Latin/Lesson 1-Nominative

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to: navigation, search
Intro: 12
Chapter 1 123456
Chapter 2 12345678
Chapter 3 12345678
Chapter 4 12345678910
Chapter 5 123456789

The Nominative Case[edit]

The Nominative case refers to the subject of a sentence. For example:

The girl is pretty

The girl is the subject of this sentence. In its simplest form a sentence will have a subject stated as a noun and will give some further information about the subject. The second part of this sentence tells the reader that the girl is pretty. This is called predicating the noun. This sentence consists of a subject and predicate. As you know from English an adjective is a word that describes some quality. The noun and adjective are joined together by the word "is" which is called the copula. Note that the copula simply connects the words and gives no information about the subject.

The sentence in Latin has the same grammatical elementsː

Puella est pulchra

The noun is followed by the predicate. The only difference is the absence of an article which has to be supplied by the translator. Puella can be translated as "girl", "the girl", or "a girl". Can you tell which word is the copula?

Translate the followingː

  • Roma est fama
  • Roma est magna
  • Roma est in Italia

Which region of Europe was the Roman historian Tacitus referring to as Caledonia in his book Agricola which records the military campaigns of his father-in-law?

Translate the followingː

  • Italia est in Europa
  • Germania est in Europa
  • Britannia est in Europa

Notes on Vocabulary[edit]

Lesson Vocabulary
Latin English
magna (adj.) great
bona (adj.) good
pulchra (adj.) pretty
fama (adj.) famous
puella (f.) girl
puer (m.) boy
māter (f.) mother
domina (f.) mistress
dominus (m.) master
lūdus (m.) school
Roma (f.) Rome
Germania (f.) Germany
to be
I am
you are
he/she/it is
we are
you are
they are
ambula-t, ambula-nt (he/she/it is) walking, (they are) walking
curri-t, curru-nt (he/she/it is) running, (they are) running
nōn An adverb placed before a verb meaning 'not' thus negating the verb.
Some second declension masculine end in -r instead of -us in the nominative case — boy is puer, not puer-us. Of the nouns discussed on this page, this rule only applies to puer.

Of the "to be" verbs listed in the table, only est and sunt will be covered in this lesson. The table simply allows you to familiarize yourself with them, as verbs will be covered more in future lessons.

In this chapter, the following conventions will be used for nouns:

  • m. = masculine
  • f. = feminine
  • n. = neuter
  • First and second declension substantives are given with at least the nominative case. (We will add the genitive singular as time permits. It is not strictly necessary, but you should get in the habit now of declining nouns based on the genitive stem and not the nominative.
  • Third, fourth, and fifth declension substantives are given with the nominative and genitive singular.
Intro: 12
Chapter 1 123456
Chapter 2 12345678
Chapter 3 12345678
Chapter 4 12345678910
Chapter 5 123456789

Overview of Adjectives[edit]

An adjective is any word that qualifies a noun. For example:

English Latin
The good master. Dominus bonus.

An adjective can also be used in a sentence opposite a form of "to be." The "to be" verb simply serves as a linking verb, as "the good boy" is an incomplete sentence, but "the boy is good" is a complete sentence.

English Latin
The boy is good. Puer bonus est.

As shown above, the same is true in Latin.

Adjectives in Latin[edit]

Like nouns, adjectives in Latin are declined. The vast majority take either the first and second declension (antiquus -a -um) or the third declension (ferox, ferocis). All such adjectives must agree with the nouns they describe in gender, number, and case, but not necessarily declension.

  • First and second declension adjectives have three distinct genders. Feminine adjectives require the first declension, masculine the second, and neuter the second. First/second declension adjectives use all three gender suffixes: -us, -a, -um (masculine, feminine, and neuter, respectively). This is because description is not limited to a single gender. For example, being good is not a quality limited to a single gender. Boys can be good, girls can be good, and things can be good. So, since all three genders must apply, we don't label adjectives as particularly m., f., or n..
  • Third declension adjectives are given with the nominative and genitive singular. This, however, is only true for third declension adjectives of one termination, so again this chapter is misleading in this regard. Most third declension adjectives do not have separate masculine and feminine forms. (Neuter adjectives follow the third declension neuter pattern.)

These words will look like the adjective antiquus (old, ancient):

antiquus (masculine), antiqua (feminine), antiquum (neuter).

Third declension adjectives typically look more like ferox, ferocis (wild, bold). This is because the third declension has no stem assigned to the nominative singular and is a "wild card" in that regard.

Adjectives often come after the word they describe. (But since word order is not central to the meaning of a Latin sentence, the adjective may appear anywhere within the sentence. In poetry, for example, several words often separate an adjective from the noun it modifies.)

For example: Nota bene: In the following examples the -us ending stands for the masculine (m.) gender, the -a for the feminine (f.) gender, and the -um stands for the neuter (n.) gender. So magnus is masculine, magna is feminine and magnum is neuter.

Latin English
Puella bona est. The girl is good.
Dominus bonus est. The master is good.
Templum magnum est. The temple is big.

Bona is an adjective describing a feminine substantive, such as puella.
Bonus is an adjective describing a masculine substantive, such as dominus.

