In other languages (mainly Romance languages such as: Portuguese and Spanish), we have many grammatical cases such as: abessivo ablativo, absolutivo, acusativo, adessivo; English doesn't feature such cases, what would the possible answer for this be?

Since I'm brazilian and my main language is Portuguese, I noticed a few different reasons due to which English may noy feature such cases:

The default sentence arrangement in English is almost always the same, except in other moods, such as imperative and question: Subject + Predicate + Complement while in Romance languages such as Portuguese, there are several ways to arrange a sentence:

  1. Subject + Predicate + Complement (Eu gosto de você - I like you)

  2. Predicate + Subject + Complement (Gosto eu de você - Like I you)

  3. Complement + Subject + Predicate (Você eu gosto - You I like)

  4. Complement + Predicate + Subject (De ela gostamos nós - Her like we)

As we can see above, some arrangements that work in Portuguese don't work in English since English's default sentence arrangement is almost the same - would it be the reason why English doesn't feature such cases? It's not necessary since the probability of there being a confusion in the understanding of the sentence is almost zero, while in Portuguese, if there were not such cases, there would be many confusions due to the arrangement of the sentences.

What do you think? Does my interpretation sound correct? I would like to know the real reason for due to which English doesn't feature such cases.

  • 2
    As you say, this isn't a question: it has no answer.
    – user6726
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 14:23
  • 1
    Debates aren't allowed on Stack Exchange.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 14:38
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Why did English lose declensions while German retained them? Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 15:37
  • 4
    Portuguese (as, btw, Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan) has no grammatical cases (except a few personal pronouns, in which it doesn't much differ from English). Of the sentences you give as examples, only 1. is proper Portuguese; the others are mangled sentences. Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 19:16
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    I am Brazilian, Portuguese is my first language. Portuguese has no case system (what would be the cases in the sentences you list, for intance?), and these sentences are grammatically incorrect. You can take this discussion to the Portuguese stack exchange if you want. Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 11:42

2 Answers 2


Portuguese doesn't have a case system. Neither has Spanish, or French, Catalan, or Italian.

A case system means that nouns (and possibly adjectives) take different forms for different grammatical functions.

For instance, Latin has cases. The noun homo (man) has different forms whether it is a subject, object, vocative, etc. For instance:

Homo homini lupus. - Man is wolf to man.

You see, homo is the nominative form, meaning it is the subject of the sentence. Homini is the dative form, meaning it is the indirect object of the sentence.

There is no such thing in Portuguese. O homem é o lobo do homem: both the subject and the object take exactly the same form in Portuguese, because Portuguese has no case system. The only exceptions are personal pronouns, that still have two or three cases (eu/me/mim, tu/te/ti, - like English "I"/"me" - and are anyway not called "abessive", "ablative", "absolutive", etc; they are just called "caso reto" and "caso oblíquo" (literally, "straight case" and "oblique case").

Word order is relatively more free in Portuguese than in English, not because of nominal case inflections, but because of verbal person inflections. For instance, nós gostamos delas (We like them) has the verb inflected for first person plural, so we know that the subject can only be nós (we), and never elas, which is third person. This makes "delas gostamos nós" grammatically correct, because you cannot confuse subject and object (which isn't the case in English, were the verbal form for all persons, except third singular, is the same).

But delas gostamos nós is by no means synonimous with nós gostamos delas. The latter means "we like them"; the former means "it is us who like them" (and delas nós gostamos means "it is them we like"). Because of this, those inverted order sentences are usually used anaphorically (except perhaps in literary register).

Gosto eu de você is, by my reckoning, an ill-formed sentence. Eu gosto de você means "I like you", while de você gosto eu means "it is me who likes you", and de você eu gosto means "it is you that I like". But a VSO or VOS order seems to me simply wrong (except perhaps within longer constructions, like como o mar gosta da praia, assim gosto eu de você ("like the sea likes the shore, so I like you"), and even then it seems to me quite literary). That is perhaps because the inverted sentences, in Portuguese, are instances of topicalisation, and the verb cannot be topicalised.

Você eu gosto, on the other hand, is grammatically wrong, because the verb gostar demands prepositioned (indirect) objects. So without the preposition "de", the sentence is ill-formed.


While I wouldn't claim to know a lot about Romance languages, it is quite well-known that most Romance languages (including Portuguese and Spanish) also lost the complex case system of Latin. Assuming abessivo, ablativo, absolutivo, acusativo, adessivo mean the same as abessive, ablative, absolutive, accusative, adessive, I seriously doubt that Portuguese possesses any of these cases in the linguistic meaning of the word 'case'. Also, while having a lot of cases does render word order somewhat immaterial, the examples you give do not seem to solely differ by word order. Compare the same sentence in a few Indo-European languages with cases:

German: Ich mag dich. Here, 'ich' is 'I' in the nominative case, 'mag' means 'like' and 'dich' is the accusative form of 'du' meaning 'you (singular)'

Ossetic: Æз дæу уарзын. [Romanization: Æz dæw warzyn.] Again, 'æз' is 'I' in the nominative, 'уарзын' means 'love/like' and 'дæу' is the genitive (which functions as the accusative for personal objects) form of 'ды' (dy) which means 'you (singular)'

Lithuanian: Aš myliu tave. Here, 'aš' is 'I' in the nominative case, 'myliu' means 'like/love' and 'tave' is the accusative form of 'tu' meaning 'you (singular)'

Bengali: আমি তোকে ভালোবাসি। [Romanization: Āmi toke bhālobāsi.] 'আমি' is 'I' in the nominative case, 'ভালোবাসি' means 'like/love' and 'তোকে' is the accusative form of 'তুই' (tui) meaning 'you (singular)'

In each of these languages, any permutation of the three words would mean the same. Of course, some word orders are preferred, and indeed, some would sound very unnatural. For example, in Lithuanian and German, the most natural form would be with the verb in the middle, while in Ossetic and Bengali, the natural form is with the verb in the end (as I have written). And each of these would avoid putting the verb first, but even that can be understood by native speakers. In the Portuguese examples, however, you are not merely changing word order, but modifying the vocabulary and syntax. That can be done in English as well to convey specific meanings.

Of course, I am not contradicting the fact that English has lost its cases to a large extent. And a discussion of the reasons behind is linked in a comment by bytebuster, which you can check out. I am merely addressing the fact that comparing English with Romance languages when the subject of comparison is cases is not entirely relevant.

P.S.: Lithuanian, Bengali and Ossetic do not strictly possess verbs meaning 'like', and the example sentences mean 'I love you' instead of 'I like you'. Each employs a special construction to convey the meaning of 'I like you', which is not entirely relevant to the question. I chose these three as examples because I wanted to get a good spread. [And, more importantly, I had to stick to languages I know. ;)] It would be great if someone could add examples here from other languages families.

  • You are right that Portuguese like English has no case in a sense, but the examples of case you give - with pronouns - do not show the difference. Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 3:51
  • @A.M.Bittlingmayer, I am sorry, I was lazy and didn't want to write out more. What I meant was that in some of these languages the three words can be permuted in any order without (significantly) changing the meaning. [I didn't display the permutations, owing to the lazyness referred to :).] To be honest, I don't think pronouns are the best way to demonstrate cases, since both English and Portuguese distinguish cases in pronouns, but I wanted to stick to the example the OP used. Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 15:40

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