Easy Latin – Lesson 2: Latin Nouns
Continuing our journey to Learn Latin, here is lesson two. It wont be long until we unlock the mysteries of this ancient language but we must build a solid platform to jump from. In this lesson we will explore the first and second declension of Latin Nouns.
What is a declension?
A declension is a category that a noun belongs to based on the pattern at the end of the word. In Latin, there are 5 declensions, or 5 different family of noun. Each declension is unique as you will see as it changes the way a noun ends. You will see that the ending of words in Latin give the word meaning, the way a word ends is called the way it inflects.
The ending of the word will tell the reader,
- Gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter)
- Declension (which group of nouns it comes from), and
- Number (if the subject is a singular or plural).
For example, equus, has the declension -us, which tells us it is a masculine (2nd declension noun) and singular noun. So equus literally means horse. Equi has the declension -i, which tells us it is a masculine (2nd declension) but in the plural form, so horses.
A noun can inflect to have 6 different meanings, and each of those 6 has a singular and plural form, so whether you are talking about one horse, or more than one horse.
To an English speaker this can seem a little overwhelming, and it is, but a little practice and memorizing goes a long way and you will soon know them all off by heart. Many textbooks and classes would break this section into numerous classes, and for good reason, it is a lot of work, but these lessons are designed to power you through Latin, so buckle in as we discuss the 6 different noun cases.
Nominative: the nominative case is used to denote the subject of the sentence. For example, the boy was eating a cake. the boy is the subject, and therefore will be in the nominative case.
Accusative: the accusative case is the direct object of the sentence, so using the above example, the boy was eating a cake, a cake is the direct object and therefore in the accusative.
Vocative: the vocative case is used in addressing, for example, hey Brutus! Come over here! You will see that Brutus is being addressed so will be in the vocative case.
Genitive: the genitive case denotes belonging or possesion, so for example, the book of the girl, the genitive case will be used for of the girl. The genitive case can be found in two main ways in English, the book of the girl can also be written as the girl’s book. It is important to note that the genitive case will be used for the possessor, not the possession, so in the above example, the book will take the nominative case, and of the girl will take the genitive.
Dative: the dative case is used in relation to verbs like give to or say to etc. For example, I give money to the soldier, you will find the dative case is used for to the soldier.
Ablative: the ablative is used with nouns and pronouns with words in grammatical agreement with them showing an agent, instrument, or source, expressed by ‘by’, ‘with’, or ‘from’. For example, George is in the castle, the ablative case is used for in the castle.
These 6 cases allow for verbs to be used in anyway a sentence needs to use them. So without further adieu, lets look at the way nouns decline. For the sake of your brain, we are going to only look at the first two declensions, and later on explore the other three.
First Declension Nouns
The first declension (remember a declension is just a category that some nouns inhabit) is predominantly filled with ‘feminine’ nouns or words. You will find with languages that words are often described as ‘feminine’, ‘masculine’, or ‘neuter’, and even though there is a connotation of literal gender or sex, it is definitely not the rule. To make this clearer, femina (woman) is a first declension (and therefore feminine) noun which makes sense, but so it audacia (boldness) which you might associated with masculinity.
Also, on this same strain, the first declension is filled with nouns of employment type, such as sailor (nauta), farmer (agricola) and many others, we will look at adjectives later, but keep in mind, when you are making an adjective ‘agree’ with one of these masculine first declension nouns, the adjective will take a masculine declension, and the noun a feminine one… don’t think too much on this now, because I will explain it in detail when the time comes, just be aware that something funny will happen.
Okay, the first declension nouns….
|1st Decl. Feminine|
|Stem = Puell-|
|Nom & Voc||a||ae|
The nominative and vocative in the case occupy the same square because they decline in the same way.
Second Declension Nouns
The second declension is occupied predominantly by masculine nouns, but also by some neuter nouns. When you learn your vocabulary, you will need to memorize which noun is what gender to decline it properly.
|2nd Decl. Masculine||2nd Decl. Neuter|
|Dominus (master)||Templum (temple)|
|Stem = Domin-||Stem = Templ-|
|Nom & Voc||us & e||i||um||a|
|Domin-us & -e||Domin-i||Templ-um||Templ-a|
The second declension has a few nouns that have odd looking endings (e.g. not the usual -us) but these decline perfectly fine. for example you might see,
Puer (boy), this will decline as puer, pueri, puerum, pueros, etc.
Magister (magistrate), will drop the vowel e and decline like this, magister, magistri, magistrum, etc.
This will have been a lot to take in, memorize what each case signifies, memorize the declensions and you are well on your way to reading some serious Latin.
Exercise 1 – English Grammar
Look at the nouns in each sentence and write down what case (nom, acc, voc, gen, dat, abl) they are.
- The book was given to the boy.
- Alfred hated going into school.
- Nothing smells as sweet as a new car.
- The language of the Romans is not so hard to learn.
Exercise 2 – Picking Out Latin Cases
You do not have to know what each of the Latin nouns below mean, but write down what case and number they have (note, they may have more than one answer).
Congratulations on coming this far! If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen so far, keep going! You can go to Lesson 3 where we will explore Latin verbs. You can also skip ahead to check your Answers. Keep practising and you’ll be reading Latin in no time. Hit the links below to find each lesson.
Everything you need to get started is right here in this book, there are five lessons to work through, followed by answers for everything at the back. Also included are some absolute essentials that will help you throughout your journey in Latin, as you work through this book, and beyond it! There are references on all declensions, conjugations, pronouns, adverbs and irregular verbs! These you can print out and take with you, use them as flash cards and reference sheets, I still refer to them all the time and they are a great tool to check your work without seeing the answers! Plus there is an extensive vocabulary at the end that you can refer to and build on.
This course is essential for anyone starting out with Latin, it will explain everything you need to get started, with helpful hints along the way, and a few historic notes to add some fun.
R. D. Jones
|equus -i||2 m||horse||amo||1||I love||bonus -a -um||good||et||and|
|dominus -i||2 m||master, lord||habeo||2||I have||malus -a -um||bad, evil||quod||because|
|puella -ae||1f||girl||laudo||1||I praise||non||not|