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Genitive case

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Title: Genitive case  
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Genitive case

In grammar, genitive (abbreviated gen; also called the possessive case or second case) is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun. It often marks a noun as being the possessor of another noun;[1] however, it can also indicate various other relationships than possession: certain verbs may take arguments in the genitive case, and it may have adverbial uses (see Adverbial genitive).

Placing the modifying noun in the genitive case is one way to indicate that two nouns are related in a genitive construction. Modern English typically does not morphologically mark nouns for a genitive case in order to indicate a genitive construction; instead, it uses either the  '​s clitic or a preposition (usually of). However, the personal pronouns do have distinct possessive forms. There are various other ways to indicate a genitive construction, as well. For example, many Afroasiatic languages place the head noun (rather than the modifying noun) in the construct state.

Depending on the language, specific varieties of genitive-noun–main-noun relationships may include:

  • possession (see possessive case, possessed case):
    • inalienable possession ("Janet’s height", "Janet’s existence", "Janet’s long fingers")
    • alienable possession ("Janet’s jacket", "Janet’s drink")
    • relationship indicated by the noun being modified ("Janet’s husband")
  • composition (see Partitive):
    • substance ("a wheel of cheese")
    • elements ("a group of men")
    • source ("a portion of the food")
  • participation in an action:
    • as an agent ("She benefited from her father's love") – this is called the subjective genitive (Compare "Her father loved her", where Her father is the subject.)
    • as a patient ("the love of music")  – this is called the objective genitive (Compare "She loves music", where music is the object.)
  • origin ("men of Rome")
  • reference ("the capital of the Republic" or "the Republic's capital")
  • description ("man of honour", "day of reckoning")
  • compounds ("doomsday" ("doom's day"), Scottish Gaelic "ball coise" = "football", where "coise" = gen. of "cas", "foot")
  • apposition (Japanese ふじの山 (Fuji no Yama), "Mount Fuji"; Latin urbs Romae ("city of Rome"))

Depending on the language, some of the relationships mentioned above have their own distinct cases different from the genitive.

Possessive pronouns are distinct pronouns, found in Indo-European languages such as English, that function like pronouns inflected in the genitive. They are considered separate pronouns if contrasting to languages where pronouns are regularly inflected in the genitive. For example, English my is either a separate possessive adjective or an irregular genitive of I, while in Finnish, for example, minun is regularly agglutinated from minu- "I" and -n (genitive).

In some languages, nouns in the genitive case also agree in case with the nouns they modify (that is, it is marked for two cases). This phenomenon is called suffixaufnahme.

In some languages, nouns in the genitive case may be found in inclusio – that is, between the main noun’s article and the noun itself.

Many languages have a genitive case, including German, Greek, Icelandic, Irish, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Sanskrit, Scottish Gaelic, Turkish and all Slavic languages except Bulgarian and Macedonian. English does not have a proper genitive case, but a possessive ending, -’s, although some pronouns have irregular possessive forms which may more commonly be described as genitives; see English possessive.


  • Chinese (Mandarin) 1
  • English 2
  • Finnic genitives and accusatives 3
  • German 4
  • Japanese 5
  • Korean 6
  • Latin 7
  • Irish 8
  • Persian 9
  • Semitic languages 10
    • Akkadian 10.1
    • Arabic 10.2
  • Slavic languages 11
    • Possessives 11.1
    • To express negation 11.2
    • Partial direct object 11.3
    • Prepositional constructions 11.4
  • Turkish 12
  • Albanian 13
  • Kannada 14
  • See also 15
  • References 16
  • External links 17

Chinese (Mandarin)

In Mandarin Chinese, the genitive case is made by use of the particle 的 (de).

For instance: 我的猫 (My cat). 我 = I 猫 = Cat

However, when talking about persons in relation to one's self, it is common to drop 的 when the context allows for it to be easily understood.

For instance: 我妈妈 and 我的妈妈 both mean "My mother".


