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Pronouns are words that replace a noun or noun phrase in a sentence when it has already been mentioned in the sentence or in a previous one. Most of the time they can be seen as an abbreviation of something. Sometimes they replace the noun entirely, sometimes they appear to be a sort of adjective, and sometimes they just connect the noun from the first clause to the next one. Altogether there are eight different types of pronoun.

Personal Pronouns

These refer to persons or things that fulfil functions in the sentence. Examples in English are ‘I/me’, ‘he/she’, ‘they/them’.

Latin makes less use of personal pronouns than does English, because a lot of the information that they convey is present in the verb forms.

Some uses of the pronoun in various cases:

  • The pronoun is especially rare in the nominative (i.e. when talking about the subject of the sentence): in the sentence ‘He opened the door and then he went outside,’ the word ‘he’ would not appear at all. In the sentence, ‘I think dogs are cuter than cats,’ it would not be necessary to say ‘I’ in Latin because this is implicit in the verb ending. But the pronoun is used for contrast or emphasis: for example, in the sentence, ‘My brother likes dogs but I like cats’, there would be a pronoun ‘I’.
  • Latin used ‘the royal “we”‘. Cicero, surprisingly enough, was very fond of it.
  • When translating into Latin and you come across a pronoun that refers to the subject of the verb, think this: could I put it in italics? If not, don’t include it in your Latin. A useful tip for translating the pronoun into English when it appears is to structure the sentence like so: ‘My friend thinks X, while I think Y.’
  • The accusative personal pronoun is the direct object, as in ‘He hit me.’
  • ad + accusative: denotes a person’s residence. ‘ueni ad me‘ means ‘come to my house’. ‘ad me’ on its own literally means ‘towards me’; it does not mean ‘to me’, in the sense ‘give that to me’ (see below).
  • The dative personal pronoun is usually the indirect object, i.e. ‘Give that to me‘.
  • There is also a so-called ‘ethical dative’, as in ‘That is very important to us‘. This use of the dative extends into the gerundive, where ‘nobis agendum est‘, ‘it is to-be-done for us’, means ‘we must do it’. It also appears in phrases such as: ‘mihi nihil refert‘, literally ‘it returns nothing to me’, i.e. ‘I don’t care’; ‘mihi placet‘, literally ‘it pleases me’, i.e. ‘I approve’ or ‘I like it’. If you know French/Spanish/Italian you may recognise this type of construction from e.g. a mí me gusta, ça m’est égal, mi piace.
  • The genitive personal pronoun is, in my opinion, one of the most confusing parts of speech for an English speaker learning Latin. It means ‘of me/you’, but it is used very rarely, in the sense ‘a part of him‘, ‘do this in memory of me‘, or ‘he did it for love of you‘. It also follows some verbs that take the genitive but are translated slightly differently in English, e.g. ‘miserere mei’, ‘have mercy on me‘. It is never used to denote the person to whom something belongs.
  • The ablative personal pronoun appears in ablative absolutes and also after prepositions. It cannot be used on its own to mean ‘by/from me’; it must have the preposition a(b). For example, ‘He was scorned by you’ would be ‘spretus est a te‘.

The personal pronoun exists only in the first and second person. Where a third person pronoun (he/she/they) is necessary, Latin uses one of the demonstrative pronouns (is or ille).

* When the pronoun is used as an object, it is ‘nostri’, e.g. ‘compassion for us’ (this takes the genitive), ‘the matter of restoring us’ (in which ‘restoring’ is a gerundive that depends on ‘us’). When it is partitive, as in ‘how many of us’, it is ‘nostrum’.


Possessive Pronouns (vs. Possessive Adjectives)

The possessive pronoun refers to an object that belongs to someone and can be seen as an abbreviation of ‘my ____’. For example, ‘You do your homework and I’ll do mine.’ ‘Mine’ is short for ‘my homework’. Again it is used where it replaces a word that you’d stress in speech, that you could put in italics, like so: ‘You do your homework, I’ll do my homework.’

However, be careful not to confuse possessive pronouns with possessive adjectives. ‘Mine’ is a pronoun in English, but ‘your’ is an adjective.

