Noun cases provide more information about a noun. In Dhivehi, as in many other languages, noun cases are indicated by suffixes (meaning that the endings of words will have to change where appropriate). They are used where English would normally use prepositions. If you’ve studied a language like Latin, Russian, Finnish or Icelandic, the notion of grammatical case may evoke some bad memories, but the Dhivehi case system is much simpler than that of those languages; being more akin to case systems of Dravidian languages like Tamil.
Let’s go through the cases, one by one.
This case indicates that a noun is the subject of a sentence. There is no suffix used to indicate this case; the noun is left as is.
This case indicates that a noun is the direct object of a sentence. As with the nominative case, the accusative also has no suffix.
In English, a noun can be determined to be a subject or an object by looking at its position in a sentence. This is not always possible in Dhivehi because word order is a lot more flexible. Instead, you have to rely on the context to know whether a noun is the subject or the object.
This case is used to describe possession. It is the equivalent of “‘s” or “of” in English, for example, “the person’s hat”/”the hat of the person”. The suffix for this case is ގެ.
If a word ends with ު , ީ or ާ the suffix is attached without any changes to the word. If a word does not end with ު , the ending must be changed to ު (using the normal changes) before adding the suffix. There are some exceptions (and exceptions to the exceptions):
- If a word ends with ި it changes to ީ
- If it ends with އި it stays the same
- If a word ends with ެ it changes to ޭ
- If a word ends with ަ , އި is added before ގެ. This is also sometimes done with words ending with ާ , after changing it to ަ . It is another case where normal pronunciation conflicts with standard rules.
- Family words are exceptions
- ޑޮކްޓަރުގެ – Of the doctor/The doctor’s
- ލޮލުގެ – Of the eye/The eye’s (not ލޯގެ)
- ބޮކުގެ – Of the frog/The frog’s (not ބޮއްގެ)
- ރަށުގެ – Of the island/The island’s (not ރަށްގެ)
- ހިތުގެ – Of the heart/The heart’s (not ހިތްގެ)
- ގަލަމުގެ – Of the pen/The pen’s (not ގަލަންގެ)
- ފެނުގެ – Of the water/The water’s (not ފެންގެ)
- ބަހުގެ – Of the language/The language’s (not ބަސްގެ)
- ކާށީގެ – Of the coconut/The coconut’s (not ކާށިގެ)
- ގައިގެ – Of the body/The body’s (not ގައީގެ)
- ގޭގެ – Of the house/The house’s (not ގެގެ)
- ކުލައިގެ – Of the colour/The colour’s (not ކުލަގެ)
- މަންމަގެ – Of the mother/The mother’s (not މަންމައިގެ)
Plural and indefinite markers always come before case suffixes. For plural nouns, ތައް and ގެ combine to make ތަކުގެ. For indefinite nouns, އެއް and ގެ make އެއްގެ. You may occasionally see އަކުގެ but it is rare. For human plurals, ގެ is added after ން without any changes.
- މީހެއްގެ – Of a person/A person’s
- ދޫނިތަކުގެ – Of the birds/ The birds’
- މަސްވެރިންގެ – Of the fishermen/The fishermen’s
- ފޮތްތަކެއްގެ – Of some books/Some books’
This case marks the indirect object of a sentence. It is used to mean “to” or “for”. It implies movement towards a person, place or object. The suffix for this case is އަށް.
- ގެއަށް – To the house/home
- ރަށަށް – To the island
- މަހަށް – To the fish
- މައްޗަށް – To the top
- ލޮލަށް – To the eye
- ދޯންޏަށް – To the boat
For indefinite nouns އަކު is used. Even ތަކެއް becomes ތަކަކު:
- ގެއަކަށް – To a house
- މީހަކަށް – To/For a person
- ގައުމަކަށް – To/For a country
- ދުވަހަކަށް – For a day
- ދިވެއްސަކަށް – To/For a Maldivian
- ފޮތްތަކަކަށް – To some books
- މީހުންނަށް – To/For (the) people
- ގަސްތަކަށް – To the trees
This case is often used with verbs of motion where English would instead use “in”. For example, in English you would say “pour the water in the cup”, whereas in Dhivehi you would say “pour the water to the cup”. You’ll learn more about this in the verb lessons.
This case is used to mean “in”, “at” or “on”. It means that something exists in a particular location. The suffix for this case is ގައި (pronounced ގަ).
