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A sentence like “Чоловік з Украї́на дзвонив.” (A man from Ukraine called.) has a different meaning from “Чоловік дзвонив з Україні.” (A man called from Ukraine.). Yet the preposition (з) has the same form referring to the subject of the sentence (Чоловік), which can only be in the nominative, as it does in its locative form refering to the verb, and the difference in meaning can only be understood by word order. Or, how about the use of a preposition in the vocative case - Ді́вча́та з веснянками, об'єднайтеся! (Girls with freckles, unite!) to distinguish it from “Girls unite with freckles.”.

Perhaps I’m not grasping the proper application of prepositions to nouns. In a simple sentence like
“Чоловік дзвонив.”, Чоловік is in the nominative case and would require associated modifiers to be in the same case (e.g. Чоловік великий – The man is big, “big” in the nominative case, not Чоловік великого - “big” in the genitive case). The same with using “з Украї́на” with Украї́на in the nominative case.
Could it be that a preposition is assigned a case and that case is used whether the noun it refers to is the subject, object, or any other part of sentence?

  • “Чоловік з Украї́на дзвонив” — it should be “Чоловік з Украї́ни дзвонив” instead. “Чоловік дзвонив з Україні” — it should be “Чоловік дзвонив з України” instead. – Sasha Sep 23 '17 at 18:07
  • In both cases the preposition з (“from”) relates to the word України (“Ukraine”), which is in genitive case, right as expected by the preposition з (actually preposition з can combine not only with genitive case, but also with the instrumental case — in that occasions it means “with” instead of “from” — but that information seems to be off-topic). – Sasha Sep 23 '17 at 18:14
  • In all other aspects — sorry, I don't understand your question. – Sasha Sep 23 '17 at 18:15
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    In addition to the concerns raised in comments above, the title of the question does not correspond to its body. Yes, the Nominative and Vocative never use the prepositions. The question body, instead, is mixing the preposition з in roles of location and attribution, hence the different cases. Please clarify your question in further details if possible. – bytebuster Sep 23 '17 at 20:03
  • That's a question you cannot ask, or, better said, shouldn't ask, because languages go as they go, there's no reason at all why this or that case is used. Take it as it is. – Yellow Sky Sep 24 '17 at 23:49
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A man who called

Let me fix you, correct:

  • Чоловік з України дзвонив • A man from Ukraine called
  • Чоловік дзвонив з України • A man called from Ukraine

Yes, чоловік can only be in the Nominative if it’s the Subject.

But not in all the situation verbs can just change a related word, but prepositions — yes. Need just learn pairs of verbs with prepositions with their cases, also you can see the last paragraph here about a few notes with з. In this case з is a preposition as from and changes the related word into the Genitive case.

And yes, the difference in correct meaning might be understood by word order. But remember:

  • Sometimes somebody can play with words' meaning;
  • In a real speech, you can understand by pauses or intonation, context.

The girls and freckles

That is why the comma is an important part here, especially in the Vocative case:

  • Girls with freckles, unite! • Дівчата з веснянками, обʼєднайтеся!
  • Girls unite with freckles! • Дівчата, з веснянками обʼєднайтеся!

In a real speech, again, you can understand by pauses or intonation. Notice that з as with change the related word into the Instrumental case. Or in the second sentence just move the part з веснянками to the end. And just for vocabulary, веснянка has synonym ластовиння.

The big man

Just to notice, in almost all the standard cases, adjectives are written before a noun, just as in English. That is why:

  • Великий чоловік • The big man

Here is an adjective for the Subject noun, so in the Nominative case. Of course, you can say the adjective after the noun, but it can be a little strange, poetic, archaic etc. So, but in your sentence:

  • The man is big • Чоловік є великим

Big is not a Grammatical modifier (означення) for the Subject but close for (if I did not make a mistake) the Predicate and in the Instrumental case.

And just for comparison:

  • Чоловік великого розміру • The man of big size

Here is the Genitive case.

The prepositions з

With the Genitive case:

  • A movement from the inside, from a certain environment, from the surface: зі школи • from school, з поля • from the field, з хмари • from the cloud, з роботи • from work;
  • A reason, basis of action: з жарту • from a joke, з нудьги • from boredom, з холоду • from cold, з дозволу • with permission;
  • A material, implements: з дерева • (by) from a tree, з чашки • from a cup, з лука • with an onion;
  • A sign for the branch: (підручник) з географії • (textbook) in geography, (фахівець) з медицини • (specialist) in medicine;
  • The object of negative attitude: (глузувати, насміхатися, знущатися, кепкувати, глумитися) з когось • (ridicule, laugh, mock, cheat, mock) from someone.

In conjunction with the Accusative case of the noun, the preposition means "with an approximation, comparison": з десяток • about ten, з годину • about an hour, з діжку • about a barrel, з кулак • like a fist.

In conjunction with the Instrumental case of the noun, the preposition "with" indicates the interconnection of objects, the accompanying circumstances: з братом • with a brother, з людьми • with people, з шумом • with noise, з плугами • with plows, з проханням • with a request.

  • Note: Sorry, I'll try to fix the last paragraph later. Because it's mostly g.translate with copy-paste. If anybody wants to fix, then it'll be good. – stegetsj Sep 24 '17 at 6:55
  • «Big is not adjective for Subject but close for (if I did not mistake) Predicate» — так, великим тут частина складного присудка («є великим»). Але, незважаючи на те, що воно присудок, воно все ще є прикметником (це паралельні категорії: частина мови і член речення). Ви, мабуть, хотіли сказати «виконує роль не означення, а присудка» (а не «не прикметник, а присудок»). Вікіпедія каже, що означення (як член речення) англійською grammatical modifier — але не знаю, наскільки це точно. – Sasha Sep 24 '17 at 7:06
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    Теж не дуже в цьому розуміюсь. Те що це паралельні категорії — мені відомо. Хотів наголосити, що прикметник при підметі зазвичай дещо відрізняється від прикметника не при ньому, особливо якщо це щось біля присудку. Можливо дійсно тре вставити «означення». – stegetsj Sep 24 '17 at 7:15
  • Як варіант, ще можна сказати «acts not like a usual adjective here, but as a part of predicate» (щоби запобігти вживанню менш очевидного «grammatical modifier» і при цьому формально не казати «не прикметник») — ну це просто як ідея (я бачу, що Ви вже виправили іншим чином). – Sasha Sep 24 '17 at 7:39

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