Old English had a genitive case, which has left its mark in modern English in the form of the possessive ending -'s (now sometimes referred to as the "Saxon genitive"), as well as possessive pronoun forms such as his, theirs, etc., and in certain words derived from adverbial genitives such as once and afterwards. (Other Old English case markers have generally disappeared completely.) The modern English possessive forms are not normally considered to represent a grammatical case, although they are sometimes referred to as genitives or as belonging to a possessive case. One of the reasons that the status of -'s as a case ending is often rejected is that it attaches to the end of a noun phrase and not necessarily to the head noun itself, as in the king of Spain's daughter, not the king's of Spain daughter as would be expected if -'s were a case inflection on the noun king (and as was done in older forms of English).

Finnic genitives and accusatives

Finnic languages (Finnish, Estonian) have genitive cases.

In Finnish, prototypically the genitive is marked with -n, e.g. maa – maan "country – of the country". The stem may change, however, with consonant gradation and other reasons. For example, in certain words ending in consonants, -e- is added, e.g. mies – miehen "man – of the man", and in some, but not all words ending in -i, the -i is changed to an -e-, to give -en, e.g. lumi – lumen "snow – of the snow". The genitive is used extensively, with animate and inanimate possessors. In addition to the genitive, there is also a partitive case (marked -ta/-tä or -a/-ä) used for expressing that something is a part of a larger mass, e.g. joukko miehiä "a group of men".

In Estonian, the genitive marker -n has elided with respect to Finnish. Thus, the genitive always ends with a vowel, and the singular genitive is sometimes (in a subset of words ending with a vocal in nominative) identical in form to nominative.

In Finnish, in addition to the uses mentioned above, there is a construct where the genitive is used to mark a surname. For example, Juhani Virtanen can be also expressed Virtasen Juhani ("Juhani of the Virtanens").

A complication in Finnic languages is that the accusative case -(e)n is homophonic to the genitive case. This case does not indicate possession, but is a syntactic marker for the object, additionally indicating that the action is telic (completed). In Estonian, it is often said that only a "genitive" exists. However, the cases have completely different functions, and the form of the accusative has developed from *-(e)m. (The same sound change has developed into a synchronic mutation of a final m into n in Finnish, e.g. genitive sydämen vs. nominative sydän.) This homophony has exceptions in Finnish, where a separate accusative -(e)t is found in pronouns, e.g. kenet "who (telic object)", vs. kenen "whose".

A difference is also observed in some of the related Sámi languages, where the pronouns and the plural of nouns in the genitive and accusative are easily distinguishable from each other, e.g., kuä'cǩǩmi "eagles' (genitive plural)" and kuä'cǩǩmid "eagles (accusative plural)" in Skolt Sami.


The genitive case is used in the German language to show possession. For example:

  • das Buch der Schülerin (the book of the schoolgirl) - Feminine
  • das Buch des Schülers (the book of the schoolboy) - Masculine

An s is simply added to the end of the name if the identity of the possessor is specified. For example:

  • Claudias Buch (Claudia's book)

There is also a genitive case of German pronouns such as dein (your) and mein (my).

The genitive case is also used for objects of some prepositions, such as trotz (despite), wegen (because of), [an]statt (instead of), während (during), and is required as the case of the direct object for some verbs, e.g. gedenken, sich erfreuen, bedürfen: usage: wir gedachten der Verstorbenen - We remembered the dead; wir erfreuen uns des schönen Wetters - We're happy about the nice weather.

All of the articles change in the genitive case.
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Definite article des der des der
Indefinite article eines einer eines (no article)
Adjective endings in genitive case:
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
With definite article -en -en -en -en
With indefinite article -en -en -en -en
With no article -en -er -en -er

The following prepositions can take the genitive: außerhalb, innerhalb, statt, trotz, während, wegen, and dank.

The genitive case is widely avoided in most colloquial and dialectal varieties of German. It is replaced by the dative case after verbs and prepositions, and by means of the preposition von ("of") in other contexts. However, this usage is not accepted in the written standard language.


The Japanese possessive is constructed by using the suffix -no 〜の to make the genitive case. For example:

Nominative: 猫 neko ('cat'); 手 te ('hand, paw')
Genitive: 猫の手 neko-no te ('cat's paw')

It also uses the suffix -na 〜な for adjectival noun; in some analyses adjectival nouns are simply nouns that take -na in the genitive, forming a complementary distribution (-no and -na being allomorphs).