- އެނދުގައި – On the bed
- ބޮލުގައި – On the head (not ބޯގައި)
- ރުކުގައި – On the palm tree (not ރުއްގައި)
- ރަށުގައި – On the island (not ރަށްގައި)
- އަތުގައި – In the hand (not އަތްގައި)
- ފެނުގައި – In the water (not ފެންގައި)
- ކަމުގައި – In the thing/idea/issue (not ކަންގައި)
- ގަހުހައި – On the tree (not ގަސްގައި)
- ތިރީގައި – At the bottom
- ގޭގައި – At home/At the house
- އެތެރޭގައި – (On the) inside
- ކުލައިގައި – In the colour
- ފާހާނާގައި – In the toilet (Can also be ފާހާނައިގައި)
The word ތަން is irregular. Although it can be ތަނުގައި in the locative case, more often you will hear ތާނގައި, especially in the words އެތާނގައި and މިތާނގައި which mean “over there” and “over here” respectively. People often pronounce these words as though the ނ is not there (އެތާގަ and މިތާގަ)
More Specific Locatives
To say that something is in a specific location (as opposed to just existing in a place generally), you can use the formula [noun] + [location word] + ގައި, where the location word is something like މަތި (“top”) or ތެރެ (“inside”). For example:
- އެނދު މަތީގައި – On top of the bed
- އަލަމާރި ތެރޭގައި – Inside the cupboard
- ކަނޑު އަޑީގައި – At the bottom of the sea
- މިސްކިތް ކައިރީގައި – Near the mosque
- މޭޒު ދަށުގައި – Under the table
For most words, you can determine whether ގައި means “in”, “on” or “at”, simply from the word itself. For example, if someone said އަލަމާރީގައި, the most likely meaning is “inside the cupboard” because normally people put things inside them instead of on top of them. However, އަލަމާރީގައި could also mean “on the cupboard”. To specify that something is on it rather than in it, you would say އަލަމާރި މަތީގައި.
Plural and Indefinite Nouns
The suffix އެއް combined with ގައި makes އެއްގައި. The suffix އަކު combined with ގައި is އަކުގައި (but this is rarely used). The suffix ތައް combined with ގައި is ތަކުގައި.
- ގެއެއްގައި – At a house
- ރަށްތަކުގައި – On the islands/In the countries
- ތާކުގައި – At some place (this is one of the few occasions where އަކުގައި is actually used)
- މާތަކެއްގައި – In a bunch of flowers
އަކު as Locative
As well as making a noun unspecified and indefinite, އަކު can also be used in place of ގައި to mean “in”, “on” or “at”. This usage is typically found in sentences with ނެތް, which is the negative form of the verb “there to be”.
Some commonly used words with އަކު instead of ގައި:
- މިތާނގައި = މިތާކު – Over here
- އެތާނގައި = އެތާކު – Over there
- އަތުގައި = އަތަކު – In the hand (this is one of the ways “to have” is expressed)
Don’t worry too much about “there to be” and “to have”; they will be covered in a future lesson. For now you just need to know that އަކު can be used the same way as ގައި.
This case is used to mean “from”. The suffix for this case is ން.
As with the genitive and the locative cases, words which do not end in ު have to be changed. For words ending with ަ , ާ or ެ , the suffix is އިން. In speech, އެއިން is often pronounced އޭން.
- މޭޒުން – From the table
- ބަނދަރުން – From the harbour
- ބޮލުން – From the head
- އަނގައިން – From the mouth
- ފާހާނާއިން – From the toilet
- ގެއިން – From the house (most people would say ގޭން)
For plural nouns, ތައް becomes ތަކު. For indefinite nouns, only އަކު is used.
- ރަށަކުން – From an island
- ތައްޓަކުން – From a plate
- ދޮރުތަކުން – From the doors
The word ފަރާތުން, which literally means “from the side” goes after definite and plural human nouns. It is common for the noun itself to be in the genitive case, but it does not have to be that way. For indefinite human nouns އަކުން is used.
- މަސްވެރިންގެ ފަރާތުން – From the fishermen (literally “From the side of the fishermen”)
- މީހާގެ ފަރާތުން – From the person
- މީހަކުން – From a person
This case is used to mean “with”, in the sense of “using” or “by means of”. The suffix for this case is the same as that for the ablative case and the same rules apply. The meaning of a word with the suffix ން (whether it is “from” or “with”) can be inferred from the context.
- ވަޅިން – With the knife
- ގަލަމަކުން – With a pen
- ފައިން – With the foot
- ބާލީހަކުން – With a pillow
This case is used to mean “with”, as in “along with”, “together with” or “in the company of”. The suffix for this case is އާ or އާއި (which is also pronounced އާ). The rules of adding this suffix are the same as those for އެއް. Indefinite nouns use އަކު.
It is arguable whether this is a real case or not because the same suffix is used to mean “and”. To differentiate between the two meanings, words like އެއްކޮށް ,އެކު and އެކީ can be used after the word to emphasise the idea of oneness/togetherness (އެއް means “one”).
- މަންމައާ – With mum
- މީހަކާ – With a person
- ފުލުހުންނާ – With the police
- ބުޅަލަކާ – With a cat
- މާތަކާ – With the flowers
Declined nouns (i.e. nouns with case suffixes) do not affect modifiers like adjectives or demonstratives. Unlike some other languages, Dhivehi does not have cases for these modifiers.
- ގޭގައި – At the house
- ބޮޑު ގޭގައި – In the big house
- މިގޭގައި – In this house
- މި ބޮޑު ގޭގައި – In this big house
- ބޮޑު ގެއެއްގައި – In a big house
The following table summarises the Dhivehi noun case system. The indefinite noun column gives the most commonly used suffix for each case; not necessarily the one that must always be used. For example, it was explained earlier that އަކު can be used for the genitive and locative cases.