Comitative case

The comitative case (abbreviated COM) is a grammatical case that denotes accompaniment.[1]:17–23 In English, the preposition "with", in the sense of "in company with" or "together with", plays a substantially similar role (other uses of "with", like in the meaning of "using" or "by means of" (I cut bread with a knife), correspond to the instrumental case or related cases).

Core meaning[edit]

Comitative case encodes a relationship of "accompaniment" between two participants in an event, called the "accompanier" and the "companion". In addition, there is a "relator" (which can be of multiple lexical categories, but is most commonly an affix or adposition).[1]:17–18 Use of Comitative case gives prominence to the accompanier.[2]:602 This Italian sentence is an example:

[il professore]accompanier entra nell'aula [con]relator [i suoi studenti]companion
'the professor enters the lecture-hall (together) with his students'.[2]:602

In this case, il professore is the accompanier, i suoi studenti is the companion, and con is the relator. As the accompanier, il professore is the most prominent.

Animacy also plays a major role in most languages with a comitative case. One group of languages requires both the accompanier and the companion to be either human or animate. Another group requires both to be in the same category: both human or both animate. A third group requires an animate accompanier and an inanimate companion. Other languages have no restrictions based on animacy.[2]:603–604

Comparison to similar cases[edit]

The comitative case is often conflated or confused with other similar cases, especially the instrumental case and the associative case.

The comitative relates to an accompanier and a companion, and the instrumental relates to an agent, an object, and a patient.[3]:593 Enrique Palancar defines the role of Instrumental case as 'the role played by the object the Agent manipulates to achieve a change of state of the Patient.'[4] Even though the difference is straightforward, because the instrumental and the comitative are expressed the same way in many languages, including English, it is often difficult to separate them.

Russian is one of many languages that differentiate morphologically between instrumental and comitative:

Я пойду в кино с мамой
I go in cinema with mom.INSTR
'I'll go to the cinema with my mom.'
Я нарезал хлеб этим ножом
I cut bread this.INSTR knife.INSTR
'I cut the bread with this knife.'[5]

In Russian, the comitative is marked by adding a preposition s and by declining the companion in the instrumental case. In the instrumental case, the object is declined, but no preposition is added.[5]

The comitative case is often confused with the associative case. Before the term comitative was applied to the accompanier-companion relationship, the relationship was often called associative case, a term still used by some linguists.[6]

It is important to distinguish between the comitative and the associative because the associative also refers to a specific variety of the comitative case that is used in Hungarian.[2]:605

Expressions of comitative semantic relation[edit]

Grammatical case is a category of inflectional morphology. The comitative case is an expression of the comitative semantic relation through inflectional affixation, by prefixes, suffixes and circumfixes. Although all three major types of affixes are used in at least a few languages, suffixes are the most common expression. Languages which use affixation to express the comitative include Hungarian, which uses suffixes; Totonac, which uses prefixes; and Chuckchi, which uses circumfixes.[2]:602

Comitative relations are also commonly expressed by using adpositions: prepositions, postpositions and circumpositions. Examples of languages that use adpositional constructions to express comitative relations are French, which uses prepositions; Wayãpi, which uses postpositions; and Bambara, which uses circumpositions.[2]:603

Adverbial constructions can also mark comitative relations, but they act very similarly to adpositions. One language that uses adverbs to mark the comitative case is Latvian.[2]:603

The final way in which comitative relations can be expressed is by serial-verb constructions. In these languages, the comitative marker is usually a verb whose basic meaning is "to follow". A language which marks comitative relations with serial-verb constructions is Chinese.[2]:603


Indo-European languages[edit]


French uses prepositions to express the comitative semantic relation.

avec sa mère
COM POSS mother
'with his/her mother'[2]:605

In this case, the preposition "avec" is used to express the comitative semantic relation. The preposition "avec" is the standard comitative marker in French; however, French has a special case, the ornative case, a variety of comitative for bodily property or clothes[clarification needed]. The French ornative marker is "à".[2]:603


In Latvian, both instrumental and comitative are expressed with the preposition ar[1]:102 However, it is used only when the companion is in accusative and singular or when it is in dative and plural. Otherwise the co-ordinating conjunction un is used.[1]:21

un Nelda ar Rudolfu ļoti nozīmīgi paskatījās uz Ernestīni
and Nelda.NOM COM Rudolf.ACC very significantly PREV.look.PRET.REFL.3 on Ernestine.ACC
'And Nelda and Rudolf looked very knowingly at Ernestine.'[1]:21

In the example above, ar is used because Rudolf, the companion, is in accusative and singular. Below, it is used in the other case that it is allowed, with a dative plural companion.

jo ne-bija ne-kāda prieka dzīvot zem sveša
because NEG-be.PAST.3 NEG-some.GEN fun.GEN live.INF under foreign.GEN
jumta un vēl ar vis-iem zirg-iem un rat-iem
roof.GEN and still COM all-DAT.PL horse-DAT.PL and cart-DAT.PL
'Because it was no fun to live under someone else's roof, especially with all the horses and the cart'.[1]:307

Uralic languages[edit]


In Estonian, the Comitative (kaasaütlev) marker is the suffix “-ga”.[1]:90

ja Barber rüüpa-b koos Balthasari-ga sügava sõõmu
and Barber drink-3.SG together Balthasar-COM deep.GEN mouthful.GEN
'And Barber takes a sip together with Balthasar.'[1]:90


In Finnish, the comitative case (komitatiivi) has the suffix -ne with adjectives and -ne- + a mandatory possessive suffix with the main noun. There is no singular-plural distinction; only the plural of the comitative is used in both singular and plural senses, thus it appears always as -ine-. For instance, "with their big ships" is

suuri·ne laivo·i·ne·en
big-COM ship(oblique)-PL-COM-POS.3.PL

while "with his/her big ships" is

suuri·ne laivo·i·ne·nsa
big-COM ship(oblique)-PL-COM-POS.3.SG

It is rarely used and is mainly a feature of the formal literary language, appearing very rarely in everyday speech.