Typically, languages have nominative case nouns converting into genitive case. It has been found, however, that Japanese will in rare cases allow accusative case to convert to genitive, if specific conditions are met in the clause in which the conversion appears. This is referred to as "Accusative-Genitive conversion."[2]


The possessive in Korean can be formed using the ending -ui '의'.

This is a car. igeoseun jadongchayeyo. 이것은 자동차예요.
This is the man's car. igeoseun geu namja-ui jadongchayeyo. 이것은 그 남자의 자동차예요.


The genitive is one of the cases of nouns and pronouns in Latin. Latin genitives still have certain modern scientific uses:

  • Scientific names of living things sometimes contain genitives, as in the plant name Buddleja davidii, meaning "David's buddleia". Here Davidii is the genitive of Davidius, a Latinized version of the English name. It is not capitalized because it is the second part of a binomial name.
  • Names of astronomical constellations are Latin, and the genitives of their names are used in naming objects in those constellations, as in the Bayer designation of stars. For example, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo is called Alpha Virginis, which is to say "Alpha of Virgo", as virginis is the genitive of virgō.
  • Modus operandi, which can be translated to English as 'mode of operation', in which operandi is a singular genitive gerund (i.e. 'of operation'), not a plural of operandus as is sometimes mistakenly assumed.


The Irish language also uses a genitive case (tuiseal ginideach). For example in the phrase bean an tí (woman of the house), is the genitive case of teach, meaning "house". Another example is barr an chnoic, "top of the hill", where cnoc means "hill", but is changed to chnoic, which also incorporates lenition.


Old Persian had a true genitive case inherited from Proto-Indo-European. By the time of Middle Persian, the genitive case had been lost and replaced by an analytical construction which is now called Ezāfe. This construction was inherited by New Persian, and was also later borrowed into numerous other Iranic, Turkic and Indo-Aryan languages languages of Western and South Asia.

Semitic languages

Genitive case marking existed in Proto-Semitic, Akkadian, and Ugaritic. It indicated possession, and it is preserved today only in literary Arabic and in Hebrew.


Nominative: šarrum (king)
Genitive: aššat šarrim (wife of king = king's wife)


Called المجرور al-majrūr (meaning "dragged") in Arabic, the Genitive case functions both as an indication of ownership (ex. the door of the house) and for nouns following a preposition.

Nominative: بيت baytun (a house)
Genitive: باب بيت bābu baytin (the door of a house) باب البيت bābu l-bayti (the door of the house)

The Arabic genitive marking also appears after prepositions.

e.g. باب لبيت bābun li-baytin (a door for a house)

The Semitic genitive should not be confused with the pronominal possessive suffixes that exist in all the Semitic languages

e.g. Arabic بيتي bayt-ī (my house) كتابك kitābu-ka (your [masc.] book).

Slavic languages

With the exception of Bulgarian and Macedonian, all Slavic languages decline the nouns and adjectives in accordance with the genitive case using a variety of endings depending on the word's lexical category, its gender, and number (singular or plural).


To indicate possession the ending of the noun indicating the possessor changes to а, я, ы or и, depending on the word's ending in the nominative case and similar cases in other Slavic languages. For example:

Nominative: "Вот Антон" ("Here is Anton").
Genitive: "Вот карандаш Антона" ("Here is Anton's pencil").

Possessives can also be formed by the construction "У [subject] есть [object]".

Nominative: "Вот Сергей" ("Here is Sergei").
Genitive: "У Сергея есть карандаш" ("Sergei has a pencil").

In sentences where the possessor includes an associated pronoun, the pronoun also changes:

Nominative: "Вот мой брат" ("Here is my brother").
Genitive: "У моего брата есть карандаш" ("My brother has a pencil").

And in sentences denoting negative possession, the ending of the object noun also changes:

Nominative: "Вот Ирина" ("Here is Irina").
Genitive: "У Ирины нет карандаша" ("Irina does not have a pencil"). Note that нет is a contraction of "не" + "есть".

