Introduction to Latin/First Declension Nouns and Adjectives

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Latin Nouns[edit]

Latin nouns have many characteristics and qualities, some of which differ greatly from English nouns.

1. Latin nouns exhibit gender - masculine, feminine, or neuter. Generally, females are feminine and males are masculine, but most of the time it is arbitrary. As you progress in Latin, you will begin to notice characteristic endings and forms that will indicate a noun's gender to you.

2. Latin nouns exhibit number - singular and plural. In this respect, Latin nouns are like English nouns and the nouns of other Romance languages.

3. Latin nouns exhibit six inflectional cases. This means that the endings of nouns are modified according to how the noun is being used in a sentence. To list all twelve (6 singular + 6 plural) endings for a given noun is to decline a noun. (Nouns are declined; verbs are conjugated).

There are five patterns of declension for Latin nouns. In this lesson, we will only be dealing with the 1st Declension.


Noun Cases[edit]

The seven noun cases are as follows:

Nominative - case of the subject

Genitive - case of possession

Dative - case of indirect object; object of to or for

Accusative - case of direct object; used with some prepositions

Ablative - many uses, the most basic of which is instrumental - shows by what means something happens or is performed; also used with prepositions

Vocative - case of address (as in "John, be quiet.")

Locative - indicates location exclusively for places and islands

First Declension Nouns and Adjectives[edit]

Now we need to look at the endings ascribed to 1st Declension nouns and adjectives that designate their function in a sentence.

Case Singular Plural
Nominative -a -ae
Vocative -a -ae
Accusative -am -as
Genitive -ae -arum
Dative -ae -is
Ablative -a -is

Note 1: The -a of the ablative singular, the -is of the dative and ablative plural, the -as of the accusative plural, and the 'a' in -arum of the genitive plural are all long vowels.

Now let's decline our first noun, puella (girl).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative puella puellae
Genitive puellae puellarum
Dative puellae puellis
Accusative puellam puellas
Ablative puella puellis
Vocative puella puellae

Notice that to the stem puell- are added the inflectional endings for a 1st declension noun, and, voilá, we have a complete noun declension.

If you look up a 1st declension noun in the dictionary, you will find the following: puella, puellae f. - girl. A dictionary entry consists of "nominative singular, genitive singular, gender, and meaning." The genitive singular allows you to determine to what declension the noun belongs (which will become more difficult when you learn other declensions).

Syntax[edit]

Vocabulary:

nauta, nautae m. - sailor

puella, puellae f. - girl

pecunia, pecuniae f. - money

do, dare, dedi, datum - to give

Now let's practice using a noun in a sentence.

Read aloud the following sentence:

Nauta dat pecuniam puellae.

The meaning of the sentence is probably still not apparent, so let's analyze each word, listing the information that we can provide for each.

1. nauta - nominative singular; subject

2. dat - 3rd person singular present active indicative of do, dare, dedi, datum.

3. pecuniam - accusative singular; direct object of dat

4. puellae - dative singular; indirect object (translate with to/for)

Now how would we translate this sentence?

Nauta dat pecuniam puellae. The sailor gives money to the girl.

  • Notice that there is no definite or indefinite article in Latin (the, a, an), so it must be supplied in the translation.

We can also write the sentence in the following ways:

Nauta dat puellae pecuniam.

Nauta puellae pecuniam dat.

Puellae pecuniam dat nauta.

Puellae pecuniam nauta dat.

Dat pecuniam nauta puellae.

And so on...

The point is this: word order is not nearly as important in Latin as it is in other languages. Because the functions of words are given by their inflectional endings, word order is not required to tell the function of words in a sentence. (Compare the English: "The sailor gives the girl money" to "The girl gives the sailor money").

The "normal" word order in Latin is Subject-Indirect Object-Direct Object-Verb, but this format is only a loose guideline. You will find sentences constructed in a number of ways, so it is very important to learn the inflections.

First Declension Adjectives[edit]

1st declension adjectives are declined exactly like 1st declension nouns.

For example, let's look at magna (large, great).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative magna magnae
Genitive magnae magnarum
Dative magnae magnis
Accusative magnam magnas
Ablative magna magnis
Vocative magna magnae

Vocabulary[edit]

do, dare, dedi, datum - to give

amo, amare, amavi, amatum - to love

laudo, laudare, laudavi, laudatum - to praise

debeo, debere, debui, debitum - to owe; ought, must (e.g. - dare pecuniam debeo = "I must give money")

voco, vocare, vocavi, vocatum - to call, summon

habeo, habere, habui, habitum - to have

vivo, vivere, vixi, victum - to live

nauta, nautae m. - sailor (NOTE: nauta, ae is masculine, which is a rarity in the 1st declension, which is mostly feminine)

puella, puellae f. - girl

porta, portae f. - gate

vita, vitae f. - life

rosa, rosae f. - rose

sententia, sententiae f. - sentence; opinion, feeling, thought, vote

bona, bonae adjective - good

multa, multae adjective - much, many

mea, meae adjective - my

Exercises[edit]

1. Write out declensions for the following nouns: vita, sententia, nauta, porta.

2. Write out all of the information that you can about each word, including function, in each of the following sentences:

a) Nauta rosam puellae dat.

b) Puella nautae pecuniam dat.

c) Puella nautam amat.

d) Nauta puellam amat et puellae rosas dat. (et = and)

e) Puellae meae rosas multas do. Puellam meam amo.

f) Habemus portam magnam.

3. Read each sentence above aloud and let the words speak to you - don't just translate. Now do the same for the sentences below and figure out a good translation.

g) Habetis portas magnas et bonas.

h) Puellae vivunt in patria. (in + abl. = in; patria, patriae = country, motherland)

i) Debet nauta portam claudere. (claudo, claudere, clausi, clausum - to close)

4. Translate the following English sentences into good Latin.

a) The sailor gives the girl roses.

b) Sailors have many opinions.

c) I must summon the sailor.

d) You (pl.) call the girls.

e) The sailor praises the good girls.

f) We must give roses to the girl.