This sentence was difficult for me for many reasons. (Mala' is found in all four cases. Ovce is found in three of those four. Plus I didn't yet know if ovce was masculine or feminine.) Rather than just be glad I was able to select the right multiple choice wording, I wanted to understand what the real choices were, "theoretically". So I detailed it to study the cases: I figured it would help me down the road to do so. But it feels a bit much, and so looking for the accusative form with direct object or that it is descriptive (nom.) may be the shortcut. Although there is no shortcut that eliminates memorizing the actual declensions.
1.) Nom.sing. maly' maly' MALA' male'
Acc.sing. maly' maly' MALA' male'
Nom.pl. mali' male' male' MALA'
Acc.pl. male' male' male' MALA'
4.) But ovce is feminine, therefore, the only choice left, all things considered, is f.nom.sing.
To complicate matters, sheep in English is both singular and plural. ;D
I know sheep is not neuter but feminine, so that eliminates the neuter choices. That leaves feminine nominative singular! Ta dah.
I haven't had to be so technical or detailed to this point. Maybe it's that I just woke up. Is there an easier way to do this, like noting that there is or is not a direct object, so it could or couldn't be accusative, or just say Oh that has to be nominative because it's describing the sheep (not little?). This last way seems to work also. l would tend to use all of the above. It's not neuter and it's descriptive with no direct object, therefore it must be nominative case. Is this correct, albeit complex? Thanks for any confirmation.
Did you make the point earlier that the tips for Animals are too long for you to read? ;-)
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I would say that what you call a "shortcut" that consists of recognizing the function of the noun phrase ("ta malá ovce") in its clause to avoid having to sift through all the gender/number/case combinations will ultimately prove the only way to proceed.