Accusative case

The accusative case (abbreviated ACC) is a linguistics term for a grammatical case relating to how some languages typically mark a direct object of a transitive verb. Among those languages, analogous marking principles often apply to the objects of (some or all) prepositions. The characteristics of an accusative case often entails (such as in Latin) what generally is termed the nominative case.

The English term, "accusative," dervies from the Latin accusativus, which, in turn, is a translation of the Greek αἰτιατική. The word may also mean "causative", and this may have been the Greeks' intention in this name,[1] but the sense of the Roman translation has endured and is used in some other modern languages as the grammatical term for this case, for example in Russian (винительный).

The accusative case is typical of early Indo-European languages and still exists in some of them (including Latin, Sanskrit, Greek, German, Polish, Russian), in the Finno-Ugric languages, and in Semitic languages (such as Arabic). Balto-Finnic languages, such as Finnish and Estonian, have two cases to mark objects, the accusative and the partitive case. In morphosyntactic alignment terms, both perform the accusative function, but the accusative object is telic, while the partitive is not.

Modern English almost entirely lacks declension in its nouns; pronouns, however, have an oblique case as in whom, them, and her, which merges the accusative and dative functions, and originates in old Germanic dative forms (see Declension in English).


In the sentence I see the car, the noun phrase the car is the direct object of the verb "see". In English, which has mostly lost the case system, the definite article and noun – "the car" – remain in the same form regardless of the grammatical role played by the words. One can correctly use "the car" as the subject of a sentence also: "The car is parked here."

In a declined language, the morphology of the article or noun changes in some way according to the grammatical role played by the noun in a given sentence. For example, in German, one possible translation of "the car" is der Wagen. This is the form in the nominative case, used for the subject of a sentence. If this article/noun pair is used as the object of a verb, it (usually) changes to the accusative case, which entails an article shift in German – Ich sehe den Wagen. In German, masculine nouns change their definite article from der to den in the accusative case.