Latin/Lesson 1-Nominative

Intro: 12
Chapter 1 123456
Chapter 2 12345678
Chapter 3 12345678
Chapter 4 12345678910
Chapter 5 123456789

The Nominative Case


The Nominative case refers to the subject of a sentence. For example:

The girl is pretty

"The girl" is the subject of this sentence. In its simplest form a sentence will have a subject stated as a noun and will give some further information about the subject. The second part of this sentence tells the reader that the girl is pretty. This is called predicating the noun. This sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. As you know from English, an adjective is a word that denotes some quality, which in this sentence is attractiveness. The noun and adjective are joined together by the word "is", which is called the copula. Note that the copula simply connects the words and gives almost no information about the subject.

The sentence in Latin has the same grammatical elementsː

puella est pulchra

The noun is followed by the predicate. The only difference is the absence of an article which has to be supplied by the translator. Puella can be translated as "girl", "the girl", or "a girl". Can you tell which word is the copula?

Translate the followingː

  • Rōma est fāma
  • Rōma est magna
  • Rōma est in Italia

Which region of Europe was the Roman historian Tacitus referring to as Caledonia in his book Agricola, which records the military campaigns of his father-in-law?

Translate the followingː

  • Italia est in Eurōpa
  • Germānia est in Eurōpa
  • Britannia est in Eurōpa

Note the conjunction given in the Vocabulary, and translate the followingː

  • Rōma est fāma et magna
  • Germānia est magna et Britannia est fāma
  • Germānia et Britannia sunt in Eurōpa

Give the meaning of the complete word on this inscription fragment from Roman Britainː



Lesson Vocabulary
Latin English
magna (adj.) great
bona (adj.) good
pulchra (adj.) pretty
fāma (adj.) famous
puella (f.) girl
puer (m.) boy
pater (m.) father
māter (f.) mother
domina (f.) mistress
dominus (m.) master
lūdus (m.) school
Rōma (f.) Rome
Germānia (f.) Germany
Britannia (f.) Britain
trīclīnium (n.) dining couch (room)
Ego sum
I am
you are (sg.)
he/she/it is
we are
you are (pl.)
they are
laborat, laborant (he/she/it is) working, (they are) working
amat, amant (he/she/it) loves, (they) love
et (conj.) and
Some second declension masculine end in -r instead of -us in the nominative case — boy is puer, not puer-us. Of the nouns discussed on this page, this rule only applies to puer.

Key to Vocabulary:

  • m. = masculine
  • f. = feminine
  • n. = neuter
  • Latin nouns have gender and are formed into five groups of declension. Feminine nouns ending in "-a" in the Nominative Singular and "-ae" in the Genitive Singular are of the 1st declension. Most Latin names for countries and cities are 1st declension feminine nouns, so they end with "-a" in the Nominative Singular.
  • sg. = singular
  • pl. = plural

Overview of Adjectives


An adjective is any word that qualifies a noun. For example:

English Latin
The good master dominus bonus
English Latin
The boy is good puer bonus est

Adjectives in Latin


Adjectives must agree with the nouns they describe in gender, number, and case.

  • Adjectives are made to agree with first and second declension nouns by using the -a, -us, -um (feminine, masculine, and neuter) suffixes.
  • Third declension adjectives are given with the nominative and genitive singular. This, however, is only true for third declension adjectives of one termination. Most third declension adjectives do not have separate masculine and feminine forms. (Neuter adjectives follow the third declension neuter pattern.)

These words will look like the adjective antiquus (old, ancient):

antiquus (masculine), antiqua (feminine), antiquum (neuter).

Third declension adjectives typically look more like ferox, ferocis (wild, bold). This is because the third declension has no stem assigned to the nominative singular.

Adjectives often come after the word they describe. Since word order is not central to the meaning of a Latin sentence the adjective may appear anywhere in the sentence.

In the following examples the -us is masculine (m.), -a is feminine (f.) and -um is neuter (n.). So magnus is masculine, magna is feminine, and magnum is neuter.

Latin English
puella bona est The girl is good
dominus bonus est The master is good
templum magnum est The temple is big

Basic verbs


Verbs in Latin work quite differently than those in English. Study the following table then view the examples below.

