Nominative- Accusative case & Subject, Object, and Free Word Order

Nominative & Accusative case

When we use the nominative case.

The nominative case indicates the subject in a sentence: Who or What is doing something

ExampleH Μαρία παίζει πιάνο. Maria plays the piano.

Verb: παίζει/ plays     Subject: Who plays the piano? Η Μαρία

Η Μαρία is the subject in this sentence and for this reason it’s in the nominative case.

The subject can be a thing as well.

Example:  Η μπάλα είναι μπλε. The ball is blue.

Verb: είναι [is]          Subject: What is it blue? Η μπάλα

Η μπάλα is the subject in this sentence and for this reason it’s in the nominative case.

When we use the accusative case.

The accusative case indicates the object in a sentence. Let’s see how we can find the object in a sentence.

Example: O Γιάννης αγαπάει την Μαρία. Giannis loves Maria.

Verb: αγαπάει/ loves   Subject: Who loves? O Γιάννης [ nominative case] Object: Whom does Giannis love?  την Μαρία

Την Μαρία is the object in this sentence and for this reason it’s in the accusative case.

The object in a sentence can be also a thing.

Example: H Μαρία διαβάζει την εφημερίδα. Maria reads the newspaper

Verb: διαβάζει   Subject: Who reads?  Η Μαρία [ nominative case]

Object: What does Maria read? Την εφημερίδα. The newspaper

Την εφημερίδα  is the object in this sentence and for this reason it’s in the accusative case

The accusative case is also used after prepositions

Nouns preceded by a preposition (basically με, σε, για, από) are parts of a prepositional phrase. And as parts of a prepositional phrase, these nouns are always in the accusative case:

(a) O Γιάννης μένει με τον Πέτρο. “John lives with Peter.”

(b) Tο βιβλίο είναι για τον Πέτρο. “The book is for Peter.”

(c) Eίμαι από την Ιταλία. “I am from Italy.”

(d) Πάω στην Ελλάδα. ‘Ι go to Greece’

(e) Μιλάω στον αδερφό μου. ‘I speak to my brother’

Time & Accusative Case

The expression of time in Modern Greek often requires not a prepositional phrase or an adverb, but a single accusative:

Φεύγω την Παρασκευή. “I am leaving on Friday.”

Έρχομαι την Πέμπτη.  “I am coming on Thursday.”

Πίνω καφέ το πρωί. “I have coffee in the morning.”

Τα γενέθλιά μου είναι τον Οκτώβριο. “Μy birthday is in October.”

Τα σχολεία είναι κλειστά το καλοκαίρι. “Schools are closed in the summer.”

Πάντα κάνουμε πάρτι τα Χριστούγεννα. “We always have a party at Christmas.”

Subject, Object, and Free Word Order

Let’s see the following sentence:

O Πέτρος αγαπάει την Μαρία.

“Peter loves Mary.”

Peter is the subject of the verb, the one who loves Mary. Mary is the object of the verb, the one who is loved by Peter. What if Mary loves Peter?

H Μαρία αγαπάει τον Πέτρο.

“Mary loves Peter.”

Mary is now the subject, the one who loves Peter. Peter now is the object, the one who is loved by Mary.

What about the following sentence? (Think before you read the answer.)

Tον Πέτρο αγαπάει η Μαρία.

This sentence means again “Mary loves Peter”, and not “Peter loves Mary”. Why? Because η Μαρία is clearly in the nominative, and the nominative is the subject regardless of its position. Equally τον Πέτρο is in the accusative, therefore it is the object no matter where it is. In other words: Syntactic roles like subject and object are clear inside a Modern Greek noun, so position within the sentence becomes irrelevant. Compare now to English: Nouns carry no such information inside them, therefore position is what counts. So, if I change the position of the nouns in a sentence like Mary loves Peter, what I will get is a totally different sentence (Peter loves Mary).

You can also read: Nouns +Definite article- Nominative & Accusative Case

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