To express negation

The genitive case is also used in sentences expressing negation, even when no possessive relationship is involved. The ending of the subject noun changes just as it does in possessive sentences. The genitive, in this sense, can only be used to negate nominative, accusative and genitive sentences, and not other cases.

Nominative: "Мария дома?" ("Is Maria at home?").
Genitive: "Марии нет дома" ("Maria is not at home," literally, "Of Maria there is none at home.").
Accusative: Могу (про)читать ваш почерк ("I can read your hand writing")
Genitive: Не могу (про)читать вашего почерка ("I can't read your handwriting")

Use of genitive for negation is obligatory in Slovene, Polish and Old Church Slavonic. The East Slavic languages (Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian) employ either the accusative or genitive for negation, albeit the genitive is more commonly used. In Czech, Slovak and Serbo-Croatian, negating with the genitive case is perceived as rather archaic and the accusative is preferred, but genitive negation in these languages is still not uncommon, especially in music and literature.[3]

Partial direct object

The genitive case is used with some verbs and mass nouns to indicate that the action covers only a part of the direct object (having a function of non-existing partitive case), whereas similar constructions using the Accusative case denote full coverage. Compare the sentences:

Genitive: "Я выпил воды" ("I drank water," i.e. "I drank some water, part of the water available")
Accusative: "Я выпил воду ("I drank the water," i.e. "I drank all the water, all the water in question")

In Russian, special partitive case or sub-case is observed for some uncountable nouns which in some contexts have preferred alternative form on -у/ю instead of standard genitive on -а/я: выпил чаю ('drank some tea'), but сорта чая ('sorts of tea').

Prepositional constructions

The genitive case is also used in many prepositional constructions.

  • Czech prepositions using genitive case: od (from), z, ze (from), do (into), bez (without), kromě (excepting), místo (instead of), podle (after, according to), podél (along), okolo (around), u (near, by), vedle (beside), během (during), pomocí (using, by the help of), stran (as regards) etc.


The Turkish possessive is constructed using two suffixes: a genitive case for the possessor and a possessive suffix for the possessed object. For example:

Nominative: Kadın ('woman'); ayakkabı ('shoe')
Genitive: Kadının ayakkabısı ('the woman's shoe')


The genitive in Albanian is formed with the help of clitics. For example:

Nominative: libër ('book'); vajzë ('girl');
Genetive: libri i vajzës (the girl's book)

If the possessed object is masculine, the clitic is i. If the possessed object is feminine, the clitic is e. If the possessed object is plural, the clitic is e regardless of the gender.

The genitive is used with some prepositions: me anë ('by means of'), nga ana ('on behalf of', 'from the side of'), për arsye ('due to'), për shkak ('because of'), me përjashtim ('with the exception of'), në vend ('instead of').


In Kannada, the genitive case-endings are:

for masculine or feminine nouns ending in "ಅ" (a): ನ (na)

  • Examples: sūrya-na ('of the sun')

for neuter nouns ending in "ಅ" (a): ದ (da)

  • Examples: mara-da ('of the tree')

for all nouns ending in "ಇ" (i), "ಈ" (ī), "ಎ" (e), or "ಏ" (ē): ಅ (a)

  • Examples: mane-y-a ('of the house'; note that a linking "y" is added between the stem and the suffix)

for all nouns ending in "ಉ" (u), "ಊ" (ū), "ಋ" (r̥), or "ೠ" (r̥̄): ಇನ (ina)

  • Examples; guru-v-ina ('of the teacher'; note that a linking "v" is added between the stem and the suffix)

Most postpositions in Kannada take the genitive case.

See also


  1. ^, genitive
  2. ^ Shin’ya, Asano; Hiroyuki Una (February 2010). "Mood and Case: with special reference to genitive Case conversion in Kansai Japanese.". Journal of East Asian Linguistics 19 (1): 37–59.  
  3. ^ Olga Kagan (2007). "Property-Denoting NPs and Non-Canonical Genitive Case". Proceedings of the 17th Semantics and Linguistic Theory conference (CLC Publications, Cornell University). Retrieved January 27, 2013. 

External links

  • German genitive case A lesson covering the genitive case in the German language
  • Russian genitive: [1], [2], [3]
  • Genitive Case In Arabic
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