Grammar Nominative Case: Usage and Examples |
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Nominative Case: Usage and Examples

Case in English concerns the function that a word performs in relation to other words in a sentence. In older English, grammar referred to the nominative case (subject), the accusative case (direct object), the dative case (indirect object), and the genitive case (possessive form).

(Current English refers more often to three cases: subjective, objective, and possessive.)

This discussion will focus on the nominative case, which is synonymous with the subjective case. The nominative case in English is used for a noun or a pronoun that is the subject or the subject complement in a sentence.

The word nominative stems from Latin cāsus nominātīvus, which translates to “case for naming.” That phrase was translated from the ancient Greek expression for “inflection for naming.”

Nominative Case: Subjects

Nominative nouns and pronouns are subjects that perform the action in the sentence.

Examples

Johann plays the clarinet well. (nominative-case subject: Johann)

The contractors painted the room for us. (nominative-case subject: contractors)

The cheerleaders practice at four p.m. today. (nominative-case subject: cheerleaders)

As you can see, each underlined word is the nominative-case subject of the verb.

The nominative case also can include more than one subject.

Examples

Maria and Camille have been working at the shop for years. (nominative-case subjects: Maria, Camille)

Peanut butter and jelly make a fine pair for a sandwich. (nominative-case subjects: peanut butter, jelly)

Oregon and Washington agreed on the interstate policy. (nominative-case subjects: Oregon, Washington)

Subject pronouns you will often see in the nominative case include I, you, he, she, it, we, and they.

Examples

It travels at 365 miles per hour. (nominative-case subject: it)

They host a big holiday dinner every year. (nominative-case subject: they)

She and I write to each other each month. (nominative-case subjects: she, I)

Nominative Case: Predicate Nouns and Pronouns

When a noun renames the sentence subject, typically after the linking verb to be, it is a predicate noun or pronoun (a subject complement).

Examples: Predicate Noun

That book is an excellent study of the events. (Nominative-case noun study renames the subject, book.)

The Chopras are wonderful people. (Nominative-case noun people renames the subject, Chopras.)

You are a skilled performer. (Nominative-case noun performer renames the subject, you.)

Similarly, a pronoun can rename the sentence subject.

Examples: Predicate Pronoun

The winner of the wine decanter is you. (Nominative-case pronoun you renames the subject, winner.)

The document’s author is he. (Nominative-case pronoun he renames the subject, author.)

The last ones to know about the surprise party were you and I. (Nominative-case pronouns you and I rename the subject, ones.)

Nominative Case: A Note About Form

Nouns in English do no change form; pronouns do. Therefore, the same form of a noun can appear in both the nominative and accusative (objective) case. The form of most pronouns (excluding you and it) will differ depending on what case they are in.

As we’ve discussed, nouns and pronouns are in the nominative case when they are the subject of the verb or when they rename the subject. Nouns and pronouns are in the accusative case when they receive the action of the verb.

Examples

The giver of the gift will be the boy. (predicate noun = nominative case)
The gift will be given by the boy. (noun object of a preposition = accusative case; form doesn’t change)

The person to be forgiven was he. (predicate pronoun = nominative case)
They forgave him. (direct-object pronoun = accusative case; form changes)

The person Jason called first was I. (predicate pronoun = nominative case)
Jason called me first. (direct-object pronoun = accusative case; form changes)

Understanding changes in form will help you more readily understand when certain sentences are correct (or incorrect) and why.

Correct: They gave the dog a bath. (nominative-case pronoun as subject)

Incorrect: Them gave the dog a bath. (accusative-case pronoun as subject)

Related Topics

Types of Nouns
Plural Possessive Noun
Subject Pronouns

Pop Quiz

Identify all words in the nominative case in the following sentences.

1. Candace and I will host the party.

2. Between you and me, I would like to be the manager.

3. They said clouds are made of cotton, but we disagreed.

4. Mars will be the next civilized planet.

5. She and Marikka should give the pies to you and me.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Candace and I will host the party.

2. Between you and me, I would like to be the manager.

3. They said clouds are made of cotton, but we disagreed.

4. Mars will be the next civilized planet.

5. She and Marikka should give the pies to you and me.

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