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Oblique case

In linguistics, an oblique case is a noun case that is used generally when a noun is the predicate of a sentence or a preposition. An oblique case can appear in any case relationship except the nominative case of a sentence subject or the vocative case of direct address. It contrasts also with an ergative case, used in ergative languages for nouns that are direct actors; in ergative languages, the same case is used for a direct object, and for the subject of a sentence where the subject is being passively described, rather than performing an action.

In Indo-European languages, oblique cases often appear as the result of the simplification of the original, more complex system of noun cases shared by the historical Indo-European languages. Oblique cases appear in the English pronoun set. Observe how the first person pronoun me serves a variety of grammatical functions:

She bit me!

Give me the rubber hose!

That stain wasn't made by me. . .

Me, I like French. . .

The pronoun me is not inflected differently in any of these uses; it is used for all grammatical relationships except the genitive case of possession and a non-disjunctive nominative case as the subject.

Oblique pronouns tend to become clitics; the English clitic found in Give 'em hell, Harry! is in fact a survival of Middle English hem rather than simply a clipped version of them. The Romance languages tend to have even larger varieties of clitics, as in the Spanish expression dámelo, "give it to me," which has two oblique clitics me and lo.