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I was studying Latin, and I came upon this sentence:

Magister (boys writing letters) vidit.

Translated, it means:

The teacher saw the boys writing letters.

I was wondering, what grammatical case would "letters" be in that sentence?

  • Lower case, I guess? – oerkelens Mar 3 '14 at 14:55
  • ... As in grammatical case. – ws04 Mar 3 '14 at 14:56
  • English nouns have only two cases: genitive and everything-else. English pronouns have an objective case, which would be employed here (The teacher saw the boys writing them), since they is the object of the verb writing; but that’s an English rule, which should not be consulted in writing Latin. – StoneyB Mar 3 '14 at 15:12
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Letters is the direct object of writing. If it were marked for case, it would probably be accusative.

But modern English has largely lost its case system; its nouns are generally not marked for case, so more properly I would say that letters has no case. (Even in Old English, by the way, there was no accusative-nominative contrast for plural nouns like this one.)

English is quite different from Latin, and we cannot always use the same descriptions for both. Instead of marking a direct object with a case system, in English we rely on word order. As a result, we must say writing letters and not letters writing.

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