The regular "with" is expressed with the postposition kanssa, thus this form is used in most cases, e.g. suurien laivojensa kanssa "with their big ships". The two forms may contrast, however, since the comitative always comes with the possessive suffix, and thus can be only used when the agent has possession of some sort over the main noun. For instance, Ulkoministeri jatkaa kollegoineen neuvotteluja sissien kanssa, "The foreign minister, with [assistance from] his colleagues, continues the negotiations with the guerrillas", has kollegoineen "with his colleagues" contrasted with sissien kanssa "with the guerrillas", the former "possessed", the latter not.

Colloquial Finnish also has the postposition kaa, developed after kanssa and cognate to the Estonian -ga. With pronouns, it is used as a suffix, -kaa.

'with me'
mun kavereitten kaa
1sg-GEN friend-ABE-PL with
'with my friends'

Sami languages[edit]

As there are many Sami languages there are variations between them. In the largest Sami language, Northern Sami, the comitative case means either communion, fellowship, connection - or instrument, tool. It can be used either as an object or as an adverbial.

It is expressed through the suffix -in in the singular and -iguin in the plural.

An example of the object use in Northern Sami is "Dat láve álo riidalit isidiin", meaning "She always argues with her husband". An example of the adverbial use is "Mun čálán bleahkain", meaning "I write with ink".[7]


In Hungarian, comitative case is marked by the suffix "-stul/-stül", as shown in the example below.[8]

ruhá-stul és cipő-stül feküd-t-em az ágy-ban
clothes-COM and shoe-COM lie-PAST-INDEF.1.SG the bed-INE
'I was lying in bed with my clothes and shoes on.'[8]

However, the comitative case marker cannot be used if the companion has a plural marker. So when the comitative marker is added to a noun, it obscures whether that noun is singular or plural.[8]

gyerek-estül men-t-ek nyaral-ni
child-COM go-PAST-INDEF.3.PL vacation-INF
'They went on vacation with their child/children.'[8]


Chukchi uses a circumfix to express comitative case.

а'ачек ңытоскычат-гьэ га-мэлгар-ма
boy ran.out-PERF COM.PRED-gun-COM.PRED
'The boy ran out with a gun.'[9]

In the example, the circumfix га-ма is attached to the root мэлгар "gun" to express comitative.


In Drehu, there are two prepositions which can be used to mark comitative. Which of the prepositions is used is determined by the classes of the accompanee and companion.[10]

ɑngeic ɑ tro me eni
'He goes with me.'[10]
eni ɑ ixelë memin jɑjiny
1.SG PRES meet COM ART girl
'I met (with) the girl.'[10]


The comitative marker in Hausa is the preposition "dà". In Hausa, a prepositional phrase marked for comitative can be moved to the front of the sentence for emphasis, as shown in the examples below.[11]

(tàare) yâara-n-shì fa, yaa zoo nannìyà
(together) with children-of-3.SG.M indeed 3.SG.M.PFV come here
'With his children indeed, he came here.'
(tàare) Bàlaa née na jee kàasuwaa
(together) with Bala COP 1.SG.RP go market
'It is with Bala that I went to the market.'[11]

In Hausa it is ungrammatical to do the same with coordinating conjunctions. For example, if the companions were "dog and cat", it would be ungrammatical to move either "dog" or "cat" to the front of the sentence for emphasis, while it is grammatical to do so when there is a comitative marker rather than a conjunction.[11]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Stolz, Thomas; Stroh, Cornelia; Urdze, Aina (2006). On Comitatives and Related Categories: A Typological Study with Special Focus on the Languages of Europe. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stolz, Thomas; Stroh, Cornelia; Urdze, Aina (2009). "Varieties of Comitative". In Andrej Malchukov and Andrew Spencer (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Case. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. pp. 593–600.
  3. ^ Narrog, Heiko (2009). "Varieties of Instrumental". In Andrej Malchukov and Andrew Spencer (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Case. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. pp. 601–608.
  4. ^ Palancar, E. L. (1999). "Instrumental Prefixes in Amerindian Languages: An Overview to their Meanings, Origin, and Functions". Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung. 52: 151–166.
  5. ^ a b Heine, Bernd; Kuteva, Tania (2006). The Changing Languages of Europe. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. p. 188.
  6. ^ Haspelmath, Martin (2009). "Terminology of Case". In Andrej Malchukov and Andrew Spencer (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Case. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. p. 514.
  7. ^ Nickel, Klaus Peter (1994). Samisk Grammatikk [no. Sami Grammar] (2nd ed.). Karasjok, Norway: Davvi Girji. p. 399.
  8. ^ a b c d Kenesei, István; Vago, Robert M.; Fenyvesi, Anna (1998). Hungarian. New York: Routledge. pp. 212–3.
  9. ^ Kämpfe, Hans-Rainer; Volodin, Alexander P. (1995). Abriß der Tschuktschischen Grammatik auf der Basis der Schriftsprache. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 53–4.
  10. ^ a b c Moyse-Faurie, Claire; Lynch, John (2004). "Coordination in Oceanic languages and Proto Oceanic". In Martin Haspelmath (ed.). Coordinating Constructions. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co. p. 453.
  11. ^ a b c Abdoulaye, Mahamane L. (2004). "Comitative, coordinating, and inclusory constructions in Hausa". In Martin Haspelmath (ed.). Coordinating Constructions. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co. p. 180.