I'm a moderator on another site, but I'm not familiar with the standards here. I have asked a Noun Case question on ELU, but it was met with dissent merely because of the standard English theory around the world.

Noun Case is seen as irrelevant to learning English

You've gone off 'half-cocked', I'm afraid. There's no vocative or dative case in English. The main distinction is between genitive and plain case (Kim's vs Kim). And a few pronouns have distinct nominative and accusative cases (e.g. I vs me) instead of a plain case. In a cup of water, of water is not genitive, but a PP serving ascomplement of "cup". – BillJ Nov 22, 2018 at 8:35

...albeit, he didn't mean "accusative", he meant "oblique".

Generally, English teachers don't even think Noun Case is useful for teaching English, as another comment demonstrated well...

Ah. Based on the summaries I can find online, it sounds like the approach taken in that booklet is aimed more at preparing you to use these kinds of terms when you are learning a language where they are necessary (like Latin, German or Russian), rather than teaching you the terms that are most useful for explaining English grammar as an independent topic. – herisson Nov 22, 2018 at 9:49

My new, fast ESL method uses 'noun case via prepositions'

However, I have had significant success using Noun Case when teaching English to ESL students of many levels who speak Chinese (which doesn't have noun cases). This indicates that Noun Case indeed is useful for understanding English, even when there is no other use of Noun Case than as purely a teaching method. Not to boast, but I've had 14 years of experience in this, and it could be a breakthrough in English Grammar education methodology.

Part of my academic basis for this is that F. F. Bruce personally tutored my Greek professor and taught 8 Greek cases—deriving case from prepositions. His Greek knowledge was much deeper as a result.

If Greek can derive case from prepositions, so can English. If understanding of Greek can increase with "prepositional case", so can English. And, my experience proved that this theory worked.

What questions about this are within scope?

So, my question on this meta is:

What all can I ask about "preposition-based noun case in English" on Linguistics?

I'd like to ask about a Noun Case Theory applied to English in order to accurately develop my working theory, but I want the case theory to be consistent with how cases are actually used in other languages.

This would certainly prove useful for my work, in addition to many other students if a breakthrough can be developed. The ELU would surely reject any such questions because they follow established English theory methods and don't want to develop anything theoretical. My questions are essentially about language itself, but admittedly a noun case theory applied to English, but still involving others. While we can't ask about pedagogical presentation (education) methods, we can ask about the theory itself.

What can I ask about this issue that remains within scope?

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    There was a syntactic theory called "Case Grammar" in the 70s and 80s which did precisely what you're asking about. It was inspired by Fillmore's classic paper "The Case for Case" and its successors to see what all the fuss is about. Case grammar in English was mostly about prepositions, iirc.
    – jlawler
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 17:23
  • @jlawler I would love that text, plus anything else, in an answer so I can upvote and approve it!
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 4:50
  • Just because some prepositions can account for the meaning in a declined language when translated to English (where nominative is unmarked), doesn't mean there is a case marker in English. Of course, en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Latin_stream/Declensions If you want to say of the boy versus for the boy etc, You have to use a preposition.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 15:51
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    What some of the case grammar people found is that there are languages where this approach works very well, in that the case analyses interwove with the particle systems and helped them make sense. Tagalog and the whole Filipino subfamily of Austronesian, for instance. Beside Fillmore, Walt Cook's book on theory is worth reading, though as it happened, everybody tried to make up their own theory.
    – jlawler
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 19:53

2 Answers 2


As @curiousdannii has pointed out, English has only a vestigial case system.

  • English nouns do not have any case markers. Only personal pronouns display case marking.

  • The English possessive (genitive) suffix written -'s, which used to be the only noun case marker, has changed from being a case suffix on the possessor noun to become a clitic attached to the last word of the possessor noun phrase, e.g:

    • the Duke's cane, the Duke of Windsor's cane, the mistress of the Duke of Windsor's cane, etc.
  • Personal pronouns have only 3 cases:

    • objective (aka oblique, normal)
    • nominative (for subjects and idioms only)
    • possessive (aka genitive, either modifying, like That's my book, or nominal like That's mine)

Many other cases exist in other languages (take a look at Finnish, with 16 cases, both singular and plural -- but no prepositions), and in English their senses are often expressed in idioms that use prepositions, but just about as often, prepositions are meaningless and only occur because some construction, verb, or idiom demands them, like the prepositions that occur in transitivizing intentional sense verbs like look and listen

  • He listened for an hour. He listened to it for an hour.
  • He looked for an hour. He looked at it for an hour.

That could just as easily be listen at and look to -- but it's not, because the verb demands something else. Such nuts and bolts have no meaning, and thus it's important, if you're using prepositions to illustrate the concept of case, to be sure to distinguish the various meanings of even one preposition. Claudia Brugman's The story of 'over' gives some idea how many senses even a simple preposition has.

One further caveat: the "particles" in phrasal verbs like burn up and burn down have very strange and convoluted senses, depending on the verb they're with and also its idiomatic rules. Be sure to distinguish these at the beginning.

  • 1
    I appreciate a lot of the information. However, two things need to be kept in mind when reading this answer: 1. It does not address at all how FF Bruce derived three Greek noun cases from prepositions, as he taught my Greek prof and advisor, and 2. It makes recommendations for my method near the end, however my method is already in the mature development stages, has not been presented here yet at all, and indeed does already address these. That being said, this information is very useful and the kind I hope to get while asking future questions about this.
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 4:45

Questions about language pedagogy generally should be asked either on a language-specific site (like ELU or ELL), or on Language Learning.

  • 1
    LL could work well for pedagology, but not the global theory of noun case. I'm asking about noun case as a trans-language theory.
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 2:23
  • @Jesse well those questions could be asked here, but it would have to not look like either a language-specific or pedagogy question. :)
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 3:20
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    So, asking abstractly is fine, even if I talk about English often, just not only?
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 3:23
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    Sure, but you may get some push back cause English only has a vestigial case system. And you don't need to say "noun case", just "case".
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 3:44
  • I'm well aware and quoted the pushback in my question, along with my basis being FF Bruce. But, if only trace amounts of case remain in English, that's good because it indicates a history on which today was built.
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 4:29

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