There are eight grammatical cases in Old Persian. The instrumental and ablative cases are usually counted as one case, thus reducing the number of cases to seven. Since Middle Persian, grammatical cases are indicated with case markers rather than inflection system. Case markers are usually adpositions. However, they can be of other parts of speech. For example, the genitive marker “e” can be introduced as a particle or an adposition but it has actually evolved out of Old Persian conjunction “hya” and should be considered a conjunction.

Grammatical Cases in Modern Persian

The following table shows the list of grammatical cases and their markers in modern Persian.

CaseDenotesMarker
NominativeSubjectNone. This is the primary case
AccusativeDirect objectPostposition “râ” (را)
InstrumentalMeansPreposition “bâ” (با)
DativeTargetPreposition “be” (به)
AblativeSourcePreposition “az” (از)
GenitiveRelationConjunction “e”
LocativeLocation, TimePreposition “dar” (در)
VocativeAddressingPostposition “â” (ا)

Grammatical Cases and Word Order

Grammatical cases categorize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, … according to their grammatical function. In modern Persian, all types of objects and complements are marked for their grammatical role. Case marking has allowed Persian to retain free word order, which is typical of languages having an inflection system. Consider the following sentences:

Accusativeپدر پسر را بوسید
Pedar pesar râ busid
The father kissed the son
Dativeپسر به پدر کمک کرد
Pesar be pedar goft
The son helped the father
Ablativeپدر از پسر پرسید
Pedar az pesar porsid
The father asked the son

English does not have an inflection system nor it marks the accusative, dative and ablative cases. As a result, when the word order changes, the meaning changes as well. For example, since “the son” is not marked for the accusative, the meaning of “The son kissed the father” is different from the meaning of the original sentence “The father kissed the son”. Similarly, “The father helped the son” and “The son asked the father” have a different meaning from the original sentences in the above table.

In Persian, the dative is typically marked with به, the ablative is typically marked with از and the accusative is typically marked with را. Therefore, it is possible to change word order without changing the original meaning.

OrderAccusativeDativeAblative
SOVپدر پسر را بوسیدپسر به پدر کمک کردپدر از پسر پرسید
SVOپدر بوسید پسر راپسر کمک کرد به پدرپدر پرسید از پسر
OVSپسر را بوسید پدربه پدر کمک کرد پسراز پسر پرسید پدر
OSVپسر را پدر بوسیدبه پدر پسر کمک کرداز پسر پدر پرسید
VOSبوسید پسر را پدرکمک کرد به پدر پسرپرسید از پسر پدر
VSOبوسید پدر پسر راکمک کرد پسر به پدرپرسید پدر از پسر

Conclusion

As opposed to Old Persian, New Persian is not considered an inflected language but it still indicates grammatical cases. New Persian has replaced the complex system of affixes and inflection paradigms with a set of case markers. This allows Persian to fulfill the same functionality as an inflected language like Sanskrit, Latin and Russian. Having free word order is a clear proof.