Pronouns: mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs

Adjectives: my, your, his, her, its, our, their

Things get more complicated. In the third person, whether you use the possessive adjective (agreeing with the noun) or the demonstrative pronoun in the genitive (agreeing with the person) depends on the subject of the sentence. The possessive adjective is usually used only for emphasis. So for example:

‘She betrayed her own father’ – prodidit patrem suum. suum is the possessive adjective and it agrees with the noun patrem so it is masculine, even though the subject is female (‘she’). The pronoun is not necessary to the sense (if you saw ‘prodidit patrem‘ you could reasonably infer that it meant the father of the subject of the verb) but it is appropriate here, as it stresses the enormity of the act. Notice that there is no word for ‘she’.

‘I bumped into Marcus and Quintus; earlier I had seen their father’ – Marcum Quintumque offendi; antea uideram eorum patrem. ‘eorum’ is the genitive of the demonstrative pronoun, and it agrees with ‘Marcus and Quintus’ (so it is masculine plural).

And now, annoyingly, the possessive pronoun is declined exactly like the possessive adjective, which follows the paradigm of bonus. Here it is solely in the nominative singular:

Mine: meus, mea, meum
Ours: noster, nostra, nostrum
Yours (singular): tuus, tua, tuum
Yours (plural): vester, vestra, vestrum
His/theirs: suus, sua, suum

In the third person the genitive of the demonstrative pronoun (below) is used.

The most important trap to avoid when translating into Latin is the agreement; the pronoun agrees with the possessed object, not the possessor!
‘Are those books mine?’ = ‘hi libri, suntne mei?’
‘Yes, they are yours.’ = ‘equidem sunt tui.’
Even though ‘I’ am one person and female, the pronoun is ‘tui’, not ‘tua’.

Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

These may appear the same in English because they both contain the suffix ‘-self’; however, they are distinct and in Latin their difference is important.
The REFLEXIVE PRONOUN is used when the subject and object are the same noun. For example, ‘he pinched him’ suggests that one person pinched another person, as opposed to ‘he pinched himself‘ where one person pinched himself and there were no other people involved. The subject is ‘he’ and the object is also ‘him’, i.e. ‘himself’. In Latin this pronoun looks the same as the personal pronoun, with an added third person.

* See above (Personal Pronoun).


The INTENSIVE PRONOUN is used to emphasise the subject. For example, ‘When the generals failed to complete the mission, Caesar himself had to do it’ or ‘Caesar had to do it himself‘. Here the ‘-self’ applies to the subject (Caesar) but the object is ‘it’ (the mission, i.e. not Caesar).

Some differences from modern English:

  • For the generic second person pronoun (i.e. ‘that feeling when you…’) Latin uses the impersonal passive (see the Verb section).
  • Latin has no ‘singular they’. For the generic third person (e.g. when talking about ‘the reader’) Latin usually uses the indefinite relative pronoun (‘the one who …’).
  • Latin is a very specific language. Remember that all Latin pronouns (and nouns) have gender. There are very few common-gender nouns. There is no commonly used word for ‘child’, only ‘boy’/’girl’ and ‘son’/’daughter’. The collective noun, ‘children’, is masculine. The neuter pronoun is never used for people in Latin and Latin has no pronoun that corresponds to a conjunction (such as ‘that’). Thus, you can’t say in Latin, ‘I have a friend who…’ You can only say ‘I have a male friend; he…’ or ‘I have a female friend; she…’ There are some nouns such as ‘comes’ (companion) that can be either masculine or feminine but not both at once.



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Declensions of Nouns Sat, 29 Aug 2015 19:41:30 +0000

How a noun changes its endings depends on the declension to which it belongs. There are five declensions. Below are examples of nouns belonging to that declension and how they decline.

First Declension

Model noun – mensa, -ae (f), ‘table’.
Nouns of the 1st declension end in –a and are usually feminine. (Notable exceptions are: nauta, sailor; agricola, farmer.)

Second Declension

Model noun – dominus, i (m), master.
Nouns of the 2nd declension end in –us and are usually masculine.

  • Variant: second declension nouns ending in -r.

Model noun – puer, pueri (m), boy.

Note: for nouns with a consonant before the ‘e’ in ‘er’, the ‘e’ is dropped. Examples: magister, magister, magistrum etc.; ager, ager, agrum etc.

  • Variant: second declension neuter

Model noun – bellum, -i (n), war.

Essentially, these are the same as normal 2nd declension nouns except for the nominative, vocative and accusative, which are identical in singular (all –um) and plural (all –a).

Third Declension

Model noun – rex, regis (m), king.

