Case is that property of a noun or pronoun that indicates the relation of the noun or pronoun to the rest of the sentence.
Nouns have three cases.
(1) The Nominative Case is used in the subject of a verb and in the predicate noun.
The politician spoke with emphasis.
The boy is an athlete.
(2) The Objective Case is used for the object of a verb or preposition.
The farmer built a fence.
He drove across the country.
(3) The Possessive Case denotes possession.
This is the gentleman’s hat.
Forms. The three cases have the following forms.
The Nominative and Objective cases of a noun have the same form. Thus, there can be no confusion in the use of them.
The Possessive Case of a noun is marked by the use of an apostrophe (’).
(1) The possessive case of a singular noun is regularly formed by adding an ’s to the end of the noun: as, woman’s, mayor’s, girl’s.
(2) The possessive case of a plural noun is formed:
(a) By adding an apostrophe to the simple plural when the plural ends in s: as, dogs’ (simple plural, dogs), girls’ (simple plural, girls).
(b) By adding ’s, as in the singular, when the simple plural does
not end in s: as, women’s (simple plural, women), children’s (simple plural, children).
For singular nouns that end in s or an s-sound (like ce) add only an apostrophe: as, Moses’ story, Jesus’ crucifixion, for conscience’ sake. This is also true when other s-sounds follow: as, Odysseus’ adventure. Use of the regular ’s in such instances is not, however, incorrect.
(3) In compound nouns or in titles or names having a unit idea,
an apostrophe (’) or an apostrophe s (’s) is added to the last member of the group: as, mother-in-law’s, the Prince of Wales’, the Queen of England’s. Usage is divided for some compounds: attorneys general’s or attorney generals’.
The possessive case usually denotes possession.
John’s car was stolen.
A crowd occupied the city’s square.
Sometimes the possession is of a modified type. For example, in the expressions, “Einstein’s theories” and “Wordsworth’s poems,” Einstein and Wordsworth are the possessors only in the sense that they are the theorists or creators. Compare the two kinds of possession indicated in the following sentence: “This is David’s copy of Wordsworth’s collected poems.”Some instances of possession indicate a lack of ownership entirely: a day’s work, my year’s salary, the law’s delay. These phrases mean “the work of a day,” “my salary for a year,” “the delay of the law.”
A noun in the possessive case is usually equivalent to a phrase beginning with of. For example, we may say either “Hardy’s poems” or “the poems of Hardy”; “the governor’s mansion” or “the mansion of the governor”; “the President’s agenda” or “the agenda of the President.” We would not, however, say “the car of Johnny” for “Johnny’s car,” or “the law of Murphy” for “Murphy’s law.” When making such distinctions in usage, the student must be guided by his or her ear for what sounds correct.
As a general rule only the possessive case is not used with inanimate objects. A phrase with of is used instead: thus, “the cover of the book” (not “the book’s cover”); “the branches of the tree” (not “the tree’s branches”). There are exceptions to this rule: time’s delay, ship’s mast, earth’s surface, tree’s fruit, etc.
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