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grammatical case

n. (context grammar English) A mode of inflection of a word dependent on its use, especially the syntactic function in a phrase.

grammatical case

n. nouns or pronouns or adjectives (often marked by inflection) related in some way to other words in a sentence [syn: case]

Grammatical case

Case is a grammatical category whose value reflects the grammatical function performed by a noun or pronoun in a phrase, clause, or sentence. In some languages, nouns, pronouns, and their modifiers take different inflected forms depending on what case they are in. English has largely lost its case system, although case distinctions can still be seen with the personal pronouns: forms such as I, he and we are used in the role of subject ("I kicked the ball"), whereas forms such as me, him and us are used in the role of object ("John kicked me").

Languages such as Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, Latin, Armenian, Hungarian, Turkish, Tamil, Russian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Finnish, Icelandic, and Lithuanian have extensive case systems, with nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and determiners all inflecting (usually by means of different suffixes) to indicate their case. A language may have a number of different cases (German and Icelandic have four; Turkish, Latin and Russian each have at least six; Armenian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, and Lithuanian have seven; Sanskrit has eight; Finnish has fifteen and Hungarian has eighteen). Commonly encountered cases include nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. A role that one of these languages marks by case will often be marked in English using a preposition. For example, the English prepositional phrase with (his) foot (as in "John kicked the ball with his foot") might be rendered in Russian using a single noun in the instrumental case, or in Ancient Greek as τῷ ποδί, tōi podi, meaning "the foot" with both words (the definite article, and the noun πούς, pous, "foot") changing to dative form.

As a language evolves, cases can merge (for instance, in Ancient Greek the locative case has merged with the dative), a phenomenon formally called syncretism.

More formally, case has been defined as "a system of marking dependent nouns for the type of relationship they bear to their heads". Cases should be distinguished from thematic roles such as agent and patient. They are often closely related, and in languages such as Latin several thematic roles have an associated case, but cases are a morphological notion, whereas thematic roles are a semantic one. Languages having cases often exhibit free word order, because thematic roles are not required to be marked by position in the sentence.