the “what” or “who” that’s affected by the action. Let’s break it down with some examples to make it super clear:

♦ She bought a car.
Here, ‘a car’ is the direct object because it’s what was ‘bought’.
♦ I read the book.
‘The book’ is the direct object because it’s what was ‘read’.
♦ They invited all their friends.”
‘All their friends’ is the direct object because they are the ones being ‘invited’.

In each of these sentences, the direct object is receiving the action of the verb directly. Without the direct object, the action feels incomplete because you’d be left wondering “bought what?”, “read what?”, or “invited who?”.

Indirect Object

Giving, telling, refusing, and other action words can have two objects: the direct object (what is given, told, refused, etc.) and the indirect object. The indirect object is the one that receives the direct object

♦ She gave him a gift.
♦ They sent us an invitation.

Direct Object only Direct Object and Indirect Object
Sonya sold her bicycle. Simon sold Sonya her bicycle.
I gave permission. I gave this person permission.
He gave a dollar. He gave the busker a dollar.
She taught French. She taught my kids French.

The following list includes most of the verbs that admit an indirect object

Click on the + button for the list.

♦ allot

♦ allow

♦ assign

♦ bequeath

♦ bring

♦ deny

♦ ensure

♦ fetch

♦ fling

♦ forbid

♦ forgive

♦ give

♦ grant

♦ guarantee

♦ hand

♦ lease

♦ leave

♦ lend

♦ let

♦ owe

♦ pardon

♦ pass

♦ pay

♦ refund

♦ refuse

♦ remit

♦ restore

♦ sell

♦ send

♦ show

♦ sing

♦ spare

♦ teach

♦ tell

♦ throw

♦ toss

♦ vouchsafe

The Possessive Case

The Possessive Case is used to show ownership or possession. They’re simple to spot; just look for the apostrophe and ‘s’:

♦ Sarah’s book.
♦ The dog’s toy.

They make your writing more precise by specifying who or what owns something.

Possessive Case Rules

1. Most nouns form the possessive by adding the apostrophe and s (‘s).

♦ pupil, pupil’s
♦ Jaun, Jaun’s

2. Plural nouns ending in s form the possessive by adding only the apostrophe (‘)

♦ persons, persons’
♦ writers, writers’

3. Some singular nouns ending in an s sound form the possessive by adding the apostrophe alone.

♦ for appearance’ sake
♦ for goodness’ sake

But people usually just add an apostrophe and an “s” (‘s) even if the singular noun ends in an “s” sound.

♦ Charles’s book.
♦ Frances’s dress.

4. When you’re talking about something that belongs to a compound noun or a group of words treated as one name, just add the possessive sign to the last wor

♦ Sarah and Tegan’s mother (the mother of both Sarah and Tegan).
♦ Simpson and Sears’s store (the store Simpson and Sears).

5. If the possessives get confusing, just use a prepositional phrase instead.

♦ The house of the mother of Emilio’s partner
instead of, ‘Emilio’s partner’s mother’s house’.

6. You should use the sign of the possessive with the word immediately preceding the word, naming the thing possessed.

♦ Father and mother’s house.
♦ The lawyer’s office.
♦ The Senator from Utah’s seat.

7. In general, possessive case should not be used with nouns representing inanimate objects.

♦ It is more accurate to use “the hands of the clock” instead of “the clock’s hands.”

8. When using “somebody else,” always add the possessive to the last word.

♦ somebody else’s
♦ no one else’
♦ everybody else’s

Why Case Inflection Matters?

Ensuring the correct case in your sentences is vital for conveying your message accurately.

This concept is all about the role each word plays in a sentence—especially nouns and pronouns—and how changing that role changes the meaning of the sentence entirely.

Think about it: when you say ‘I love you,’ you’re expressing your feelings towards someone else. Here, ‘I’ is the subject (doing the action of loving), and ‘you’ is the direct object (receiving the action of being loved). It’s a straightforward declaration of affection from you to another person.

Flip the words around to ‘You love me,’ and the whole dynamic changes. Now, ‘you’ is the subject (the one doing the loving), and ‘I’ (or ‘me’) is the direct object (the one being loved). This sentence isn’t about expressing your feelings anymore; it’s about acknowledging or claiming the other person’s feelings towards you.

