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The Grammatical Cases

Two women sitting on top of a speech bubble

Here are the most important grammatical cases, explained.

Vocative - used to address someone / to get someone’s attention

Peter, can you hear me?

Peter, ¿me escuchas?

Genitive - expresses possession

Peter’s house

La casa de Peter

Nominative - the subject of a sentence (i.e. whoever or whatever is doing the action of the verb)

Peter lives in Virginia.

Peter vive en Virginia.

Accusative - the direct object

I call Peter.

Llamo a Peter.

Dative - the indirect object

I give something to Peter / I give Peter something.

Doy algo a Peter.

In many languages, we would have to modify the name ‘Peter’ in each case (can you imagine?). Fortunately, in Spanish or English we don’t have to do that (although in the genitive case in English we are kind of doing it, by adding the ’s part).

In English and Spanish we need to be careful with the nominative, accusative and dative pronouns, though.

English nominative pronouns: I, you, he/she/it, we, they.

English accusative pronouns: Me, you, him/her/it, us, them.

English dative pronouns: Me, you, him/her/it, us, them.

Spanish nominative pronouns: Yo, tú, él/ella, nosotros/as, vosotros/as, ellos/as.

Spanish accusative pronouns: Me, te, lo/la, nos, os, los/las.

Spanish dative pronouns: Me, te, le, nos, os, les.

When learning English, students need to make sure they don't mix up nominative and accusative/dative pronouns. We should say “I call her,” not “Me call she.”

In the same way, in Spanish we should be careful not to mix up those, but also not to mix up third person accusative and dative pronouns:

I call her => La llamo.

I give her a present => Le doy un regalo.

If you want to work on this, take Level 4 with us!