Comitative case

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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", e.g. with 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 "accompanee" 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 accompanee.[2]:602 For example:

[il professore]accompanee 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 accompanee, i suoi studenti is the companion, and con is the relator. As the accompanee, il professore is the most prominent.

Animacy also plays a major role in most languages that have a Comitative case. One group of languages requires both the accompanee and the companion to be either human or animate. Another group requires both to be in the same category—that is, both human or both animate. A third group requires an animate accompanee and an inanimate companion. The remaining languages have no restrictions based on animacy.[2]:603–604

Comparison to similar cases

The definition of Comitative case is often conflated or confused with other similar cases, especially Instrumental case and Associative case.

The chief difference between Comitative and Instrumental is this: while Comitative relates an accompanee and a companion, Instrumental relates 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, Instrumental and Comitative are expressed the same way in many languages, including English, so it is often difficult to separate them.

Russian is one of many languages which differentiates morphologically between Instrumental and Comitative, so an example from Russian will help illustrate the difference.

Я пойду в кино с мамой
I movies with mom.INSTR
'I'll go to the movies 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, Comitative is marked by adding a preposition “s” and declining the companion in the Instrumental case. In the Instrumental case, the object is declined but there is no preposition added.[5]

Comitative case is also often confused with Associative case. Before the term Comitative was applied to the accompanee-companion relationship, the relationship was often called Associative case, and some linguists still use the latter term[6] It is important to distinguish between Comitative and Associative, though, because Associative also refers to a specific variety of Comitative used in Hungarian.[2]:605

Expressions of the Comitative semantic relation

Grammatical case is a category of inflectional morphology, thus the Comitative case is an expression of the Comitative semantic relation through inflectional affixation—that is, through 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 semantic relation include Hungarian, which uses suffixes; Totonac, which uses prefixes; and Chukchi, which uses circumfixes.[2]:602

Comitative relations are also commonly expressed by using adpositions—that is, prepositions, postpositions and circumpositions. Examples of languages which 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, although they act very similarly to adpositions. One language which uses adverbs to mark 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.

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 called Ornative, a variety of Comitative which is used 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, “ar” is only used when the companion is in accusative and singular, or when it is in dative and plural. Otherwise the coordinating conjunction “un” is used.[1]:21

un Nelda ar Rudolfu loti 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, “ar” is used in the other location where it is allowable, 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


In Estonian, the Comitative 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 3PL), while "with his/her big ships" is suuri·ne laivo·i·ne·nsa ((big-COM ship(oblique)-PL-COM-POS 3SG)). 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.

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]

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]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  7. Nickel, Klaus Peter (1994). Samisk Grammatikk [no. Sami Grammar] (2nd ed.). Karasjok, Norway: Davvi Girji. p. 399.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  9. Kämpfe, Hans-Rainer; Volodin, Alexander P. (1995). Abriß der Tschuktschischen Grammatik auf der Basis der Schriftsprache. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 53–4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Abdoulaye, Mahamane L. (2004). "Comitative, coordinating, and inclusory constructions in Hausa". In Martin Haspelmath (ed.). Coordinating Constructions. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishinc Co. p. 180.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>