- cases1. Cases are the functions of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives in sentences, as reflected in their endings or some other aspect of their form. The chief cases we are concerned with are:subjective(or nominative): the function of subject of a verb or sentence (e.g. house in The house was on fire).objective(or accusative): the function of object, after a transitive verb or preposition (e.g. book in Give me the book and Look in the book). Of less concern in English aregenitive(or possessive): the function of possession or ownership (e.g. Jane's and my in Jane's umbrella is in my car).dative: the function of reference or relation (e.g. me in Give me the book).Most English speakers now think of cases chiefly in connection with other, more inflected, languages such as Latin and German. In English, case-endings and case-forms, which were once a feature of nouns (stan, stanes, stane meaning ‘stone’), have become restricted over many centuries to plurals and possessives of nouns (books, children, boy's, girls', etc.) and to the pronouns (me, whom, ours, etc.). One consequence of this disappearance of cases is that English speakers may have partially lost an instinctive power to recognize case distinctions. Another way of looking at it is that the reduction process is continuing.2. The concept of case helps to clarify certain problems of English usage:a) What happens after the verb be. Since the subject and the complement of be are historically in the same case (i.e. be does not take an object), it is I and it is he (or she) are grammatically sounder than it is me and it is him (or her). However, usage is changing and it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain It is I (and still worse, It is only we) in speech without risking affectation.In writing, greater care is often needed. Many writers tend to prefer the subjective forms, especially when the pronoun is followed by a relative clause beginning with who or that: If I were he, I should keep an eye on that young man —C. P. Snow, 1979 / This time it was I who took the initiative —R. Cobb, 1985 / That might very well be he at this moment, causing the doorbell to chime —Kingsley Amis, 1988. But notice the difference in reported, especially informal, speech: Too much of a bloody infidel, that's me —Thomas Keneally, 1980 / ‘So…’ says Jasper. ‘That's him, the old fraud.’ —Penelope Lively, 1987 / Can this be me? Driving a car? —New Yorker, 1988.verdict: In less formal English the objective (It is me) is acceptable and often preferable (Can this be I? offends euphony and even common sense). In more formal English the subjective is preferable except where this produces awkwardness.b) what happens after as and than. A problem arises because these function partly as prepositions and partly as conjunctions, and their roles are not clear-cut. In broad terms when as or than are felt to be prepositions the objective case is used (as lucky as me), and when they are felt to be conjunctions the subjective case is used (as lucky as I, with am understood). Examples: He was as apprehensive as I about our meeting —J. Frame, 1985 / I hope you have a more cheerful Christmas than we —Evelyn Waugh, 1955 / He was eight years older than I —Lord Hailsham, 1990 / He seems to be as lonely as me, and to mind it more —David Lodge, 1991 / I wanted you to be wiser than me, better than me —P. Hillmore, 1987.verdict: There is a marked tendency towards using the objective case in more recent writing, with the subjective sounding more formal and often decidedly old-fashioned (as in the Waugh and Hailsham examples). See also as 1, than 1.c) what happens after but. The objective form is preferable, though in practice both types occur: (subjective) No one understands it, no one but I —J. M. Coetzee, 1977 / (objective) ‘Who knows about this?’ ‘Nobody but me and a couple of guys here on the platform know for sure.’ —M. Machlin, 1976. See also but 2.d) what happens after not. Since this is more common in speech, the objective case is common: ‘Who did this thing?’ ‘Not me.’ In writing, the subjective occurs more frequently: It must be he who is made of india-rubber, not I —Angela Carter, 1984. (This is an extended example of the use after be discussed in 2a above.)e) who and whom. This is one of the most contentious pronoun issues of our age. Whom seems to be on the decline; but it is incorrectly used as much as who (hyper-correction again): ☒ Do you know whom it was that came last night? (where whom is the complement of was and not the object of know). The issue is more fully discussed in the article who and whom.f) case-switching. Change of case in pronouns within the same sentence is a common feature of English, and often goes unnoticed. Examples: Me, I don't trust cats —Garrison Keillor, 1989 / Me thinking I'd probably got some filthy fever in spite of the jabs —Julian Barnes, 1989 / We sat down on either side of the radiogram, she with her tea, me with a pad and pencil —Jeanette Winterson, 1985.
Modern English usage. 2014.
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