The Accusative Case
has various uses:
- direct object
- with prepositions
expressing 'motion to'
- subject of the infinitive
- accusative of respect
- double accusative
- extent of time
The most common use of the accusative case is to show the direct object.
The direct object is the person or thing in a sentence most directly affected
by the action of the subject. For example, in the sentence "The batter hit
the ball to the shortstop," the object most directly affected by the action
of the subject (the batter) is the ball. We call the "ball" the direct object
and indicate that by putting the word "ball" into the accusative case.
The direct object is part of the basic skeleton of a sentence, unlike many
words in a sentence that simply add a spot of colour to another word in
a sentence. When attempting to translate a difficult sentence, try to identify
the direct object early, if there is one.
EXPRESSING MOTION TO: Prepositions expressing "motion to"
generally are followed by a noun in the accusative case. See the illustrations
on the Prepositions & Cases page.
SUBJECT OF THE INFINITIVE:
In some constructions, the infinitive has a "subject." In other words, the
sentence indicates who does the action expressed by the infinitive, as in
"They wanted him to hit the ball." "To hit" is the infinitive; the one who
does this action is "him." One might rephrase the sentence as "They wished
that he hit the ball," where the subject "he" stands in the nominative case
since the verb is finite, not infinitive. In Greek (as in English), the
subject of an infinitive is in the accusative case. "Him" is used instead
of "he," which would normally be used where the verb is in a finite form.
ACCUSATIVE OF RESPECT+:
A number of terms are used to capture the sense of the accusative in Greek
(accusative of respect, accusative, of specification, accusative of general
reference, adverbial accusative). While there are nuances that one might
wish to distinguish between these uses, in many ways we can simply say that
the accusative is frequently used to express in regard to what or
in respect of what the action of the verb is related. There are a number
of ways to reflect this general idea in English translation, but the one
suggested immediately below captures the whole range with a rough, but clear,
A rough English equivalent
for the various accusatives of respect, etc., (listed immediately above)
is the construction ending in '-wise" (e.g. 'number-wise,' 'time-wise,'
'health-wise,' 'size-wise,' etc.). In the example "about five thousand
in number", one could say "number-wise, about five
thousand." In Greek, 'in number' or 'number-wise' would be in the accusative
Some Greek verbs can take two accusatives (often the corresponding verbs
in English do also). Common among these are verbs that relate to asking,
teaching, making, and clothing, as illustrated in the sentence: "He
taught the students Greek." Both 'students' and 'Greek' would be in
the accusative case.
EXTENT OF TIME:
The length or extent of time can be expressed by placing the noun and adjectives
indicating the time in the accusative case, without an accompanying preposition,
though English normally requires a preposition with this construction, as
in "He journeyed for three days." In Greek, the adjective
'three' and the noun 'days' would be in the accusative case; no preposition
would be used. (see other TIME