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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

The nominative plural and the genitive singular are


209. For etymological purposes, therefore, it is necessary to limit the meaning of the word case; and, as a sort of definition, it may be laid down that _where there is no change of form there is no case_. With this remark, the English language may be compared with the Latin.

_Latin._ _English._

_Sing. Nom._ _Pater_ _a father._ _Gen._ _Patris_ _a father's._ _Dat._ _Patri_ _to a father._ _Acc._ _Patrem_ _a father._ _Abl._ _Patre_ _from a father._

Here, since in the Latin language there are five changes of form, whilst in English there are but _two_, there are (as far, at least, as the word _pater_ and _father_ are concerned) three more cases in Latin than in English.

It does not, however, follow that because in the particular word _father_ we have but two cases, there may not be other words wherein there are more than two.

s. 210. Neither does it follow, that because two words may have the _same form_ they are necessarily in the _same case_; a remark which leads to the distinction between _a real and an accidental identity of form_.

In the language of the Anglo-Saxons the genitive cases of the words _smidh_, _ende_, and _daeg_, were respectively, _smidhes_, _endes_, and _daeges_; whilst the

nominative plurals were, _smidhas_, _endas_, and _daegas_.

But when a change took place, by which the vowel of the last syllable in each word was ejected, the result was, that the forms of the genitive singular and the nominative plural, originally different, became one and the same; so that the identity of the two cases is an accident.

This fact relieves the English grammarian from a difficulty. The nominative plural and the genitive singular are, in the present language of England, identical; the apostrophe in _father's_ being a mere matter of orthography. However, there was _once_ a difference. This modifies the previous statement, which may now stand thus:--_for a change of case there must be a change of form existing or presumed_.

s. 211. _The number of our cases and the extent of language over which they spread._--In the English language there is undoubtedly a _nominative_ case. This occurs in substantives, adjectives, and pronouns (_father_, _good_, _he_) equally. It is found in both numbers.

s. 212. _Accusative._--Some call this the _objective_ case. The words _him_ and _them_ (whatever they may have been originally) are now (to a certain extent) true accusatives. The accusative case is found in pronouns only. _Thee, me, us_, and _you_ are, to a certain extent, true accusatives. These are accusative thus far: 1. They are not derived from any other case. 2. They are distinguished from the forms _I_, _my_, &c. 3. Their meaning is accusative. Nevertheless, they are only imperfect accusatives. They have no sign of case, and are distinguished by negative characters only.

One word in the present English is probably a true accusative in the strict sense of the term, viz., the word _twain_ = _two_. The -n in _twai-n_ is the -n in _hine_ = _him_ and _hwone_ = _whom_. This we see from the following inflection:--

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