In Latin, not only is word order used to indicate what role a noun plays in a sentence or clause, but also what is called a declenensiony and case. A case tells the speaker or reader what the noun does or is doing, and the declension of the noun decides how the case will look. In Latin, there are five declensions, and seven cases to use. This lesson will (hopefully someday) show all of them.
Grammatical Cases and Declensions
Many languages use different cases to show the relation of the word in a sentence. In Latin, the nouns, adjective and pronouns change their form depending on how they are used in a sentence. This form change is called a case. Although Old English also had this feature, it has mostly been lost during the transition into Modern English. However, a few English pronouns still exhibit this feature (i.e., "I"↔"My"↔"Mine"↔"Me" are all first-person singular pronouns).
A lot of languages change the ending of a word based on what case it is in. Latin, German, Russian, Finnish, Hungarian, and Greek are good examples of this. The word's meaning changes as its ending is modified to conform with its case's ending. For example, puella means ‘girl’, while puellae means “the girl's” or “of the girl”. Sometimes in Latin, endings of different cases coincide, forcing one to interpret the meaning based on the context of the word.
There are seven cases that are used in the Latin language: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Ablative, Vocative, and Locative. The last two, Vocative and Locative, are relatively rare compared to the other five, and the Locative case is actually only used with a few select words. The case is the most important part of the noun (besides its actual meaning). Cases define exactly how the noun is used in the sentence. Here are the cases and their uses:
|Nominative||Normally expresses the subject of a clause|
Can sometimes be used to show the predicate complement
|Genitive||Shows possession; usually translated with the preposition “for,” the suffix “-'s,” or the word "of."|
|Dative||Used with the indirect object in the sentence; translated with “to” or “for”|
|Accusative||Normally denotes the direct object|
Can be used in prepositional phrases with prepositions other than “ab,” “cum,” “de,” “ex,” “in,” “pro,” “sine,” and “sub”
|Ablative||Shows the object of the prepositions “ab,” “cum,” “de,” “ex,” “in,” “pro,” “sine,” and “sub”|
(and some rare others) Can also be used in special phrases without prepositions
|Vocative||Noun of direct address; used when calling someone or something directly|
|Locative||Expresses location, but only used with certain words|
Several languages, such as Latin, encorporate declensions into their grammar. Latin has five of them, all of which will need to be learned in order to become proficient in the language. Fortunately, the last two declensions aren't very common, and you will probably not need to know them for everyday use. Declensions will be covered in detail in the following sections.