This tiny tweak—the switch between who is the ‘doer’ (subject) and who is the ‘receiver’ (direct object)—has a huge impact on the sentence’s meaning. That’s the power of getting the case right.

Exercises for Case-Inflected Nouns

Try identifying the case inflected nouns, then hit the toggle for the answers.

  1. The cat sleeps on the sofa.
  2. Sarah threw the ball.
  3. The teacher’s book is on the desk.
  4. We listened to the musician’s performance.
  5. The kids are watching a movie.
  6. Mark gave Jane a present.
  7. The bird’s wings were impressive.
  8. They called me yesterday.
  9. My parents’ house is very old.
  10. The student answered the question.
  11. I found my sister’s notebook.
  12. The dog chased its tail.
  13. She told us a story.
  14. The winner’s prize was substantial.
  15. You received a letter in the mail.
  16. The artist painted a beautiful landscape.
  17. John’s idea was brilliant.
  18. The teacher gave the students homework.
  19. My friend’s advice was helpful.
  20. The children played in the garden.
Click on the + button for the answers

Answers with Explanation

  1. The cat – Nominative (subject of the verb sleeps).
  2. Sarah – Nominative (subject); the ball – Objective (direct object).
  3. The teacher’s book – Possessive (shows ownership).
  4. the musician’s performance – Possessive (shows ownership).
  5. The kids – Nominative (subject); a movie – Objective (direct object).
  6. Mark – Nominative (subject); Jane – Objective (indirect object); a present – Objective (direct object).
  7. The bird’s wings – Possessive (shows ownership).
  8. me – Objective (direct object).
  9. My parents’ house – Possessive (shows ownership).
  10. The student – Nominative (subject); the question – Objective (direct object).
  11. my sister’s notebook – Possessive (shows ownership).
  12. The dog – Nominative (subject); its tail – Objective (direct object).
  13. us – Objective (indirect object); a story – Objective (direct object).
  14. The winner’s prize – Possessive (shows ownership).
  15. You – Nominative (subject); a letter – Objective (direct object).
  16. The artist – Nominative (subject); a beautiful landscape – Objective (direct object).
  17. John’s idea – Possessive (shows ownership).
  18. The teacher – Nominative (subject); the students – Objective (indirect object); homework – Objective (direct object).
  19. My friend’s advice – Possessive (shows ownership).
  20. The children – Nominative (subject); in the garden – Here, “in the garden” is a prepositional phrase, but “the children” is the subject performing the action of playing, so it’s nominative.

10 Tips for Case-Inflected Nouns

1. Understand the Basics: Start with a clear understanding of what nominative, objective, and possessive cases are and how they function in sentences.

2. Identify the Subject: For the nominative case, practice identifying the subject of the sentence, as this is typically where nominative case nouns appear.

3. Learn the Signals: Know that possessive cases often involve an apostrophe (e.g., John’s book) in English, signaling ownership or a relationship.

4. Practice with Pronouns: Use pronouns (he, she, they, we) to help identify the case. Pronouns often change form more noticeably than nouns across different cases.

5. Diagram Sentences: Visually mapping out sentences can help you see the relationship between nouns and their cases.

6. Read Out Loud: Reading your work aloud can help you intuitively understand if the wrong case is being used, especially with pronouns.

7. Use Grammar Checkers: Modern grammar checkers can help identify when you’ve used the wrong case, providing quick feedback.

8. Write and Rewrite: Practice writing sentences that use different cases, then rewrite them changing the case to see how the meaning shifts.

9. Break Down Complex Sentences: Dissect complex sentences to identify the case of each noun and pronoun, understanding their roles.

10. Practice Writing Dialogue: Dialogue often use direct and indirect objects (objective case) and can be great practice for using different cases.

Last Words on Case-Inflected Nouns

Case inflected nouns might seem tricky at first, but with practice and attention to detail, you’ll start to recognize and use them correctly. Remember, writing is a journey. Take it one step at a time, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Happy writing!



Feature Image by StockSnap from Pixabay.



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