Upper Sorbian Grammar

Under construction

Cases

The meanings of the Sorbian cases are quite unfamiliar to an English speaker. If you speak Latin or Russian or any other Indo-European language that has preserved the grammatical category of case it will be much easier for you to learn Sorbian, since cases are used quite similarly in all those languages (virtual differences are rather of particular and not of systematic nature).

What cases are all going about is that a word inflected for case has a slightly different form when given a different syntactic function in a sentence.

nan father (subject)
nana father (direct object)
nanej father (indirect object)
etc.

As the syntactic function of a word inflected for case is determined by its mere form, its function doesn't have to depend on its position in a sentence (as it does in English); thus Upper Sorbian sentences have a relatively free word order.


Meaning and function of the cases

CaseQuestions
it answers
Meaning
Nominativewho? what?It is the basic case shown in the dictionary entries.
1. Its main function is marking the subject of a sentence (a word that stands in N is usually the subject of a sentence).
2. When following the copular verbs być to be and stać so to become forms, Nominative is the case of the predicate noun, but it can always be replaced here by the Instrumental with the preposition z.
Genitivewhose?
(out) of who?
(out) of what?
1. It marks possession (as the English Saxon genitive does).
2. It is the case of direct object in negative sentences.
3. It is the case of nouns following quantifiers (such as half, many, much, little, quarter, some, few, more, less) and some cardinal numerals.
4. After prepositions wot and z it marks the origin or source of a thing (it corresponds to English nouns with the preposition from).
5. It follows obligatorily the prepositions bjez, dla, do, pola, spod, srjedź, the meanings of which are explained in the chapter Prepositions.
Dativeto whom?
to what?
1. It is the case of the indirect object of a sentence.
2. It stands obligatorily after the preposition k (see Prepositions).
Accusativewhom?
what?
where to?
1. It is the case of the direct object in affirmative sentences.
2. Names of the days of the week, when in Accusative, stand for English on Monday, on Tuesday etc.
3. After the preposition po it expresses the the intention of an action and not its place.
4. After the prepositions mjez, na, nad, pod, před, w and za it expresses the direction of an action and not its place.
5. It stands obligatorily after the prepositions pře and přez.
Instrumentalwith whom?
with what?
where?
Unlike all the cases mentioned above, it never appears without a preposition.
1. With the preposition z it marks the tool or the mean used to perform an action.
2. With the preposition z when following the verbs być to be and stać so to become, it is the case of the predicate noun, but it can be always replaced by the Nominative.
3. With the prepositions mjez, nad, pod, před and za iy shows the place of an action and not its direction.
Locativewhere?
about whom?
about what?
Like the Instrumental, it never appears without a preposition.
1. It stands obligatorily after the preposition při.
2. With the prepositions na, po, w and wo, it shows the place of an action and not its direction or intention.
Vocative---Vocative is used when addressing somebody or something.


Examples of use

The numbers show which of the functions described in the table above the particular case has in the given example.


Nominative 1 - subject of a sentence

a)Nanlubujesyna.
father
Nom. sing.
love
3.sing.pres.
son
Acc. sing.
subjectpredicate verbdirect object
The father loves (his) son.

b)Synalubujenan.
son
Acc. sing.
love
3.sing.pres.
father
Nom. sing.
direct objectpredicate verbsubject
The father loves (his) son.

c)Synlubujenana.
son
Nom. sing.
love
3.sing.pres.
father
Acc. sing.
direct objectpredicate verbsubject
The son loves (his) father.

As we can see from the examples given above, what decides which of the two nouns is the subject of a sentence and which one is the direct object, is not the word order but the case in which the nouns are used.


Nominative 2 - predicate noun

a)Twójnanjewučer.
your
Nom.sing.masc.
father
Nom.sing.
is
3.sing.pres.
teacher
Nom.sing.
attributesubjectcopular verbpredicate noun
Your father is a teacher.

b)Tónwučerjemójnan.
this
Nom.sing.masc.
teacher
Nom.sing.
is
3.sing.pres.
my
Nom.sing.masc.
father
Nom.sing.
demonstrativesubjectcopular verbattributepredicate noun
This teacher is my father.

