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Understanding the Case of Nouns in Your Creative Writing

Updated on September 11, 2016
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Case? What Case?

What is a case when it comes to nouns? Well, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, the case “denotes the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence.” Still confused? Don’t worry. Most people are when it comes to this.

The truth is that you really don’t need to know the cases for nouns as long as you know how to use them. Yes, any English teachers out there will organize a lynching mob over that, but the truth is that most writers don’t know the official cases of nouns. They just know how to use them. It is better to understand than be able to quote exact words.

Layman’s Case

I do pretty well in reading things and understanding them. Yet when it comes to cases, the initial read on them makes my head spin. What they boil down to is the role the noun plays in the sentence. Is it the head chef or one of the other supporting chef roles though always a chef? Let’s explore it that way a little bit more. We'll try to make it a little better understandable.


When you think of a cooking chef, you generally think of the head one with the tall cap dictating how the dishes should be. That is our common thought. Well, that chef is just one of many chefs but he happens to be the head chef in control. So are nouns in the common case. Nouns in the common case are the ones that are the subjects of the sentence or directly linked to the main subject. Look at this sentence:

The car raced around the track.

Here the head chef is the car. But in a huge supporting role linked directly to the car is the track. That makes the track right there with the car and just as important. Both are used in the common case.


A noun can also own another noun. It becomes possessive, or genitive case.

The car’s trunk was full.

Here the common case noun is trunk, but it is owned by the genitive case noun, the car. The trunk is the head chef, but the owner of the restaurant is the car.

Is this making any more sense? See why knowing exactly what the cases are is not as important as knowing how to use them right?


When a noun takes on the role of appositive, it is a noun that expands on the common case noun.

Adam Smith, the owner, closed the store down for repairs.

Here the common case noun is Adam Smith. He is our head chef. But what of ‘the owner’? Isn’t that the same thing as ‘Adam Smith’? Well, yes it is, but it is written to not be the head chef. It is mean to be a substitute chef. It is an appositive of Adam Smith.

Does any of this make sense yet? Well, let’s muddy the waters some more.

Adjectives and More

Nouns can also be adjectives as well as verbs and adverbs. A “morning dove” has dove being the noun and the ‘morning’ being the adjective while it normally is the noun. That makes ‘morning’ an adjective case. Nouns can be very versatile. Now the noun has changed hats. Whew! And we thought nouns were so easy! They really are. It just seems confusing.

Summing It All Up

When it comes down to it, you really don’t need to know most of these case names. But you do need to know how to use them and the function of the case. Remember that writing is a form of communication. Are you communicating clearly what you want the person to receive?

Know how the nouns should be used. That helps you as a writer. Only if you are an English teacher will knowing the names of the cases help you. Putting it into practice is more important. Now I have to find a place to hide from all those English teachers ready to lynch me. Know any places that might keep me safe? I'm willing to pay...a little....I'll barter. Anyone?


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      Setank Setunk 15 months ago

      I think terrible structure in your own sentences disqualifies your opinions on noun etiquette. The most common problem is verb discipline and a totally excessive use of adverbs. Did you catch that?