cases: an introduction

I can already hear some of you asking ''What on god’s mighty earth is a case?? '' and BOY, OH BOY that’s a question I love to hear because I love cases more than I love the greek sun shining on my face on a warm August afternooon.

and I do love the august sun a lot

If you are already familiar with cases, go to part II.
The rest of you, get ready for a long ride.

When you look at the kitchen of a five-star restaurant, you can always tell who is the chef. At a hospital, you always know who’s a doctor and who is a nurse, and it’s easy to distinguish the sergeant from the private and the pilot from the cabin crew. 
All these people wear uniforms that clearly signify their position. 
Now, if we look at the structure of a typical sentence,
[ Pablo pets the puppy ] we see these components:

pets is the action in the sentence,
also called
the verb

who does the action? that's Pablo,
and he's
the subject of the sentence

to whom the action is directed?
to the puppy,
the object of the sentence


When I talk to my students about cases, very often they say:
‘’It’s hard to understand cases as a concept
because we don’t have them in English.’’





Allow me to present to you the words HE and HIM.
Both words are, grammatically, the masculine personal pronoun, both refer to something / someone who is male / masculine. 
But they look different, and we use them differently.
Why is that?

Without even seeing them in a sentence, how can you tell which one is the subject and which one is the object?
Why don’t we say ''Him plays polo'' or ''My parents like he''?

Have no fear, for the answer is clear.

Just like doctors and nurses wear different uniforms to signify their different positions and responsibilities in a hospital,
words also wear uniforms that signify their role and position in a sentence: the role of the subject, the object, etc.

📢  This uniform that a word wears is called a CASE.
Thank you, and good night.

Just kidding,
there’s more.

In English, there are three cases:
Nominative or subjective, the case of -wait for it- the subject.
Accusative or objective, the case of -I wonder what it could be?- the object.
Genitive or possessive, to signify -the suspense is killing me- possession.

That is why, going back to the he / him example, the reason why we can’t say ''Him plays polo'' is because the word HIM is wearing
the ACCUSATIVE uniform, the uniform of the OBJECT
and therefore  c a n n o t  act as the SUBJECT
it's wrong, it's forbidden by law, it violates human rights and it's punishable by ostracism.

But the word HE wears the fine suit of the NOMINATIVE case, the case of the SUBJECT, and has therefore earned the right to be used as such in a sentence: He plays polo.

And if HE wants to enjoy a polo session with a group of mates, then 
He plays polo with his friends,
and guess what case is the word HIS ?
Indeed it’s  ~ g e n i t i v e  ~ , you genius devil you, 
because we express possession, they are his friends and not someone else’s.


In English we only really see cases in pronouns. (he / him / his)

Nouns (dog, school, philosophy, innuendo) don’t wear uniforms, they always look the same whether they are subjects or objects,
the only reliable way to tell them apart is their position in the sentence
. (and a change of
position, means a change in the meaning)

Grandpa eats a burger. → A burger eats grandpa.

For cases in the greek language, the Saga continues in Part 2. 🍔

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