Vocative case: Wikis


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The vocative case (abbreviated voc) is the case used for a noun identifying the person (animal, object, etc.) being addressed and/or occasionally the determiners of that noun. A vocative expression is an expression of direct address, wherein the identity of the party being spoken to is set forth expressly within a sentence. For example, in the sentence, "I don't know, John," John is a vocative expression indicating the party who is being addressed.

Historically, the vocative case was an element of the Indo-European system of cases, and existed in Latin, Sanskrit, and Classical Greek. Although it has been lost by many modern Indo-European languages, some languages have retained the vocative case to this day. Examples are Modern Greek, Albanian, Baltic languages such as Lithuanian and Latvian, Slavic languages such as Polish, Czech, Croatian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and the modern Celtic languages such as Scottish Gaelic and Irish. Among the Romance languages the vocative was preserved in Romanian: it is also visible sometimes, in languages such as Catalan or Portuguese which employ the personal article but drop it in front of vocative forms. In Extremaduran and Fala language, some post-tonical vowels open in vocative forms of nouns, but it is a new development which doesn't come from the Latin vocative case. It also occurs in some non-Indo-European languages, such as Georgian, Arabic, Chinese, and Korean.


The vocative case in various languages



Modern English does not have a formal (morphological) vocative case. English commonly uses the nominative case for vocative expressions, but sets them off from the rest of the sentences with pauses as interjections (rendered in writing as commas).

Historically, or in poetic or rhetorical speech, the vocative role in English may also be shown by prefacing the noun or noun phrase with the English word "O". This is often seen in the King James Version of the Bible: for example, "O ye of little faith" (in Matthew 8:26). Another well-known example is the recurrent use of the vocative phrase, O (my) Best Beloved, by Rudyard Kipling in his Just So Stories. This use of O may be considered a form of clitic, and should not be confused with the interjection "Oh" (Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, section 5.197).

See also Apostrophe (figure of speech).


In Latin the form of the vocative case of a noun is the same as the nominative, except for singular second-declension nouns that end in -us in the nominative case. An example would be the famous line from Shakespeare, "Et tu, Brute?" (commonly translated as "And you, Brutus?"), where Brute is the vocative case, whilst Brutus would be the nominative case.

Nouns ending in -ius have distinct vocatives, but instead of the expected ending -ie they simply end with . Thus, Julius becomes Julī and filius becomes filī. This shortening does not shift the accent, so the vocative of Vergilius is Vergilī, with accent on the first i, even though it is short. Nouns ending in -aius and -eius have vocatives ending in -aī or -eī even though the i is consonantal in the stem.

First and second declension adjectives also have distinct vocative forms in the masculine singular whenever the nominative ends in -us, with the ending -e. Adjectives ending in -ius have vocatives in -ie; thus the vocative of eximius is eximie.

Nouns and adjectives ending in -eus do not follow the rules above. Meus forms the vocative irregularly as , while deus does not have a distinct vocative, and retains the form deus. "My God!" in Latin is thus mī deus!, though Jerome's Vulgate consistently (and in deviation from classical use) uses deus meus as a vocative.

Three historical Indo-European languages

Take, for example, the word for "wolf":

Case Proto-Indo-European Latin Classical Greek Sanskrit
Nominative case *wl̥kʷ-o-s lup-u-s λύκ-ο-ς (lúk-o-s) vr̥k-a-s
Vocative case *wl̥kʷ-e-Ø lup-e-Ø λύκ-ε (lúk-e-Ø) vr̥k-a-Ø

Notes on notation: The elements separated with hyphens denote the stem, the so-called theme vowel of the case and the actual suffix. The symbol "Ø" means that there is no suffix in a place where other cases may have one. In Latin, e.g., the nominative case is lupus and the vocative case is lupe, whereas the accusative case is lupum. The asterisk in front of the Proto-Indo-European words means that they are theoretical reconstructions, not attested in a written source. The symbol ̥ (ring below) indicates a consonant serving as a vowel; it should appear directly below the "l" or "r" in these examples, but may appear after them due to font display issues.


In Polish, the vocative (wołacz) is formed as follows: Feminine nouns usually take -o, except those ending in -sia, -cia, -nia, and -dzia which take -u, and those ending in -ść which take -i. Masculine nouns generally follow the complex pattern of the locative case, with the exception of a handful of words such as Bóg → Boże ("God"), ojciec → ojcze ("father") and chłopiec → chłopcze ("boy"). Neuter nouns and all plural nouns are the same as in the nominative case. Here are some examples:

Nominative case Vocative case
Pani Ewa (Ms Eve) Pani Ewo! (Ms Eve!)
Pan profesor (Mr Professor) Panie profesorze! (Mr Professor!)
Krzysztof (Christopher) Krzysztofie! (Christopher!)
Krzyś (diminutive form of Krzysztof) Krzysiu!
Ewusia (diminutive form of Ewa) Ewusiu!
Marek (Mark) Marku!
ciemność (darkness) ciemności!
książka (book) książko!

In informal neutral speech, the nominative is increasingly used in place of the vocative, but this is regarded as bad style in formal situations. However, the vocative remains popular for addressing people in an offensive or condescending manner, e.g.

  • Zamknij się, pajacu! ("Shut up you buffoon!")
  • Co się gapisz, idioto? ("What are you staring at, idiot!")
  • Nie znasz się, baranie, to nie pisz ("Stop writing, idiot, you don't know what you're talking about!" or it may also be interpreted to mean, "If you do not know thyself, you ram, then don't write")
  • Co się kurwo proś? ("Where is the ***** going?")(this exact phrase is only spoken in the Tatry region of Poland)
  • Spadaj wieśniaku! ("Get lost, peasant!")

Use of the vocative does not, by itself, imply a negative tone, and in informal situations it is sometimes used, especially with nicknames and among teenagers. It is often employed in affectionate contexts such as Kocham Cię Krzysiu! ("I love you, Chris!")


In Czech, the vocative (5. pád) differs from the nominative in masculine and feminine nouns in singular.

Nominative case Vocative case
paní Eva (Ms Eve) paní Evo! (Ms Eve!)
pan profesor (Mr Professor) pane profesore! (Mr Professor!)
Kryštof (Christoph) Kryštofe! (Christoph!)
Marek (Mark) Marku!
knížka (book) knížko!

In informal speech, it is usual that the male surname (see also Czech name) is in nominative when addressing men, e.g. pane Novák! instead of pane Nováku! (Female surnames are adjectives, thus they are the same in the nominative as well as in the vocative - see Czech declension). Teachers often address their pupils with the surname in nominative. However, such addressing can seem impolite. Using the appropriate vocative is strongly recommended in the official and written styles.


Until the end of the 1980s, the existence of a distinct vocative case in the Slovak language has been recognised and taught at schools. Today the case is considered lost from the language, with only a few archaic examples of the original vocative remaining in religious, literary or ironic context, such as

  • Boh (God) m. – Bože
  • Kristus (Christ) m. – Kriste
  • pán (lord) m. – pane
  • otec (father) m. – otče
  • človek (man, human) m. – človeče
  • chlap (man) m. – chlape
  • chlapec (boy) m. – chlapče'
  • Ježiš (Jesus) m. – Ježišu
  • priateľ (friend) m. – priateľu
  • brat (brother) m. – bratu, bratku
  • syn (son) m. – synu, synku
  • mama (mother) f. – mamo
  • žena (woman) f. – ženo

In everyday use, the Czech vocative is sometimes retrofitted to certain words, such as

  • majster (maestro) m. – majstre
  • šéf (boss) m. – šéfe
  • švagor (brother-in-law) m. – švagre

Another type of vernacular vocative is emerging, presumably under the influence of the Hungarian language for certain family members or proper names, such as

  • otec (father) m. – oci
  • mama (mother) f. – mami
  • babka (grandmother, old woman) f. – babi
  • Paľo (Paul – domestic form) m. – Pali
  • Zuza (Susan – domestic form) f. – Zuzi


Unlike the other Slavic languages, Bulgarian has entirely lost its noun declension. However, Bulgarian has preserved its vocative case.

Traditional male names usually have a vocative case.

Иван (nominative case)
Иване (vocative case)

More recent names and foreign names may have a vocative form but it is not used (Ричарде, instead of simply Ричард (Richard) sounds strange and funny).

Vocative phrases like господин министре (Mr. Minister) have almost completely given place to the corresponding common case forms, especially in official writings.

Proper nouns usually also have vocative forms, even though they are used less frequently. The following are examples of proper nouns that are frequently used in vocative:

бог (god)
боже ([,] God[,])
господ (lord)
господи ([,] Lord[,])
Иисус, Иисус Христос (Jesus, Jesus Christ)
Иисусе, Иисусе Христе
другар (comrade)
поп (priest)
жаба (frog)
жабо ([,] Frog[,])
глупак (fool)
глупако (you, fool!)

Vocative case forms also normally exist for female given names:


Except for the forms ending in -е, these are considered rude and are normally avoided. Exception are female kinship terms, whose vocative is always used: баба - бабо (Granny), мама - мамо (Mom), леля - лельо (aunt), сестра - сестро (sister).


Historical vocative

The historical Slavic vocative has been lost in Russian, and currently can only be found in certain cases of archaic expressions. Few of those expressions, mostly of religious origin, are very common in colloquial Russian: "Боже!" (Bozhe, vocative of "Бог" Bog, "God"), often also used in expression "Боже мой!" (Bozhe moy, "My God!"), and "Господи!" (Gospodi, vocative of "Господь" Gospod, "Lord"), which can also be expressed as "Господи Иисусе!" (Gospodi Iisuse!, Iisuse vocative of "Иисус" Iisus, "Jesus"), vocative is also used in prayers, e.g. "Отче наш!" (Otche nash, "Our Father!"). These expressions are used to express strong emotions (much like English "O my God!"), and are often combined ("Господи, Боже мой"). More examples of historical vocative can be found in other Biblical quotes that are sometimes used as proverbs, e.g. "Врачу, исцелися сам" (Vrachu, istselisya sam - "Physician, heal thyself", cf. nominative "врач", vrach). Vocative forms are also used in modern Church Slavonic. The patriarch and bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church are addressed as "владыко"(vladyko, hegemon, cf. nominative "владыка", vladyka). In the latter case the vocative form is often also incorrectly used as nominative to refer to bishops and the patriarchs.


In modern colloquial Russian given names and a small family of terms often take a special "shortened" form that some linguists consider to be a reemerging vocative case [1]. This form is applied only to given names and nouns that end in -a and , which are optionally dropped in the vocative form: "Лен, где ты?" ("Lena, where are you?"). This is basically equivalent to "Лена, где ты?", the only difference being that the former version suggests a positive personal, emotional bond between the speaker and the person being addressed. Names ending in acquire a soft sign in this case: "Оль!" = "Оля!" ("Olga!"). In addition to given names, this form is often used with words like "мама" (mama, mom) and "папа" (papa, dad), which would be respectively "shortened" to "мам" (mam) and "пап" (pap).

Such usage differs from historical vocative (which would be "Leno" in the example above) and is not related to such historical usage.


Ukrainian has retained the vocative case, in contrast to the other, closely-related East Slavic languages, Belarusian and Russian. See Ukrainian grammar#Morphology for details.


In Lithuanian, all nouns have a vocative case, which is nearly always different from a nominative case (with an exception of plurals and some feminine nouns). Replacing the vocative case with the nominative, however, remains a common mistake in everyday speech. The form that a given noun takes depends on the declension and, sometimes, gender:

  • (i)a declension

-as "vyras" (m) – "vyre" (man, husband)

-ias, -ys "svečias" (m), "gaidys" (m) – "svety" (guest), "gaidy" (rooster)

-is "brolis" (m) – "broli" (brother)

Exceptions: nouns ending in -ėjas, such as "vėjas" – "vėjau" (wind) and "siuvėjas" – "siuvėjau" (sewer).

Male names belonging to this declension have an -ai ending in the vocative case: "Jonas" – "Jonai". Diminutive forms are normally used without an ending ("broliuk") (little brother), but a full form is also valid ("broliukai").

  • (i)o declension

-a "galva" (f) – "galva" (head)

-ia "vyšnia" (f) – "vyšnia" (cherry)

-i "marti" (f) – "marčia/marti" (daughter-in-law)

Female names, such as Rasa, Rūta, etc., are spelled in the same way in the vocative case, but undergo a stress change. In the nominative case the last syllable needs to be stressed; in the vocative case, the second last: Ilona (nominative) – Ilona (vocative).

  • ė declension

-ė "katė" (f) – "kate" (cat)

Some nouns of this declension (both proper ones and not) are also stressed differently: "aikš" – "aikšte" (square). The ending of diminutive forms is usually omitted: "sesutė" – "sesut" (little sister).

  • (i)u declension

-us "sūnus" (m) – "sūnau" (son)

  • i declension

-is "dantis" (m), "avis" (f) – "dantie" (tooth), "avie" (sheep)

-uo "vanduo" (m), "sesuo" (f) – "vandenie" (water), "seserie" (sister)

-ė "duktė" (f) – "dukterie" (daughter)

Celtic languages

Scottish Gaelic

In Gaelic, the vocative case causes lenition of the initial letter of names. In addition, male names are slenderized, if possible (that is, adds an 'i' before the final consonant). Also, the word a is placed before the name unless it begins with a vowel, e.g.:

Nominative case Vocative case
Caitrìona a Chaitrìona
Domhnuill a Dhomhnuill
Màiri a Mhàiri
Seumas a Sheumais
Una Una

The name “Hamish” is just the English spelling of “Sheumais”, and thus is actually a Gaelic vocative. Likewise, the name “Vairi” is an English spelling of “Mhàiri”.


The vocative case in Irish operates in a similar fashion to Scottish Gaelic. The principal marker is the vocative particle a which causes lenition of the initial letter.

In the singular there is no special form except for first declension nouns. These are masculine nouns ending in a 'broad', i.e. non-palatal, consonant which is made 'slender', i.e. palatal, to form the singular vocative (as well as the singular genitive and plural nominative). Adjectives are also lenited. In many cases this means that (in the singular) masculine vocative expressions resemble the genitive and feminine vocative expressions resemble the nominative.

The vocative plural is usually the same as the nominative plural except once again for first declension nouns which show the vocative plural by adding -a.

Gender masculine feminine m f
English the big man the big boy the big woman the big hen John Mary
Sg. Nominative an fear mór an buachaill mór an bhean mhór an chearc mhór Seán Máire
Genitive an fhir mhóir an bhuachalla mhóir na mná móire na circe móire Sheáin Mháire
Vocative a fhir mhóir a bhuachaill mhóir a bhean mhór a chearc mhór a Sheáin a Mháire
Pl. Nominative na fir móra na buachaillí móra na mná móra na cearca móra
Genitive na bhfear mór na mbuachaillí móra na mban mór na gcearc mór
Vocative a fheara móra a bhuachaillí móra a mhná móra a chearca móra

Other Celtic languages

Manx has the vocative case, at least to the extent of initial lenition. So has Welsh. Breton seems to have lost the vocative.


The vocative case can generally not be found in Icelandic, although a very few words retain an archaic vocative declension from Latin, like the word Jesús, which is in vocative Jesú. This comes from Latin, as the Latin word for Jesus is simply Jesus and the vocative of that word is Jesu.


  • Jesús (nominative) elskar þig.
    Jesus loves you.
  • Ó Jesú (vocative), frelsari okkar.
    O Jesus, our saviour.


The vocative case in Romanian is inherited from Latin. Morphologically it is formed using specific endings, occasionally causing other morphophonemic changes (see also the article on Romanian nouns):

  • singular masculine/neuter: "-e" as in
    • "om" - "omule!" (man, human being),
    • "băiat" - "băiete!" or "băiatule!" (boy),
    • "văr" - "vere!" (cousin),
    • "Ion" - "Ioane!" (John);
  • singular feminine: "-o" as in
    • "soră" - "soro!" (sister),
    • "nebună" - "nebuno!" (mad woman),
    • "deşteaptă" - "deşteapto!" (smart one (f) , but this vocative is always used sarcastically),
    • "Ileana" - "Ileano!" (Helen);

This female vocative ending is obviously a Slavic borrowing

  • plural, all genders: "-lor" as in
    • "fraţi" - "fraţilor!" (brothers),
    • "boi" - "boilor!" (oxen, used toward people as an invective),
    • "doamne şi domni" - "doamnelor şi domnilor!" (ladies and gentlemen).

More often than not the vocative simply copies the nominative/accusative form, even when it does have its own. This happens because the vocative is often perceived as very direct and thus can seem rude.


The vocative case in Venetian is not marked by any ending, since Venetian has lost case endings as most Romance languages, but it is still visible on feminine proper names due to the absence of the determiner, i.e. the personal article Ła / L' which usually precedes feminine names in other cases, even in predicates. Thus, vocative case is distinguished from both nominative and accusative cases although none of them bears endings nor prepositions. On the contrary, masculine names and other nouns only rely on intonation and voice breaks.

Case Fem. proper name Masc. proper name and other nouns
Nom./Acc. ła Marìa ła vien qua / varda ła Marìa!

Mary comes here / look at Mary!

Marco el vien qua / varda Marco!

Mark comes here / look at Mark!

Vocative Marìa vien qua! / varda Marìa!

Mary come here! / look, Mary!

Marco vien qua! / varda, Marco!

Mark come here! / look, Mark!

The (presence/absence of the) personal article in feminine proper names also distinguishes the vocative case from predicates, differently from the definite article ła of common nouns which is dropped even in predicative constructions.

Case Fem. proper name Masc. proper name and other nouns
Pred. so' mi ła Marìa

I am Mary

so' mi Marco / so' tornà maestra

I am Mark / I am a teacher again

Vocative so' mi Marìa!

It's me, Mary!

so' mi, Marco! / so' tornà, maestra!

it's me, Mark! / I am back, teacher!

In some vernacular German, where it is common to use the (gender-)appropriate article before a person's name, the article is, as in Venetian, omitted when calling the person.


In Georgian, the vocative case is used for addressing the second singular and plural persons. For the word roots ending with a consonant, the vocative case suffix is -o, and for the words ending with a vowel, there is no suffix for the vocative case (the suffix used to be -v in old Georgian, but is now considered archaic). For example, kats- is the root for the word "man." If one addresses someone with this word, it becomes, katso!

Adjectives are also declined in the vocative case. Just like nouns, consonant final stem adjectives take the suffix -o in the vocative case, and the vowel final stems are not changed. Compare:

lamazi kali "beautiful woman" (nominative case)
lamazo kalo! "beautiful woman!" (vocative case)

In the second phrase, both the adjective and the noun are declined. The second singular and plural personal pronouns are also declined in the vocative case. Shen you(singular) and tkven you (plural) in the vocative case become, she! and tkve!, with the drop of the final -n. Therefore one could, for instance, say,

She lamazo kalo! "you beautiful woman!"

with the declination of all the elements.


In the Chinese language, the vocative appears in different ways in different regional languages. is used with name, kinship term or even positional title in casual situations. Some southern Chinese regional languages add a prefix such as 阿 (ah). In Cantonese, 阿 a is interchageable with 亞 ya.

For example:

  • Someone named 陳小明 (chan siu ming) can predictably be addressed as 阿明 (ah ming)
  • When addressing one's own father and mother one may call out: 阿爸! (Ah ba!) and 阿媽! (Ah ma!) which are equivalent to "Dad!" and "Mom!" in English. This practice can applied to other simple single syllable kinship terms. As honorific, a stranger can be addressed as 阿伯 (a bak) for an old man, and 阿婆 (a po) for an old woman. This usage is common in several southern dialects.
  • When addressing someone of authority such as a male police officer or even male teacher, particularly in Hong Kong, 阿 Sir (a sœ in common Hong Kong English accent) would be the popular expression. Note also the anglicism in the Hong Kong speech. A female equivalent of the vocative expression, however, less common.
  • Similarly, in Taiwan one polite way (most often used by school children) to call out to a soldier is "阿兵哥! Ā bīng gē!" (Soldier brother!) That is like calling out "Officer!" to hail a policeman in the United States (and not like calling out, "Yo! Copper!")

Discussion of the vocative in Chinese can be found in The Grammar of Spoken Chinese by the eminent Chinese linguist, Y.R. Chao (趙元任), p. 66.


The vocative case in Korean is used only with first names in casual situations. This is done by suffixing 아 (a) if the name ends in a consonant and 야 (ya) if in a vowel:

미진은 집에 가겠어? (Mijin-eun chibe kagesseo?)
"Is Mijin going home?"

미진, 집에 가겠어? (Mijin-a, chibe kagesseo?)
"Mijin, are you going home?

동배 뭐 해? (Dongbae meo hae?)
What is Dongbae doing?

동배, 뭐 해? (Dongbae-ya, meo hae?)
"Dongbae, what are you doing?


The vocative case in Japanese is formed with null morpheme, i.e. without any specific particle. Examples:

田中さんは部長を訪問してください (Mr. Tanaka shall visit the boss)
田中さん、 部長を訪問してください (Mr. Tanaka, [please] visit the boss)

The particle は marks the subject of the first sentence, i.e. it is the nominative case marker; the particle を marks the object, i.e. it is the accusative case marker. In the second sentence, there is no particle following 田中さん thus making it vocative.

Note that particles は and が are also frequently omitted in colloquial speech without making a word vocative. Example: 田中さん部長を訪問 Mr. Tanaka visits the boss.


Properly speaking, Arabic only has three cases, the nominative, accusative and genitive. However, a meaning similar to that conveyed by the vocative case in other languages is indicated by the use of the particle ya (Arabic: يا‎) placed before a noun. In English translations, this is often translated literally as O instead of being omitted.[2][3]


  1. ^ citation needed
  2. ^ Jiyad, Mohammed. "A Hundred and One Rules! A Short Reference to Arabic Syntactic, Morphological & Phonological Rules for Novice & Intermediate Levels of Proficiency" (DOC). Welcome to Arabic. http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/mjiyad/Arabic%20Grammar%20Book.doc. Retrieved 2007-11-28.  
  3. ^ "Lesson 5". Madinah Arabic. http://www.madinaharabic.com/Arabic_Language_Course/Lessons/MB1_Lesson_005/MB1_L5_section_001.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-28.  


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