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

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

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:

'I'll go to the cinema with my mom.'
'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

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


French uses prepositions to express the Comitative semantic relation.

'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. 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

'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.

'Because it was no fun to live under someone else's roof, especially with all the horses and the cart'.[1]:307

Uralic languages


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

'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 case, -kaa.

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

Sami languages

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 Northern Sami, and is the same in both singular and 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]

'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]

'They went on vacation with their child/children.'[8]


Chukchi uses a circumfix to express Comitative case.

'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]

'He goes with me.'[10]
'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]

'With his children indeed, he came here.'
'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]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 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. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Stolz, Thomas; Stroh, Cornelia; Urdze, Aina (2009). "Varieties of Comitative". In Andrej Malchukov and Andrew Spencer. 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. The Oxford Handbook of Case. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. pp. 593–600.
  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. 1 2 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. 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. 1 2 3 4 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. 1 2 3 Moyse-Faurie, Claire; Lynch, John (2004). "Coordination in Oceanic languages and Proto Oceanic". In Martin Haspelmath. Coordinating Constructions. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Co. p. 453.
  11. 1 2 3 Abdoulaye, Mahamane L. (2004). "Comitative, coordinating, and inclusory constructions in Hausa". In Martin Haspelmath. Coordinating Constructions. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishinc Co. p. 180.
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