Hello again, James.
Understanding of this case is enough to simply for ukrainian-speaking people, but may be not easy for you.
You chose the case (відмінок) for noun by ask a case-question from the verb.
Я торкаюсь (Кого? Чого?) своєї тарілки.
Я мию (Кого? Що?) свою тарілку (I wash my plate)
I hope this will help.
Some rules of using Gen. instead of Acc. in direct objects: 1) when the object denotes something in general, not concrete. - Я хочу купити капелюха (not sure what kind, just want to by some/any hat), 2) in negative sentences with the verb "to have" ("мати") - Я не маю часу. 3) sometimes in negative sentences with the verbs помічати/помітити (notice), уявляти (imagine), уникати (avoid) and some other - Він не помітив ніяких змін (He didn't notice any changes), Я не міг уникнути пробок (I couldn't avoid traffic jams). 4) always with animate masculine nouns - names, people, occupations.- Вона бачила Джеймса (She saw James)
1) and 3) have exceptional examples and are often used not according to the rule. Sometimes it also depends on the type of the verb, sometimes on the context..
Some verbs do act as exceptions and need to be memorised as governed by Gen.- like торкатися here.
I honestly did not mean for those sentences tell some kind of story... I actually like elephants. I thought the rule had something to do with physical contact or a certain type of interaction.
But thank you so much for this explanation. It helped a lot.
So I can say, "Я бачу мавпу." but not, "Я бачу слон." I would have to say "Я бачу слона." Правильно?
I guess I could say "Я бачу дерев'яний слон."