Cases of nouns in English – possessive case and common case

Cases of nouns in English There are only two cases of nouns in English: possessive case and common case.

The lesson shows the formation of cases and gives examples of the occurrences of possessive case of nouns.

English nouns have only two cases: Possessive Case where nouns take the special ending; and Common Case where nouns don’t have any ending.

The Common case is the form in which the noun is given in the dictionary.

English nouns in the Common case can be used in the functions of the subject and direct complement (always without a preposition), an indirect and prepositional complement, an attribute (usually with or without a preposition).

Possessive case of singular nouns is formed by adding the /’s/ ending to the noun:

the girls‘s hat

John‘s friend

the cat‘s leg

Possessive case of plural nouns is formed just by adding an apostrophe:

the boys book

the girls bags

If a plural noun is formed by changing its form and not by adding the /s/ ending, the possessive case is formed like with the singular noun, i.e. by adding the /’s/ ending:

man‘s happiness

men‘s happiness

the children‘s books

The possessive noun plays only one function – an attribute (individual characteristics of the defined word):

Shakespeare‘s sonnets

The use of English nouns in the possessive case:

1. For the expression of the object’s belonging

the  student’s pen

John’s car

2. For the expression of the qualitative characteristics of the object:

men’s clothes

a children’s room

The possessive phrase can be used with the /of/ preposition:

the boy’s room = the room of the boy

3. Possessive case of animate and inanimate nouns:

In general only an animate noun has the possessive case form. It denotes certain object, quality or an attribute that belongs to a living creature:

the girl’s voice

In rare occurances the possessive case used with inanimate nouns is limited to the value of a specific object:

the car’s roof (the roof of a certain car)

4. The use of the possessive case for inanimate nouns:

  • Nouns denoting time and space:

I shall have a week’s holiday next month.

  • Nouns denoting countries, cities and ships, and the following words: world, country, city, ship:

Moscow is Russia’s capital.

  • Some adverbs of time

today’s program

yesterday’s concert

5. Noun in the possessive case does not necessarily stands in front of the word it defines:

  • The defined word may be omitted:

It was not my idea but it was Tom’s

  • The defined word has other determinants – an indefinite article or a demonstrative pronoun:

an idea of Tom’s

this idea of Tom’s

6. The /’s/ ending can be used with more than a single word:

  • A phrase with a leading noun

John and Tom’s room

The Prime Minister of England’s speech

  • A phrase without a noun:

sombody else’s car

7. The sole use of a noun in the possessive case form – without defining another word:

  • To avoid the repeted use of the word:

Her skin was as silky as a child’s.

  • To indicate an institution, a store or a house (of someone):

at the doctor’s

at the baker’s

Thus the /’s/ ending is used for the formation of a word:

a baker’s

a chemist’s

a hairdresser’s

Two nouns in the possessive case are usually not following one another. In such occurances the /of/ preposition is being used:

He is a friend of my brother’s wife

In the following video the kids show objects that belong to each other, and the teacher tells a sentence using the possessive nouns: