5.2 - Why the endings of nouns change

The system of noun endings is one of the major differences between Ukrainian and English.

In English (and a number of other languages) the order of the words in a sentence is crucially important. The two sentences below, for example, have different meanings depending on where the nouns come in the sentence.

The wasp stung Lisa.
Lisa stung the wasp.

It could be said that the second sentence is not possible in a normal world. But what about the following?

Ian hit Darren.
Darren hit Ian.

So who will take whom to court for assault?

In English, word order is crucial in determining the meaning of a sentence. In Ukrainian, as in many other languages which are "inflected", the order of words in the sentence is not as important, so there has to be a way to identify who does what to whom (i.e. who is the subject, object, etc. of the sentence). This information is contained in the endings of the nouns: these change depending on the function of the noun in the sentence. There are seven such functions, and they are known as cases (of which more later).

Exercise 5.2A allows you to practise sorting words according to their function in the sentence, namely:

  • subject – the "doer" of the action
  • direct object – the person, thing or abstract concept directly affected by the action of the verb
  • indirect object – a person (or, less frequently, a thing or abstract concept) to or for whom something is shown, given, told, etc.
Part of the collection of resources at UkrainianLanguage.org.uk
© 2007 Marta Jenkala