The names of things. The subjects of sentences.
As the word “nominative” suggests, nouns in the nominative case can be regarded as the names of things (persons, animals, ideas, feelings, …..)
I nominate you = I put your name forward
If you have been learning Croatiian for more than two minuites, you are aware that nouns are modified (mostly by changes of endings), depending upon their role (or case) in any sentence. This is called declination of nouns.
For example, compare the role of the noun “house” in the following two sentences:
1. The house is green. Kuća je zelena.
“House” is the subject in this sentence: So it is in the nominative case, for which the form of the noun is kuća.
2. I see the house. Vidim kuću.
“House is a direct object (of the action “ to see”): This is the accusative case, and the form of the noun is kuću.
Be aware that in the examples above I have chosen to illustrate the meaning of case with a feminine noun in the singular (kuća). I could equally have used a masculine noun, or a neuter noun (see post All nouns have gender).
I could also have used the plural version of a noun (such as "houses").
More about declination of nouns in another post: The declination of nouns. The example above is just to try to illustrate what is meant by declination of nouns according to their case in sentences.
Nouns are in the nominative case when they are the subject of a sentence. For example, in the singular:
And in the plural:
If you look in a dictionary for the Croatian words for man, lady, or field (or any other noun) you will find the singular, nominative form of the noun: for example, muškarac, žena, polje.
The nominative form of a noun in any sentence is identifiable as the answer to the questions Tko? (Who?) and Što? (What?).
Tko vozi bicikl? Muškarac.
Tko je došla jučer? Zena.
Što je veliko? Polje.
Different questions are used to identify nouns in the other cases (genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, lokative, and instrumental): See Questions that define the case of nouns.
In English, sentences also have nouns in different cases, but we can function without knowing that. In English we don’t change the noun: instead, we use prepositions (to, of, from, with, in, on, toward, ….) before the noun.
It is obviously critical when talking Croatian to be able to recognise the case of each noun – and this will sooner or later (later, in my case) become automatic and fast.
Here is a hint for recognising that a noun is in the nominative case in some sentences. Any noun that follows some form of the verb “to be” (is, are, was, were, will be, …..) is necessarily nominative. For example:
Vozač bicikla je muskarac. The rider of the bicycle is a man.
Vozač bicikla je bila žena. The rider of the bicycle was a lady.
Sljedeće godine to će biti polje. Next year that will be a field.
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