English Latin
Number In English we use pronouns to denote number when using verbs. Compare "I work" and "we work". In Latin the ending of the verb changes to denote number. Compare "laboro" (I work) and "laboramus" (we work). The two personal endings are "-o" and "-mus". The archaic "laborao" was eventually replaced by "laboro" to simplify pronunciation.
Tense Tense refers to past, present and future. Consider these examples: I walked, I am walking, I will walk. The stem is used to denote the tense, though this will be covered in a future lesson. In this lesson, only the present tense is being taught.
Person First person refers to the speaker. Second person refers to the person being spoken to. Third person refers to what is being said about someone or something. The vocabulary, starting with sum for I am, clearly illustrates this concept. Note that the 1st person plural is "we". Latin verbs are conjugated to show person. The verb will undergo changes in the stem and it is these inflections that denote 1st, 2nd or 3rd person singular or plural.

Personal Endings

Latin English
am-ō I love
amā-s you love (sg.)
ama-t he, she, it loves
amā-mus we love
amā-tis you love (pl.)
ama-nt they love


Latin was spoken and written in Europe for over two thousand years and since all languages change gradually this sometimes makes it difficult for beginners to see patterns of change. English has also had a long development that is now divided into three periods called Old English, Middle English and Modern English. Compare the following English verbsː

  • grindan (OE), grinde (ME), grind (Modern English verb)
  • climban (OE), climbe (ME), climb (Modern English verb)

The contraction of the archaic "laborao" to "laboro" would have undergone the same gradual process. The archaic "amao" (I love) eventually became "amo". If you look at the Vocabulary you will see that "amat" and "amant" retain the original letter "a" of the stem.

Further Examples


Example 1

Latin English
templum magnum est The temple is big
  • The adjective magnus -a -um must agree with templum in gender, number, and case, so the correct form is magnum (neuter nominative singular).
  • Note templum magnus est is incorrect because magn-us does not agree with templ-um.

Example 2

Latin English
puella pulchra est The girl is pretty

Notes: In the same way, the adjective pulcher -ra -rum must agree with puella in gender, number, and case, so the correct form is pulchra (agreement with the feminine nominative singular noun of the first declension).

Example 3

Latin English
puer puellam amat The boy loves the girl
puella puerum amat The girl loves the boy

Example 4

Latin English
lūdī magnī sunt The schools are big

Notes: The adjective magnus -a -um in this case must agree with lūdī in gender, number, and case, so the correct form is magnī (masculine nominative plural).

Third Declension Nouns and Adjectives


Third declension nouns and adjectives follow a different pattern. The nominative singular stem is not defined, and as such, any letter (or letters) can serve as a third declension stem. For example, Māter (mother) is a third declension noun in the nominative case. When pluralized, it becomes Mātrēs. "-ēs" is attached to the end of a third declension noun to pluralize it, as opposed to changing the ending completely, because there is no uniform way to do so.

You may have also noticed that the "e" in "Māter" was dropped when pluralized. This often happens when a stem is attached to a third declension noun of similar spelling (example, "Pater" (father) becomes "Patrēs")


Latin English
māter bona est The mother is good
mātrēs bonae sunt The mothers are good
pater magnus est The father is large
patrēs magnī sunt The fathers are large
amīcus fortis est The friend is strong
amīcī fortēs sunt The friends are strong

Third declension nouns are listed with the nominative case and the genitive case to provide the main stem. For example:

Latin English
pater, patris father
oratio, orationis speech
uxor, uxoris wife
canis, canis dog
proelium, -ī battle
oculus, -ī eye
amīcus, -ī friend

All other types of nouns are also generally listed with the genitive

Adjectives with a nominative ending in -is and the same stem in the nominative and in the other cases (eg. fortis) end in -e in the neuter and -ia in the neuter plural.

For example:

  • dies difficilis = the difficult day
  • proelium difficile = the difficult battle
  • proelia difficilia = the difficult battles


EXERCISE • Lesson 1-Nominative • Translation
  1. Translate the following Latin words into English.
    1. dominus bonus
    2. lūdus malus
    3. puella pulchra
    4. trīclīnium est magnum
  2. Translate into Latin.
    1. the good boy
    2. the large master
    3. The temple is large
    4. The master is bad
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 1-Nominative • Translation
  1. Translate the following Latin words into English.
    1. The good master
    2. The bad school
    3. The pretty girl
    4. The dining room is large
  2. Translate into Latin.
    1. puer bonus
    2. dominus magnus
    3. templum magnum est
    4. dominus malus est