In the phrase "I went to the shops with a friend", "a friend" is the accompanier, while I am the subject.

Some languages, such as Finnish (I believe) have a comitative case, which is taken by an accompanier noun. However, in many languages this is not the case. In German, the accompanier would take the dative case:

"Mit einem Freund"

while in Latin it would take the ablative case (which I find rather odd):

"Cum amico"

What I want to know is whether there are any cross-linguistic trends regarding what case accompanier nouns tend to take in the absence of a comitative case.

  • 2
    In Latin it would be cum amicō: it's ablative because prepositions usually take the ablative. (Similarly in German, mit and many other prepositions take the dative: it's not something special about accompaniment.)
    – Draconis
    Apr 3, 2019 at 15:51
  • Thanks, will edit to "cum amico"
    – Tim Foster
    Apr 4, 2019 at 8:26
  • 1
    In Greek we use the accusative case. Πήγα για ψώνια με τον φίλο μου. Apr 7, 2019 at 17:26

1 Answer 1


There are basically three ways accompaniment can be expressed:

  1. The language has a special "comitative" case, which is used for accompaniment: Finnish ystävineen, "with some friends". (Note that in Finnish this case is extremely rare; you'll mostly see it in linguistics textbooks.)
  2. The language uses an adposition for accompaniment: Latin cum amīcīs, German mit Freunden. Here Latin uses the ablative and German uses the dative: not because there's anything inherently ablative or dative about accompaniment, but because that's the standard case for "object of a preposition that's not about movement". That's why you'll also see prō amīcīs and aus Freunden "for some friends", with the same cases but no accompaniment.
  3. The language used to have a specific comitative case, but it merged together with something else. This is what you find in Hungarian, where the comitative merged into the instrumental: barátokkal can now mean "along with some friends" or "by using some friends".

It sounds like you're most interested in the third possibility. The instrumental is the most common case for this, to the extent that Lakoff and Johnson claimed it was a linguistic universal that comitative and instrumental would look exactly the same (which it's not, at all—they focused too much on English).

But sometimes case mergers are just caused by phonological changes making two forms look the same (like later Latin's nominative-vocative, dative-accusative-ablative mergers), and when this happens, any case might get involved: it comes down to the phonology, not the semantics.

EDIT: Thanks to amegnunsen in the comments, there's a fourth option too, which I hadn't been familiar with!

  1. The language uses a conjunctive ("and") to mark accompaniment: Kabyle d kra imeddukal "and/with some friends".
  • 1
    There is a fourth case as in some Berber languages where comitative and coordinator are similar or merged.
    – amegnunsen
    Apr 3, 2019 at 18:48
  • @amegnunsen I'm not sure I understand; wouldn't that fall under "comitative merges into another case"?
    – Draconis
    Apr 3, 2019 at 20:43
  • you give three topological way to construct a comitative, but there is a fourth possibility. This fourth case/way combines the comitative (with) and the coordinator (and).
    – amegnunsen
    Apr 4, 2019 at 2:25
  • 1
    @amegnunsen Ohh! I see what you mean; I'll add it, but do you happen to know how "with some friends" would be said in one of those languages (to give as an example)?
    – Draconis
    Apr 4, 2019 at 2:28
  • 1
    @Tim Foster I was with a friend = lligh d umeddakul ( d = with) ... That kind of constructions is not only found in Berber, other languages have these characteristics. See this article: Comitative, coordinating, and inclusory constructions in Hausa, in Coordinating Constructions
    – amegnunsen
    Apr 11, 2019 at 7:08

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