Introduction to Latin/A Little Grammar; Substantives

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In Latin grammar, word order is very free. The relationships between words are conveyed to the reader based on the declensional endings given in previous sections of this guide. For instance, in the sentence "Puer puellam amat" (The boy loves the girl) the relationship of the boy to the girl is defined by the endings "-er" (the nominative stem) and "-am" (accusative).

All adjectives must agree with the nouns they modify; they must be in the same case, though at times, due to different declensions, this will not be obvious (more on this in a later section). For example, in the sentence "Puer puellam bellam amat" (The boy loves the beautiful girl) the adjective "bellam" is in the accusative case, just like the noun it modifies.

This trait of concord between nouns and adjectives allows Latin to have freer word order than English. It is equally proper to say "Bellam puer puellam amat;" the meaning is still the same (although the emphasis is slightly different). This feature of Latin grammatical structure allows fluent authors to construct very involved sentences, with nouns and adjectives widely spaced.

A Latin speaker may also make heavy use of substantives, or adjectives that replace the noun they modify. For instance, one may write "Bellam puer amat". The meaning of this statement is still that the boy loves the beautiful girl. The adjective has replaced the noun, but the essential information about the relationship is still present.