Since both the nouns in the sentences 2a) and 2b) stand in the Nominative, the factor that decides which of them is the subject, is (for Sorbian exceptionally) the word order: the noun that preceedes the verb is usually the subject and the noun that follows the copula verb is the predicative word, but an opposite interpretation is also possible.


Genitive 1 - possession

a)Tojesynwučerki
this
Nom.sing.
is
3.sing.pres.
son
Nom.sing.masc.
teacher
Gen.sing.fem.
demonstrativecopular verbpredicate nounpossessive attribute
This is the son of the (female) teacher.

b)Zetkałsymsotrususodki
meet
past.part.
be
1.sing.pres.
sister
Acc.sing.fem.
neighbour
Gen.sing.fem.
compound verbdirect objectpossessive attribute
I have met the (female) neighbour's sister.


Genitive 2 - direct object of negative sentences

a)Njewidźuwučerki.               
not-see
1.sing.pres.
teacher
Gen.sing.fem.
negation-verbdirect object
I can't see the (female) teacher.

b)Njeznajunowejesusodki.               
not-know
1.sing.pres.
new
Gen.sing.fem.
neighbour
Gen.sing.fem.
negation-verbattributedirect object
I don't know the new (female) neighbour.

Compare it with an affirmative sentence and its direct object's form - see Accusative 1.


Genitive 3 - after quantifiers

a)Woniwjacepjenjezychcedźa.
they
Nom.plur.masc.
more
 
money
Gen.plur.masc.
want
3.plur.pres.
subjectquantitative attributedirect objectverb
They (masc.) want more money.

b)Wonemajapjećknihow.
they
Nom.plur.fem.
have
3.plur.pres.
five
 
book
Gen.plur.fem.
subjectverbquantitative attributedirect object
They (fem.) have five books.


Genetive 4 - after some prepositions to mark origin

a)Tuknihusymdóstałwotsotry.
this
Acc.sing.fem.
book
Acc.sing.fem.
be
1.sing.pres.
get
past.part.
from
 
sister
Gen.sing.fem.
demonstrativedirect objectcompound verbadverbial
I got this book from (my) sister.

b)Wónjezměsta.
he
Nom.sing.masc.
is
3.sing.pres.
from
 
town
Gen.sing.neut.
subjectverbadverbial
He is from the town.


Gentitive 5 - obligatorily after some prepositions

a)Jabjezsotrynjepóńdu.
I
Nom.sing.
without
 
sister
Gen.sing.fem.
not-go
1.sing.fut.
subjectadverbialnegation-verb
I will not go without (my) sister.

b)Japóńdudodomu.
I
Nom.sing.
go
1.sing.fut.
to
 
house
Gen.sing.masc.
subjectverbadverbial
I will go home.


Dative 1 - indirect object

a)Nandajeknihususodce.
father
Nom.sing.masc.
give
3.sing.pres.
book
Acc.sing.fem.
neighbour
Dat.sing.fem.
subjectverbdirect objectindirect object
The father gives the book to the neighbour.

b)Čehodlanjejsypowědałananej?
why
 
 
not-be
2.sing.pres.
 
tell
past.part.
sing.fem.
father
Dat.sing.masc.
 
interr.negation-compound verbindirect object
Why haven't you told (it) the father?


Dative 2 - after the preposition “k”

a)Płuwašedalekpřibrjohej
swim
3.sing.past.
further
 
towards
 
bank
Dat.sing.masc.
verbadverbialadverbial
He/She swam further towards the bank.


Accusative 1 - direct object of affirmative sentences

a)Widźuwučerku.               
see
1.sing.pres.
teacher
Acc.sing.fem.
verbdirect object
I see the (female) teacher.

b)Znajunowususodku.               
know
1.sing.pres.
new
Acc.sing.fem.
neighbour
Acc.sing.fem.
verbattributedirect object
I know the new (female) neighbour.


Accusative 2 - days of the week

a)SubotuwonapóńdźedoBudyšina.
Saturday
Acc.sing.fem.
she
Nom.sing.fem.
go
3.sing.fut.
to
 
Budyšin
Gen.sing.masc.
adverbialsubjectverbadverbial
On Saturday, she will go to Budyšin.


