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James ( -
Posted on Monday, February 04, 2002 - 03:17 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A Chairde,

Can someone put into simple terms, with examples, the meaning of some of the more common grammatical terms I've seen bandied about in these postings!?!?!? They get tossed around like cow patties on a windy day and I don't have a firm enough grasp of their meanings to keep from getting struck dead in the face by them.

Genetive!??! Is this related to reproductive organs??

Nominative!?!?!? Vaguely related to the political process?

"The Article."---something published by the Vatican??

Dative!??!!? I think I gave up on that after my first marriage.

And the list goes on, I'm sure.

Contributing to my grammatical shortcomings is the fact that I have spent the bulk of my adult life painting my face green, dressing like various types of foliage, carrying heavy things on my back and jumping out of airplanes. Furthermore, I graduated from a state educational system that was rated 48 out of 50. Taking this into account, it should be a foregone conclusion that I am not the brightest bulb in this collective chandelier we call "Daltai." It is true, however, that by some academic oversight the Universities of Oklahoma and Nebraska have conferred a Bachelor's degree and Master's degree, respectively, upon me, so perhaps all is not lost. At any rate, I humbly solicit your collective assistance.

Le meas,


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Rian OSuileabhain (
Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2002 - 05:48 am:   Edit Post Print Post

A Chara, feach ar an rud seo a fuaireas ar an net...
3. Cases
The word case refers to the grammatical function performed in a sentence by a noun or pronoun. In Old English, any article, demonstrative, or adjective "agreeing" (see Concord 1.8) with the noun or pronoun must be in the same case. The system of case-endings (inflexions) is known as a "declension". In PDE all case endings except the genitive ('s, s') have disappeared in nouns, adjectives, and demonstratives, but survive in the personal pronouns in reduced form.

3.1 Nominative (he, she, it, I, we, you, they, who)

The case of the grammatical subject of the sentence (1.15): "Brutus stabbed Caesar", "the girl I was with has disappeared", "Caesar was stabbed by Brutus". Grammatically, it does not matter where the main interest of the speaker is, nor where the emphasis falls. The complement of the verb be and verbs of seeming is also in the nominative: "Who was she?", "He seems very intelligent", "Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada".

3.2 Vocative

The case in which the addressee is expressed ("Romans, lend me your ears"). This is quite irrelevant to English. It is not quite the same as the exclamatory form in "Oh hell, where did I put that file ?" (in Latin, the exclamatory case is the accusative).

3.3 Accusative (him, her, it, me, us, you, them, whom)

The case of the direct object of the verb (1.15): "Brutus stabbed Caesar", "Give me the book", "whom did you see?" Care is needed with relative clauses (below): in "Where is the book which you bought?", book is nominative (after is), but which is accusative, as it is the object of bought.

In Old English, the accusative is also used to indicate duration or length ("the game lasted an hour", "we walked ten miles"), and is the case after many prepositions, particularly those of motion towards or against.

3.4 Genitive (his, her, its, my, our, your, their, whose)

This is the possessive case, preserved in PDE as the inflexions 's and s' ("John's book", "the women's movement", "Canadians' attitudes"). Its function is loosely adjectival ("Which book?" "The green book/John's book"), as is seen in Old English, where min ("mine") can be either the genitive of the pronoun or an adjective.

3.4.1 A distinction is made between the subjective and objective genitive. The subjective genitive implies that the noun in the genitive would have been the subject of an implicit verb (John's book -John owns the book); conversely, the objective genitive would have been the object of the implied verb (Caesar's murder - someone murdered Caesar). In PDE the objective genitive is usually rendered by the of periphrasis (3.4.2)

3.4.2 In PDE (and Middle English) all types of genitive are often expressed by the preposition of ("the book of John", "the attitudes of Canadians"). Many can only be expressed this way ("a work of great value", "one of three", "each of them", "which of you").

Note that the word after of is not itself in the genitive case: it is simply post-prepositional (in Old English it would have been in the dative). ("It is a book of John's" is different: this = "it is one book of John's books", and John's is genitive).

3.4.3 In Old English, some verbs take the genitive. Also, the genitive is used sometimes to indicate an adverb: "he works nights" is a descendent of this usage, though we perceive nights as a plural.

