Genitive case

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In grammar, genitive (abbreviated gen;[1] 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;[2] 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 Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Basque, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, Georgian, 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 (Cantonese)

The particle 嘅 (ge) or the possessed noun's classifier is used to denote possession for singular nouns, while the particle 啲 () is used for plural nouns.


  • 爸爸嘅屋企 bā bā ge ūk kéi (father's house/home)
  • 我間屋 ngóh gāan ūk (my house)
  • 係佢啲書. haih kéuih di shyu (It's his books.)

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, about persons in relation to one's self, 的 is often dropped when the context allows for it to be easily understood.

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


For more details on this topic, see English possessive.

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 daughter of Spain 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 definite article for masculine and neuter nouns is des, while the feminine and plural definite article is der. The indefinite articles are eines for masculine and neuter nouns, and einer for feminine and plural nouns (although the bare form cannot be used in the plural, it manifests in keiner, meiner, etc.)


Singular masculine and neuter nouns of the strong declension in the genitive case are marked with -(e)s. Generally, one-syllable nouns favour the -es ending, and it is obligatory with nouns ending with a sibilant such as s or z. Otherwise, a simple -s ending is usual. Feminine and plural nouns remain uninflected:

  • des Beitrags (of the contribution) - masculine
  • des Landes (of the country) - neuter
  • der Blume (of the flower) - feminine
  • der Bäume (of the trees) - plural

Singular masculine nouns (and one neuter noun) of the weak declension are marked with an -(e)n (or rarely -(e)ns) ending in the genitive case:

  • des Raben (of the raven) - masculine
  • des Herzens (of the heart) - neuter


The declension of adjectives in the genitive case is as follows:

Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
With definite article -en -en -en -en
With indefinite article -en -en -en -en
With no article -en -en -er -er

Personal pronouns

The genitive personal pronouns are quite rare and either very formal, literary or outdated, and are typically avoided, they are as follows (with comparison to the nominative pronouns):

Nominative Genitive
ich (I) meiner
du (you sg.) deiner
er (he) seiner
wir (we) unser
ihr (you pl.) euer
sie (she/they) ihrer

Some examples:

  • Würden Sie statt meiner gehen? (Would you go instead of me?)
  • Wir sind ihrer nicht würdig (We are not worthy of her/them)
  • Ich werde euer gedenken (I will commemorate you)

Relative pronouns

Unlike the personal ones, the relative pronouns are in regular use (except in colloquial speech, where they are rather uncommon), they are as follows (with comparison to the nominative relative pronouns):

Nominative Genitive
Masculine der dessen
Neuter das dessen
Feminine die deren
Plural die deren

Some examples:

  • Kennst du den Schüler, dessen Mutter eine Hexe ist? (Do you know the student whose mother is a witch?) - masculine
  • Sie ist die Frau, deren Mann Rennfahrer ist (She is the woman whose husband is a racer) - feminine



The genitive case is often used to show possession or the relation between nouns:

  • die Farbe des Himmels (the colour of the sky)
  • Deutschland liegt im Herzen Europas (Germany lies in the heart of Europe)
  • der Tod seiner Frau (the death of his wife)
  • die Entwicklung dieser Länder (the development of these countries)

A simple s is added to the end of a name:

  • Claudias Buch (Claudia's book)


The genitive case is also commonly found after certain prepositions:

  • innerhalb eines Tages (within a day)
  • statt des Hemdes (instead of the shirt)
  • während unserer Abwesenheit (during our absence)
  • jenseits der Berge (beyond the mountains)


The genitive case can sometimes be found in connection with certain adjectives:

  • Wir sind uns dessen bewusst (We are aware of that)
  • Er ist des Diebstahls schuldig (He is guilty of the theft)
  • Das Kind ist der Ruhe bedürftig (The child is in need of the calmness)
  • Ich werde dieses Lebens überdrüssig (I am growing weary of this life)


The genitive case is occasionally found in connection with certain verbs (some of which require an accusative before the genitive); they are mostly either formal or legal:

  • Die Stadt erfreut sich eines günstigen Klimas (The city enjoys a favourable climate)
  • Gedenken Sie der Toten des Krieges (Remember those who died in the war)
  • Wer klagte ihn des Mordes an? (Who accused him of the murder?)
  • Man verdächtigt euch des Betrugs (Someone suspects you of (committing) the fraud)