Accusative 3 - after the prepositions “po” and “wo” to mark the aim

a)Wóndźepowodu.
He
Nom.sing.masc.
go
3.sing.pres.
for
 
water
Acc.sing.fem.
subjectverbadverbial
He is going for water.

a)Wóndźepowodu.
He
Nom.sing.masc.
go
3.sing.pres.
for
 
water
Acc.sing.fem.
subjectverbadverbial
He is going for water.


Accusative 4 - after some prepositions to mark direction

a)Maćkłobuknahozdźikpójsny.
mother
Nom.sing.fem.
hat
Acc.sing.masc.
on(to)
 
nail
Acc.sing.fem.
hang
3.sing.past.
subjectdirect objectadverbialverb
The mother has hanged the hat on(to) the nail.

Compare the usage of the preposition na with the Locative (see Locative 2a).

b)Knihajepadnyłapodblido.
book
Nom.sing.fem.
 
be
3.sing.pres.
 
fall
past.part.
fem.sing
under
 
 
table
Acc.sing.neut.
 
subjectcompound verbadverbial
The book fell under the table.

c)Hólcběžešepředdwór.
boy
Nom.sing.masc.
run
3.sing.past.
in front of
 
manor
Acc.sing.masc.
subjectverbadverbial
The boy was running towards the front of the manor.

Compare the usage of the prepositions pod and před with the Instrumental (see Instrumental).


Accusative 5 - obligatorily with the prepositions “pře” and “přez”

a)Wonapřenanapłaka.
she
Nom.sing.fem.
because of
 
father
Acc.sing.masc.
cry
3.sing.pres
subjectadverbialverb
She cries because of the father.

b)Jawjacepřezłukunjepóńdu.
I
Nom.sing
more
 
across
 
meadow
Acc.sing.fem.
not-go
1.sing.fut.
subjectadverbialadverbialnegation-verb
I will not got across the meadow any more.


Instrumental 1 - after the preposition “z” to mark a tool or a mean

a)Nanpisalistzwołojnikom.
father
Nom.sing.masc.
write
3.sing.pres.
letter
Acc.sing.masc.
with
 
pencil
Ins.sing.masc.
subjectverbdirect objectadverbial
The father writes a letter with a pencil.


Instrumental 2 - predicative noun

a)Wónjezwojakom.
he
Nom.sing.masc.
is
3.sing.pres.
--
 
soldier
Ins.sing.masc.
subjectcopula verb--predicative noun
He is a soldier.


Instrumental 3 - with some prepositions to mark place

b)Knihaležipodblidom.
book
Nom.sing.fem.
lie
3.sing.pres.
under
 
table
Ins.sing.neut.
subjectverbadverbial
The book lies under the table.

c)Hólcstejipředdworom.
boy
Nom.sing.masc.
stand
3.sing.pres.
in front of
 
manor
Ins.sing.masc.
subjectverbadverbial
The boy is standing in front of the manor.

Compare the usage of the prepositions pod and před with the Accusative (see Accusative 4b, 4c).


Locative 1 - obligatorily after the prepositions “při” and “wo”

a)Mužsedźipřiwoknje.
man
Nom.sing.masc.
sit
3.sing.pres.
at
 
window
Loc.sing.masc.
subjectverbadverbial
The man is sitting at the window.

b)Wonapisawoswojejwsy.
she
Nom.sing.fem.
write
3.sing.pres.
about
 
her
Loc.sing.fem.
village
Loc.sing.fem.
subjectverbadverbial
She writes about her village.


Locative 2 - after some prepositions to mark place

a)Wóndźepowodźe.
He
Nom.sing.masc.
go
3.sing.pres.
on
 
water
Loc.sing.fem.
subjectverbadverbial
He walks on the water.

b)Kłobukwisanahozdźiku.
hat
Nom.sing.masc.
hang
3.sing.pres.
on
 
nail
Loc.sing.fem.
subjectverbadverbial
The hat is hanging on the nail.

Compare the usage of the prepositions po and na with the Accusative (see Accusative 3a, 4a).


Vocative

a)Nano,hdźesybył?
father
Voc.sing.masc.
 
where
 
 
be
2.sing.pres.
 
be
past.part.
masc.sing.
addresseequestion wordcompound verb
Where have you been, father?


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