The nominative and vocative singular of 3rd declension nouns do not follow any pattern at all. The endings are added onto the stem’ of the noun. This is found by taking the genitive singular and taking off the ‘is’ at the end. The endings are boldened in the table. In a dictionary, 3rd declension nouns are given with their nominative and genitive forms so that you may find the stem.

Nouns of the 3rd declension can be of any gender. There is no particular reason for a 3rd declension noun being masculine or feminine, but there are some that are obvious, e.g. ‘mater’ (mother) is feminine while ‘pater’ (father) is masculine. Nouns ending in ‘as’, e.g. ‘tempestas’ (storm) are usually feminine.

  • Variant: third declension neuter

Model noun – litus, litoris (n), shore.

Essentially these are the same as other 3rd declension nouns apart from the nominative, vocative and accusative, which are identical in singular (all the same as the nominative) and plural (all –a).


Equilibrium is a minor point that affects the genitive plural of nouns. If the nominative and genitive forms of the noun have the same number of syllables, that means they have ‘equilibrium’. If they have equilibrium, then the genitive plural ends in ‘-ium’ as opposed to ‘um’. There are 2 groups of exceptions: the family (mother, father, brother, old man, young man, dog), and monosyllabic words whose stem ends in two consonants e.g. (nox, noctis – the stem is noct).

Fourth Declension

Model noun – manus, -us (f), hand. Nouns of the 4th declension can be either masculine or feminine.  

Fifth Declension

Model noun – res, rei (f), thing/matter. Nouns of the 5th declension can be either masculine or feminine.  
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Pronunciation and Scansion Sat, 29 Aug 2015 19:23:54 +0000

The Latin alphabet and its pronunciation

The pronunciation of Latin is notoriously disputed, but this table should give you an accurate enough framework to use when reading Latin aloud.

As a rule, the vowels are best pronounced as those of Italian. The most important thing to remember is that Italian vowels never have the slight ‘w’ sound that British people make in English when pronouncing vowels on their own. (If you’re British and confused, try saying ‘oh’. Your lips will narrow at the end of the word.) Similarly, one of the greatest struggles for British students of Italian is the long vowel ‘a’. It should never sound like there is a letter ‘r’ in there somewhere.

Ecclesiastical Latin is pronounced exactly like Italian.


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Cases and their Usage Sat, 29 Aug 2015 17:42:53 +0000

The case of a noun determines what it is doing in the sentence and is essentially different forms of the word. Cases are fundamental to Latin grammar, because of the lack of an article. To an extent, we have them in English. Let’s look at an English example.

English cases

We use these different forms of these words depending on what the noun is doing in the sentence. We would say, ‘I gave it to him’, but ‘He gave it to me’.

The definitions of the cases are:

NOMINATIVE – The subject of the sentence, the noun that is ‘doing’ something in the sentence. In ‘The apple fell from the tree’, the apple is the subject and therefore is nominative. In English it is generally the noun that comes before the verb.

VOCATIVE – This case is used to address a person or thing by name or title. It can be singular or plural, e.g. ‘Come here, boy!’ or ‘Ladies and gentlemen.’

ACCUSATIVE – The object of the sentence, or the thing that something is being ‘done’ to. In ‘The dog bit the man’, the man is the one being bitten and so is accusative (the dog is nominative). It is also used after certain prepositions. In English it is generally the noun that comes after the verb.

GENITIVE – The possessive case: of ____, ___’s or ___s’. For example: Peter’s, of the church, the boys’. The apostrophe or possessiveness would be represented by the genitive case; ‘Peter’, ‘church’ and ‘boys’ would all be nouns in the genitive case.

DATIVE – Represents action forward (dative means ‘giving’): more simply, to ___ or for ___. For example, ‘I gave the money to my mother’. I am nominative, the money is accusative and my mother is dative as she is the one receiving the money.
Beware the concealed dative! If you say, ‘I gave him a present’, the noun that comes after the verb is ‘him’, but he isn’t really thing you’re giving, so it isn’t accusative. The accusative is ‘present’ and ‘him’ is dative. This especially applies to the verbs ‘give’ and ‘tell’ in English.

ABLATIVE – Represents action away (ablative means ‘taking away’): more simply, by ___ or from ___. For example, ‘I received a present from him’ – him is ablative. The ablative also follows certain prepositions.
Note! If you say ‘by or from’ followed by a noun, and that noun is a person, there must be a preposition as well. If that noun is an inanimate object, no preposition is needed. Examples:
I killed him with a sword – sword is ablative, no preposition needed. VS. I went to town with my friends – friends is ablative but preposition ‘with’ is required.
He was crushed by an avalanche – avalanche is ablative, no preposition needed. VS. Antony was beaten by Octavius – Octavius is ablative but preposition ‘by’ is required.