Grammar: Pluralizing Nominatives[edit]

Number First declension feminine Second declension masculine Second declension neuter
Singular puell-a lūd-us triclīni-um
Plural puell-ae lūd-ī triclīni-a

To pluralize most first and second declension nouns, replace the singular suffix with the equivalent plural suffix. All adjectives that describe the noun must be pluralized as well because adjectives must agree in case, number, and gender (but not necessarily declension). With the adjectives given, use first declension with feminine nouns and second declension with masculine nouns. In English we use the same nominative plural endings for words we have borrowed from Latin, so it may be helpful to remember we say one vertebr-a but two vertebr-ae, one radi-us but two radi-ī, and one medium but multi-medi-a.

Basic verbs[edit]

Verbs in Latin work quite differently than those in English. Study the following table, then view the examples below, though keep in mind that you only need to fully understand the difference between numbers for the time being.

English Latin
Number Only pluralize the noun that is being pluralized, not the adjectives that describe it or the verb that it is performing. All three are pluralized. In this context, singular verbs end in "-t" (est, ambulat), and plural verbs end in "-nt" (sunt, ambulant).
Tense The ending is sometimes changed, though the words surrounding the verb can also be used to denote tense. Consider these examples: "he will walk, he is walking, he walks, he walked". The stem is used to denote the tense, though this will be covered in a future lesson. In this lesson, only the present tense is being taught.
Person The subject of the sentence is used to determine the person. If I am the subject of the sentence, then the sentence is in the first person. If you are the subject, then the second person, and so forth with the third. In this lesson, only the third person is being taught, which refers to anyone other than the speaker or the listener. The stem also denotes the person, though as previously stated, only third person is being taught in this lesson.


Notice how "magnum" changes to "magna" to agree with the pluralized "triclīnia".
Latin English
puell-a bon-a es-t. The girl is good.
And to pluralize:
puell-ae bon-ae su-nt The girls are good.
Note that verbs do not have gender, in that they do not change to the gender of the word that they are describing.
Puer bon-us ambula-t. The good boy is walking.
And to pluralize:
Puer-ī bon-ī ambula-nt The good boys are walking.
You will notice that neither the linking verbs "est" nor "sunt" appear in the previous two sentences. The meaning of the linking verbs are assumed in Latin sentences, as their respective meanings already exist in the verb stems.
triclīni-um magn-um es-t The dining room is large.
And to pluralize:
triclīni-a magn-a su-nt The dining rooms are large.

Further Examples[edit]

Example 1[edit]

Latin English
templum magnum est The temple is big.
  • The adjective magnus -a -um must agree with templum in gender, number, and case, so the correct form is magnum (neuter nominative singular).
  • Something like templum magnus est is incorrect because magn-us does not agree with templ-um. To a Latin speaker, this would sound like nonsense.

Example 2[edit]

Latin English
puella pulchra est. The girl is pretty.

Notes: In the same way, the adjective pulchrus -a -um must agree with puella in gender, number, and case, so the correct form is pulchra (agreement with the feminine nominative singular noun of the first declension).

Example 3[edit]

Latin English
Puer currit. The boy is running.
Puerī currunt. The boys are running

Notes: You may notice that, when pluralized, "currit" becomes "currunt". The original spelling was probably "currint", but changed to "currunt" over time to make it easier to say. This is true of any pluralized verbs that would otherwise be ending in "-int".

Example 4[edit]

Latin English
lūdī magnī sunt The schools are big.

Notes: The adjective magnus -a -um in this case must agree with lūdī in gender, number, and case, so the correct form is magnī (masculine nominative plural).

Third Declension Nouns and Adjectives[edit]

Third declension nouns and adjectives follow a different pattern. The nominative singular stem is not defined, and as such, any letter (or letters) can serve as a third declension stem. For example, Māter (mother) is a third declension noun in the nominative case. When pluralized, it becomes Mātrēs. "-ēs" is attached to the end of a third declension noun to pluralize it, as opposed to changing the ending completely, because there is no uniform way to do so given the third declension's random nature.

You may have also noticed that that the "e" in "Māter" was dropped when pluralized. This often happens when a stem is attached to a third declension noun of similar spelling (example, "Pater" (father) becomes "Patrēs")


Latin English
māter bona est The mother is good.
mātrēs bonae sunt The mothers are good.
pater magnus est The father is large.
patrēs magnī sunt The fathers are large.
amīcus fortis est The friend is strong.
amīcī fortēs sunt The friends are strong

Third declension nouns are listed with the nominative case and the genitive case to provide the main stem, which will be covered in a few lessons. All other nouns are also listed with the genitive for standardization, but often just the genitive ending is given. For example:

Latin English
pater, patris father
oratio, orationis speech
uxor, uxoris wife
canis, canis dog
proelium, -ī battle
oculus, -ī eye
amīcus, -ī friend

All other types of nouns are also generally listed with the genitive

Adjectives with a nominative ending in -is and the same stem in the nominative and in the other cases (eg. fortis) end in -e in the neuter and -ia in the neuter plural.

For example:

  • dies difficilis = the difficult day
  • proelium difficile = the difficult battle
  • proelia difficilia = the difficult battles


EXERCISE • Lesson 1-Nominative • Translation
  1. Translate the following Latin words into English.
    1. dominus bonus
    2. ludus malus
    3. puella magna
    4. triclinium est magnum
  2. Translate into Latin.
    1. the good boy
    2. the large master
    3. The temple is large.
    4. The master is bad.
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 1-Nominative • Translation
  1. Translate the following Latin words into English.
    1. The good master
    2. The bad school
    3. The big girl
    4. The dining room is large
  2. Translate into Latin.
    1. Puer bonus
    2. dominus magnus
    3. templum magnum est
    4. dominus malus est