Nominative and Genitive Strong Nouns

The nominative and genitive refer to the form or 'case' of a noun. The nominative is used for the subject of a sentence and the genitive is used to denote possession or a specific relationship. In þæs cyninges þegen - The King’s thane, the thane is the subject, and 'belongs' to the king, so þegen is in the nominative and cyninges is in the genitive.

þæs cyninges
Genitive
þegen
Nominative

What ending a noun takes is not just determined by its role in a sentence, but also its number. For example, in þæs cyninges biscopas - the king’s bishops, biscop has an 'as' ending, which is different to þegen above. This is because þegen is singular while biscopas is plural.

þæs cyninges
Genitive
biscopas
Nominative

The genitive case can also be in the plural, as can be seen in þara cyninga biscopas — the kings’ bishops. In this sentence there are multiple bishops belonging to multiple kings so the endings of cyning changes to cyninga.

þara cyninga
Genitive
biscopas
Nominative

In many ways, Old English can be quite similar to modern English. The singular form of the nominative is the ‘plain’ form of the word, and is what you will use to look up words in dictionaries. The nominative form of strong masculine nouns such as cyning, biscop, þegen and stan all add ‘as’ to become plural, much like how (s) is added to the end of a word to make it plural in modern English. Similarly, the singular genitive is made by adding ‘es’, much like how (‘s) is added in English. The plural genitive is the one that differs the most, as in modern English we’d write it as (kings’), adding an apostrophe after the s, while Old English simply adds the suffix ‘a’.

This can best be visualised by use of a table or paradigm like the one below. Select biscop, þegen, or stan to see their declensions.


Strong Masculine Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative se cyning þa cyningas
Genitive þæs cyninges þara cyninga
Strong Masculine Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative se biscop þa biscopas
Genitive þæs biscopes þara biscopa
Strong Masculine Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative se þegen þa þegnas
Genitive þæs þegnes þara þegna
Strong Masculine Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative se stan þa stanas
Genitive þæs stanes þara stana

Þegen loses its second 'e' when it gains a suffix. This is called syncopation and simplifies the pronunciation. Syncopation will be explained in more detail later. However, spelling in Old English is often inconsistent, so you will occasionally find examples like 'þegena' in manuscripts.


You now know the basics of the nominative and genitive cases. The next thing to do is practice what you have learned. Feel free to use the table to help you with the first batch of questions. You can hide the table at any point by clicking the orange 'Hide Table' button. Otherwise you can continue on to the next topic.

Return to Introduction to Cases Continue to Acc and Dat Strong Masc Nouns

Test Your Declensions

In the textboxes below, fill out the fully declined version of the word in brackets.

Use these buttons to insert thorn, ash and eth when you have an input selected.