What is the Genitive Case? Definition, Examples of English Genitive

Genitive case definition: The genitive case is an English grammatical case that is used for a noun, pronoun, or adjective that modifies another noun. The genitive case is most commonly used to show possession, but it can also show a thing’s source or a characteristic/trait of something.

What is the Genitive Case?

The genitive case is a grammatical case for nouns and pronouns. It is most commonly used for showing possession.

Typically, forming the genitive case involves adding an apostrophe followed by “s” to the end of a noun.


  • I borrowed Sam’s calculator.
    • Sam’s=Noun in Genitive Case
    • Calculator=Noun Receiving Possession


  • Our new house is blue.
    • Our=Pronoun in Genitive Case.
    • House=Noun Receiving Possession.

Intro to Cases

genitive singular An English case is a grammatical category for the inflection of nouns and pronouns that shows the relationship of those nouns and pronouns to other words in a sentence. There are four main cases in English.

Nominative Case

What is the nominative case? The nominative case refers to the grammatical case used for a noun or pronoun when it is the subject of a verb.

  • They lost their dog.
  • Subject/Nominative case: They
  • Verb: Lost

They is in the nominative case because it is the subject of the sentence.

Genitive Case

genitive plural What is the genitive case? The genitive case refers to the case used for a noun, pronoun, or adjective to show ownership of a noun.

  • They lost their dog.
  • Possessive pronoun/Genitive case: Their
  • Possessed noun: Dog

Their is in the genitive case to show its relationship to dog.

Accusative Case

What is the accusative case? The accusative case refers to the case used for a noun or pronoun that is a direct object.

  • They lost their dog.
  • Verb: Lost
  • Direct object: Dog

Dog is in the accusative case, although it doesn’t change its form like pronouns.

Dative Case

genitive case English What is the dative case? The dative case refers to the case used for a noun or pronoun that is an indirect object.

  • They bought a dog for him.
  • Verb: Bought
  • Direct object: A dog
  • Indirect object in the dative case: Him

Him is in the dative case to indicate its function as an indirect object.

Genitive Case vs. Possessive Case

The genitive and the possessive case look very similar because they both pertain to ownership. However, where the possessive case always refers to ownership of a noun, the genitive case is not strictly used for ownership.

Examples will best demonstrate the difference.

  • Suzie’s toy is new.
    • “Suzie’s toy” is an example of the genitive case and the possessive case. The toy belongs to Suzie (the toy of Suzie). This is an example of a noun possessing a noun using the apostrophe “-s” ending.
  • The men’s clothing section is downstairs.
    • In this example, the clothing does not belong to the men. Rather, this refers to clothing for men. This sentence demonstrates the genitive and not the possessive case.
  • The artist’s paintings were on display.
    • In this example, the genitive case is used. The meaning is not one of possession, i.e., they are not paintings owned by the artist (although the artist might own them). Here, the apostrophe “-s” ending means the drawings by the artist.

Genitive Adjectives and Pronouns

what is genitive case Possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns also belong to the genitive case. A noun is changed in the genitive case according to its use to show possession.

Noun/Possessive Adjective:

  • I/my
  • You/your (singular/plural)
  • He/She/It = his/her/its
  • We/our
  • They/their


  • I took my car for a spin.
    • “My” is in the genitive case showing that the car belongs to the subject “I.”

Noun/Possessive Pronouns:

  • I/mine
  • You/yours (singular/plural)
  • He/She/It = his/hers/its
  • We/ours
  • They/theirs


  • Sarah forgot hers.
    • “Hers” is in the genitive case showing that the item Sarah forgot belongs to her


Define genitive case: the definition of genitive case is the grammatical case used to show a thing’s source, a trait or characteristic, or possession or ownership.

In, summary, the genitive case:

  • is a grammatical case nouns, pronouns, and adjectives
  • is used for modification of nouns and pronouns
  • is usually formed with an apostrophe “-s” added to the end of a noun