The Noun: Cases

stasya | 23.01.2011 | 3

In the previous article it was mentioned, that the noun in Ukrainian language has seven cases. Here I would like to expand the topic, so that you can understand the purpose of cases and their meaning.

Why do we need cases?

We need them to show how the noun and other words in the sentence interact with each other. It is basically a grammatical category.

How to understand where to use a certain case?

You must put a certain question to a noun in the sentence. For example, in English you can put three kinds of questions to a noun depending on its role in the sentence.

  • The boy is playing with a kitten. (who? what?)

    The word “boy” plays the role of a subject.

  • The boy hugged him. (who?/whom?)

    The word “him” plays the role of a direct object.

  • His kitten.

    The word “his” plays the role of a possessor. (whose?)

But in Ukrainian language you can put 6 types of questions.

Types of cases

  1. Nominative

  2. Genitive

  3. Dative

  4. Accusative

  5. Instrumental

  6. Locative

  7. Vocative

Every case in Ukrainian language is named after a specific word which helps to identify the question needed to be put down to a noun, therefore children at school are taught to memorize the questions according to the names of the cases. I think that it would be a useful thing for you to put on notice this way.

Nominative case (Називний відмінок): хто? що?

The nominative case is the easiest one as it answers direct questions: who? and what?

The word “називний” is derived from Ukrainian “назва” (a name), so basically it is a dictionary form of a noun,

which names the object in the sentence:

His name is Oleh. — Його звати Oleг.

If a noun is a subject in the sentence, it has to be nominative case:

The girl is playing the piano. — Дівчинка грає на піаніно.

The book lies on the table. — Книжка лежить на столі.

If a noun is a part of a predicate (stays after a dash, which replaces “to be”):

He's brother is a doctor. — Його брат — лікар.

I am a (male) student. — Я — студент.

Genitive case (Родовий відмінок): кого? чого?

The genitive case shows that something or somebody is possessing or not possessing to somebody or something else.

The word “родовий” is derived from Ukrainian “рід” (a gender, a generation) and the question you can put is: whose gender?, so

it's basical purpose is to point out the possession, belonging, membership of the object:

The girl's piano. — Піаніно дівчинки.

The back of the chair. — Спинка крісла.

He is a school principal (a principal of school). — Він директор школи.

In some negative sentences:

I do not have a credit card. — У мене немає кредитної картки.

James cannot send the letter. — Джеймс не може відіслати листа.

Dative case (Давальний відмінок): кому? чому?

The word “давальний” is derived from Ukrainian “давати” (to give) and the question you can put is: to give to whom?

He gave a candy to a boy. — Він дав цукерку хлопчику.

or to show something to somebody, or to tell somebody something, or to explain, to present etc.:

Please, explain (to) sister this rule. — Будь ласка, поясни сестрі це правило.

He did not tell (to) his friend that secret. — Він не розказав своєму другові той секрет.

Accusative case (Знахідний відмінок): кого? що?

The word “знахідний” is derived from Ukrainian “знаходити” (to find) and the question you can put is: to search for whom? to search for what?,

in this case it is a direct object of a verb (action):

He is searching for mom. — Він шукає маму.

She is searching for a book. — Вона шукає книжку.

The student (pupil) has made his hometask. — Учень зробив своє домашнє завдання.

Instrumental case (Орудний відмінок): ким? чим?

This case is used when you want to express that someone or something is used by or works with smth or smb else.

The word “орудний” is derived from Ukrainian “орудувати” (to operate with, to handle with) and the question you can put is: who to handle with? what to handle with?

He paints with a brush. — Він малює пензликом.

with the preposition з(зі) (with):

Mother went to the theater with sister. — Мати пішла в театр з сестрою.

Travelling by transport or going on foot, walking along the street, city or other long distances:

I walk along this street every day. — Я гуляю цією вулицею щодня.

He went to France by car. — Він поїхав до Франції машиною.

When somebody is interested, engaged or involved in something (somebody):

His girlfriend is interested in history. — Його подруга цікавиться історією.

She is studying (is engaged in) classical music. — Вона займається класичною музикою.

Locative case (Місцевий відмінок): на кому? на чому?

This case indicates the location. This case is used only with a preposition.

The word “місцевий” is derived from Ukrainian “місце” (a place) and the question you can put is: on what? on whom? (but only the location, not the destination!)

The cat is sitting in the armchair. — У кріслі сидить кіт. (location, Locative case)

But:

The cat jumped in (into) the box. — Кіт стрибнув у коробку. (destination, Accusative case)

(For more explanation on the location vs. destination topic look here)

When telling time (with a prepositon о (at)):

He came at nine o'clock. — Він прийшов о дев'ятій годині.

Vocative case (Кличний відмінок)

The vocative case doesn't have any questions. It is used only in the direct speech when somebody is addressing somebody else.

Mother, put it please on the shelf.” — “Мамо, поклади це, будь ласка, на полицю.”

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jayantibhai | 04.01.2013 | #

In sanskrit language 8 [eight] type of cases are used.

ABLATIVE CASE indicates the Source. When you use this case you are "usually" indicating "from, on account of, since, because of, due to, owing to, etc.".

nigel | 02.10.2014 | #

Wonderful site!! Thank you so much or creating it!

I am wondering if it can be said that the vocative case is used primarily, or exclusively, with what we know as the imperative tense: the tense used for commands. E.g.: Go there. Do that.

Also, in your initial explanation of the dative case, "who to give" is incorrect English, and ambiguously worded for English-speakers. Would it be correct to reformulate it, "give to whom"? When one reads "who to give", it is just as easy to understand that one is targeting the initiator of the action ("who" being the nominative case pronoun), as its recipient, ("whom", generally speaking, the accusative case in English.). It seems dative case is used to designate the recipient of the action, as the initiator would be in the nominative. Am I correct?

Similarly, in the accusative, it would be "search for whom".

In the locative, if the word order is changed, does the case change? E.g.- Would "Кіт сидить у кріслі." be correct?

Once again: many, many thanks for this great site!!

stasya | 02.10.2014 | #

Thank for your reply, Nigel!

I guess I overdid it with the literal translation as the questions did seem to be strange for English-speakers.

I am really grateful for your help in making the article look more natural! I have already made some corrections.

Now answering your questions:

It seems dative case is used to designate the recipient of the action, as the initiator would be in the nominative. Am I correct?

Yes, you are. Though it isn't always that easy to say whether the object is the recipient of the action.

For example:

Космічному зонду вдалося залишити межі нашої галактики. — The space probe was able to leave the boundaries of our galaxy.

or even simpler:

Скільки тобі років? — How old are you?

In the locative, if the word order is changed, does the case change? E.g.- Would "Кіт сидить у кріслі." be correct?

And again, you are correct. Ukrainian language has a flexible word order.

Кіт сидить у кріслі.

У кріслі сидить кіт.

Сидить у кріслі кіт.

Кіт у кріслі сидить.

Сидить кіт у кріслі.

These are all correct.