3.5 Dative (him, her, me, us, you, them, whom)

3.5.1 First, this is the case of the indirect object (1.15): "Tell me a story", "I showed her my house", "he gave his mother a present". In PDE (and Middle English) what formerly had a dative inflexion must precede the direct object: "they gave the President a horse" is quite different from "they gave a horse the President". Where the word-order is anything other than Verb-Indirect Object-Direct Object, the preposition to is used: "Give a horse to the President". The preposition to is also used in Old English.

3.5.2 In Old English, the dative (which had fallen together with earlier cases such as the instrumental and locative) was used for many more functions of nouns and pronouns - means by which, place at which, separation, accompaniment, etc. Usually these were made more specific by prepositions, and in PDE the functions are almost always performed by prepositions (by, at, on, from, of, with, for, in, etc.).

3.5.3 PDE has some remnants of the Instrumental (why, the more the merrier), the Locative (alive), and the Dative (archaic methinks and whilom).

3.6 In Middle English, the dative forms gradually ousted the accusative forms (see the forms of pronouns quoted under 3.3 and 3.5), and both are therefore often called the Oblique case. For similar reasons, after Old English, we use the term Postprepositional to refer to the case after prepositions

Le meas,

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James ( -
Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2002 - 09:57 am:   Edit Post Print Post

A Chara,

Go raibh maith agat. You have referenced Concord in your response. I must confess that I am not familiar with that particular reference. Could you provide me with a more detailed description--ie; full title etc.

I will study your "quick reference" and see what progress I can make.

As a side bar--I translate your first sentence as "Considering things are getting cold on the net....

Would this be an accurate translation?

Go raibh mile maith agat.

Le meas,


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Seosamh Mac Muirí ( -
Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2002 - 12:53 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

James, a Chara,

If you have any problems with the terminology bandied about in the postings here, you may find it useful to do a search for some of them by hitting 'search' to the left of this screen. Take a look at anything, 'plural', 'singular', 'genitive', etc.

One that will not come up on such a search, because of its title, I gave just a few days ago. I give it below.

The best advise about grammar is to take it in small doses. Your understanding will build up gradually. If you're hungry for some info, you can take it. If you're not so hungry, it may waste your learning time and defeat your confidence. It's no harm to remember that one can learn a language without having to consume its grammar, in whole or in part.

Having said that, it may also be said for grammar, that if you are interested, it can be very interesting in itself. It certainly can be a help to an adult learner in providing a frame to put the flesh on. A quite basic understanding can carry you a long way into your target language. Some of the questions that you may have can be answered here and in other similiar sites.

It is well to remember that your ordinary English dictionary will give you a layman's common description of grammatical terms in a short, sharp, few sentences. Many are available on-line, free, and these are probably better and more down to earth than investing in a book on grammar.

Níor chaill fear an mhisnigh riam é.
Good luck and enjoy the journey into Irish.
Go n-éirí sé leat agus go mbaine tú sult as i rith an bhealaigh.

That post :

(n. b. Examples at A are nominitive, examples at B are genitive) :

> By Seosamh Mac Muirí ( - on Friday, February 01, 2002 - 07:22 am:

Yes, Bonnie a Chara, it does have both.

The most distinguishing matter is how the definite article, 'an', behaves in genitive :

(A) An doras = the door;

(B) ag oscailt an dorais = (at) opening (of) the door;
i.e. opening the door.

(A) An fhuinneog = the window;

(B) ag oscailt na fuinneoige = (at) opening (of) the window;
i.e. opening the window.

Keeping it simple, this distinction of 'an' / 'na' in the genitive case makes us describe 'doras' as masculine, as it takes 'an' and we describe 'fuinneog' as feminine, as it takes 'na'.

'an' in genitive : it is masculine.
'na' in genitive : it is feminine.

NB. It is very useful to learn the noun in context of article and case, as above, in the case of both 'doras' and 'fuinneog' at positions marked A and B.

Good luck with your Irish - Go n-éirí an Ghaeilg leat!


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Seosamh Mac Muirí ( -
Posted on Tuesday, February 05, 2002 - 01:01 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Bhí 'h' ar lár. Gabh mo leithscéal :

Níor chaill fear an mhisnigh riamh é.

Ceart anois.

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