Old English nouns show a system of inflections somewhere between ancient and modern languages. They can be of three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter); two grammatical numbers (singular and plural); and five cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and instrumental). The sections below will explain all of these permutations.
By comparison, Modern English is a minimally inflected language: our nouns, by and large, reflect number (singular and plural) and case (subjective/objective and possessive) but not gender. And on the other end of the spectrum, classical Latin has (depending on the grammarian) six or seven noun cases, plus all the gender and number permutations of Old English.
Modern English does not retain grammatical gender, although pronouns do reflect natural gender. Grammatical gender in OE reflects stem- and suffix-patterns in the structure of words as they change cases.
|Masculine||eorl – lord, chief|
|Feminine||cwen – queen|
|Neuter||wīf – woman|
OE cases are comparable to NE noun functions. In NE, declensions are rarely visible except in strong nouns, and word order determines function and meaning. In OE, on the other hand, is an inflected language, so word order is virtually meaningless and suffixes almost exclusively determine usage and case.
Compare with NE subjective case.
Functions as subject or complement.
Subject Bob runs.
Complement The man running is Bob.
Compare with NE objective case.
Can function as direct object or object of a preposition.
Direct Object You’re watching Bob run.
Object of Preposition You stand beside Bob.
Compare with possessive in NE.
Functions as possessive or partitive.
Possessive Bob’s car is red.
Partitive Bob is of Welsh descent.
Note similarities to NE objective case.
Shows direction (to/for).
Function as indirect object.
Direction Larry teases Junior to Bob.
Indirect Object Larry throws the brush to Bob.
Larry throws Bob the hairbrush.
OE nouns, like NE nouns take singular and plural forms. Plural forms, like singular, decline. The various respective endings are indicated in the paradigms below.
The paradigm for singular and plural nouns is coming soon.