In this paper, we argue for a view of case marking that does not treat case as the passive realisation of other morpho-syntactic properties of a construction but as independently bringing information to a clause. This different view of case entails that precise functions of case-marked expressions may be determined by the interaction of the case marking, the meaning of the host noun, the semantics of any predicate of which it is an argument and other contextually given factors. With respect to Estonian, it is argued that there is only one ‘structural’ case, the genitive, and this case marks non-subject, or oblique, dependency on some head. The partitive case, we argue, is semantically partitive in all its uses, except that the partitive meaning can be obscured or even eliminated depending on contextual factors. The nominative is merely the absence of case, associated with no specific positions or semantic effects.