Accusative Case

by Craig Shrives
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What Is the Accusative Case? (with Examples)

The accusative case is a grammatical case whose main function is to show the direct object of a verb. (Most people will encounter the term "accusative case" when studying a language other than English.)

You can find the direct object by finding the verb and asking "what?" (or "whom?"). For example:
accusative case

Examples of the Accusative Case

Here are some examples of the accusative case with an explanation of how to find the direct object:
  • She stroked the cat.
  • Step 1. Find the verb = "stroked"
    Step 2. Ask "What?" = "the cat"

    Therefore, the direct object is "the cat." The words "the cat" are in the accusative case. Luckily for us, nouns do not change their forms in the accusative case. Some pronouns do though.

  • Barney will draw him tomorrow.
  • Step 1. Find the verb = "will draw"
    Step 2. Ask "What?" = "him"

    Therefore, the direct object is "him." The pronoun "him" is in the accusative case. It has changed from "he" to "him."

The Accusative Case Is the Objective Case

In English, we use the term objective case for the accusative case and the dative case.

More Examples of the Accusative Case

Here are some more examples of nouns and pronouns as direct objects (i.e., in the "accusative case"):
  • Anteaters prefer termites.
  • Hollywood is a place where people from Iowa mistake each other for stars. (Comedian Fred Allen)
  • I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't like it. (Film producer Samuel Goldwyn)
  • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. (Comedian Groucho Marx)
  • (This is an example of a pun. In the first sentence, "flies" is an intransitive verb (i.e., one that does not take a direct object), and "like" is a conjunction meaning "as if." In the second sentence, "flies" is the subject, and "like" is a transitive verb (i.e., one that can take a direct object). In this case, the direct object is "a banana." So, "a banana" is in the accusative case.)
  • Give the large parcel to the lady next door.
  • (In this example, we have a recipient of the direct object. The recipient is known as the indirect object. In a sentence, the indirect object is shown by the dative case. Again, this is a term you are more likely to encounter when studying a language other than English.)

Prepositions Can Take the Accusative Case

When studying other languages, you might also encounter a list of prepositions that take the accusative case. For example, in German, the following take the accusative case: "bis," "durch," "entlang," "für," "gegen," "ohne," and "um."

In English, prepositions take the objective case. That's why we say "with him" (and not "with he") and "for whom" (and not "for who"). In these two examples, the words "him" and "whom" are known as the object of a preposition. Read more about the cases in English grammar.

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