Further Notes

The genitive case is very often avoided in most colloquial and dialectal varieties of German, often replaced with the preposition von ("of"), the dative case and other constructions. However, this usage is not accepted in the written/formal standard language. Here are some examples of this:

  • die Farbe des Himmels can become die Farbe von dem Himmel
  • der Tod seiner Frau can become seiner Frau ihr Tod ("seiner" is dative here)
  • statt des Hemdes can become statt dem Hemd
  • innerhalb eines Tages can become innerhalb von einem Tag


The ablative case of Indo-European was absorbed into the genitive in Classical Greek.[3] This added to the usages of the "genitive proper", the usages of the "ablatival genitive". The genitive occurs with verbs, adjectives, adverbs and prepositions.


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."[4]


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.


Main article: Ezāfe

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 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.


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 depending on the word's ending in the nominative case. For example to a, u, i or y in Polish, а, я, ы or и in Russian, and similar cases in other Slavic languages.

Nominative: (pol.) "Oto Anton" / (rus.) "Вот Антон" ("Here is Anton").
Genitive: (pol.) "Oto obiad Antonа" / (rus.) "Вот обед Антона" ("Here is Anton's dinner").

Possessives can also be formed by the construction (pol.) "u [subject] jest [object]" / (rus.) "У [subject] есть [object]".

Nominative: (pol.) "Oto Sergiusz" / (rus.) "Вот Сергей" ("Here is Sergei").
Genitive: (pol.) "u Sergiuszа jest obiad / (rus.) "У Сергея есть обед" ("Sergei has a dinner", literally: "(There) is a dinner at Sergei's").

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

Nominative: (pol.) Oto mój brat / (rus.) "Вот мой брат" ("Here is my brother").
Genitive: (pol.) "u mojego bratа jest obiad / (rus.) "У моего брата есть обед" ("My brother has a dinner", literally: "(There) is a dinner at my_brother's).

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

Nominative: (pol.) "Oto Irena" / (rus.) "Вот Ирина" ("Here is Irene").
Genitive: (pol.) "Irena nie ma obiadu ("Irene does not have a dinner") or (pol.) "u Ireny nie ma obiadu ("There is no dinner at Irene's")

Note that the Polish phrase "nie ma [object]" can work both as a negation of having [object] or a negation of an existence of [object], but the meaning of the two sentences and its structure is different. (In the first case [subcject] is Irene, and in the second case [subject] is virtual, it is "the space" at Irene's place, not Irene herself)

Genitive: (rus.) "У Ирины нет обеда" ("Irine does not have a dinner", literally: "(There) is no dinner at Irene's").

Note that the Russian word "нет" is a contraction of "не" + "есть". In Russian there is no distinction between [subject] not having an [object] and [object] not being present at [subject]'s

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: (pol.) "Maria jest w domu?" / (rus.) "Мария дома?" ("Is Maria at home?").
Genitive: (pol.) "Marii nie ma w domu" ("Maria is not at home", literally: "[virtual subject] has no Maria at home")
Genitive: (rus.) "Марии нет дома" ("Maria is not at home", literally: "Of Maria there is none at home.").
Accusative: (pol.) "Mogę rozczytać Twoje pismo" / (rus.) Могу (про)читать ваш почерк ("I can read your hand writing")
Genitive: (pol.) "Nie mogę rozczytać Twojego pisma" / (rus.) "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.[5]

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: (pol.) "Napiłem się wody" / (rus.) "Я выпил воды" ("I drank water," i.e. "I drank some water, part of the water available")
Accusative: (pol.) "Wypiłem wodę" / (rus.) "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. (Usually when some movement or change of state is involved, and when describing the source / destination of the movement. Sometimes also when describing the manner of acting.)

  • 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.
  • Polish prepositions using genitive case: od (from), z, ze (from), do, w (into), na (onto), bez (without), zamiast (instead of), wedle (after, according to), wzdłuż (along), około (around), u (near, by), koło (beside), podczas (during), 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. Glossing Rules. Department of Linguistics. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Leipzig.
  2., genitive
  3. Herbert Weir Smyth (1956). Greek Grammar. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. , page 313 and elsewhere
  4. 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. doi:10.1007/s10831-009-9055-y. 
  5. Olga Kagan (2007). "Property-Denoting NPs and Non-Canonical Genitive Case" (PDF). Proceedings of the 17th Semantics and Linguistic Theory conference. CLC Publications, Cornell University. Retrieved January 27, 2013. 

External links