I'm not sure what these terms mean. In my lecture notes I wrote that grammatical case is used to show the syntactic functions of a nominal syntagm, depending on its relation to the verb. Semantic case, on the other hand, doesn't show the syntactic function but rather the semantic one.

As I don't have any examples for this, I find it hard to understand. Could this for example mean that even though a certain nominal syntagm is grammaticaly in accusative (so there are affixes for accusative) it actually has attributive meaning (so semantically it's genitive)?

  • Would that mean that some languages actually have semantic cases instead of grammatical ones, or is it just a different way of analyzing the grammar of sentences in languages with cases?
    – LjL
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 20:37
  • @LjL As I understand it no, languages don't "have" semantic cases, it's just that grammatical cases in languages can express different semantic meanings...
    – lmc
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 6:10

1 Answer 1


That's pretty much it. Languages do some idiosyncratic stuff with their grammatical cases:

I remember you (obj). (English)
Meminī tuī (gen). (Latin)
Ich errinere an dich (acc). (Northern German)

Sometimes, sentences with the same semantic meaning even use different grammatical cases, like in Ancient Greek (transliterated):

Mnēmoneúō sé (with accusative)
Mémnēmai soû (with genitive)

Yet in all of these examples, the last word is, semantically, the thing being remembered (the "theme"). The syntax doesn't change that.

  • 1
    Isn't it "sich erinnern", reflexive? Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 14:03
  • @Wilson To my understanding errinern an is a Northern dialectal form that demonstrates my point better; however I'm not a native speaker
    – Draconis
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 15:19

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