Latin/Subjects and Objects

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Introduction of Cases[edit]

Latin is an inflected language whereas English mainly is not.

This means that words in Latin change depending on what the word is doing. Normally these words change their endings.

Consider the following sentence:

The slave punches the girl.

In English we know that the slave is doing the punching because of the order of the words, but this is not the case in Latin.

In Latin "the slave" and "the girl" would look different showing their meaning regardless of the word's position. This idea of them "looking different" is a case in Latin.

Sound Complicated? Hang in there it will make sense when we take a look at the Latin itself!

Nominatives and Accusatives[edit]

So we've established that different words look different depending on their use, but what "uses" are there?

Almost all the sentences you can think of have a Subject. This is the word in the sentence that does the verb for instance back in our example sentence:

The slave punches the girl

The slave is the subject because he is the person doing the punching. In Latin this would be shown by the Nominative Case.

On the other hand the girl is being punched so we say she is the Object so in Latin this would be shown by the Accusative Case.

Some Actual Latin[edit]

Going back to our example sentence:

The slave punches the girl (In case you'd forgotten)

In Latin the word for slave is "servus" and the word for girl is "puella" and so our sentence as a whole in Latin is:

servus puellam pulsat pulsat = punches

Hopefully you can see the word puella has an "m" on the end because it is in the accusative case and servus looks the same because it is nominative.

NB The word order in Latin is completely loose and makes no difference whatsoever, for instance

servus puellam pulsat

servus pulsat puellam

puellam pulsat servus

pulsat puellam servus etc.

All mean exactly the same thing. It is the endings of the words not the order of them that defines their meanings. However as a mere convention we usually follow the pattern subject object verb but this is not essential.

So looking at the endings you should be able to see that puella servum pulsat means "The girl punches the slave"

To summarise the endings we've learnt so far I've collated them in a handy little table:

Case Slave Girl
Nominative servus puella
Accusative servum puellam

Practice![edit]

The best way to learn some new grammar is to practice so have a go at translating the following sentences. The nouns should all follow either the same pattern as servus or puella. Words we've yet to have met are in bold and are defined below. Answers are available in the Discuss page.

  1. puella amicum salutat
  2. servum pulsat amicus

amicus = friend

salutat = greets