LOCATIVE – The locative case is used for names of cities, small islands and some nouns. It is used when saying, ‘in Rome’ or ‘at home’. It is used INSTEAD OF THE PREPOSITION ‘IN/AT’.
The locative case is not an independent case because it simply looks like one of the other cases, depending on the declension and number of the noun. The rules are as follows:
For first and second declension singular nouns, the locative case looks like the genitive
For first and second declension plural nouns, the locative case looks like the dative
For third declension singular and plural nouns, the locative case looks like the ablative
For fourth declension singular nouns, the locative has a separate ending, which is –i (domi, humi).
The nouns that use the locative case are:
domus (home), rus (countryside), humus (ground), focus (hearth), militia (military service).
The names of islands that do NOT take the locative are:
Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Crete, Cyprus

It is vital to understand cases of nouns (as well as the translation of verb tenses) in order to progress in Latin. Some people may be taught to ‘pick up’ the cases as they go along, which is fine when translating ‘Caecilius est in horto’, but when it comes to translating the Aeneid, for example, it is impossible to do it without knowing the cases.

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Nouns: An Overview Sat, 29 Aug 2015 16:51:07 +0000

You see nouns every day but you may not realise you do if you didn’t study English grammar in primary school. What is a noun?

Simply, a noun is a naming word, from Latin ‘nomen’ (name). A noun is a part of speech that describes a thing, usually a person, place, object, state or quality. It can be a tangible object (e.g. a pen) or an abstract noun (e.g. honesty). Nouns can have many functions in a sentence. The most common are the subject and the object.

In English, the function of a noun is distinguished by:

  • Its position in the sentence. The dog bit the man / The man bit the dog. These sentences have very different meanings in English.
  • Its ending. You can tell whether a noun is singular (one thing) or plural (more than one thing) by its ending. The most common way to make a noun plural is to add an ‘s’: pen -> pens. There are some irregular plurals e.g. pastry -> pastries, ox -> oxen.
  • Whether it has a capital letter or not. ‘I live in a new England’ means ‘I live in England, and it is different here than in the past’. ‘I live in New England’ means you live in the State of America that is called New England – a very different place to the England of Britain.
  • Whether it is preceded by ‘a’ or ‘the’. ‘I saw a dog’ vs. ‘I saw the dog’. In the first sentence it could be any dog at all, and it has no particular significance. The second sentence refers to a specific dog, usually a dog that has previously been referred to, or one that you are going to describe e.g. ‘I saw the dog that bit my next-door neighbour’.

In Latin, nouns are very different.

Firstly, there is no word in Latin for ‘a’ or ‘the’, so you have to work out which one it is by reading the rest of the sentence.

The Romans wrote in capital letters all the time. Names are not always obvious, particularly when the gods are concerned. For example, ‘CVPIDVS’ could refer to Cupid, god of love, or it could be an adjective meaning ‘eager’. Usually in modern texts, the first letter of a name is capitalised. But if not, what happens when you read ‘VENVS’ in a love poem? Does it mean ‘Venus the goddess’ or ‘love’? The answer is more simple than you might think: Latin’s lack of capitalisation means that the Romans did not make this distinction. In some places an author is obviously not talking about an anthropomorphic figure; but many Roman deities were forces in society and they would not have an answer to the question, ‘Is this the thing or the thing personified?’

Latin has many more endings than English has. Latin nouns have six different forms – twelve in all, as there are six singular and six plural. Some are the same but they all have distinct meanings. The ending changes for almost every function in the sentence. For example, the words ‘mensa’, ‘mensam’ and ‘mensae’ all mean ‘table’; ‘mensae’, ‘mensas’ and ‘mensis’ all mean ‘tables’.

In Latin, the word order doesn’t matter. In this example, the word ‘canis’ means ‘dog’ and ‘vir’ means ‘man’; ‘momordit’ means ‘bit’:
canis momordit virum.
canem momordit vir.
virum momordit canis.
vir momordit canem.
What is the difference between these sentences? How do you tell who bit whom? You may have thought that the first two sentences were the same, as were the last two.
In fact, the first and third are the same: they both mean ‘the dog bit the man’. The second and fourth are the same: they both mean ‘the man bit the dog’.
In Latin it is the ending of the noun that tells you who bit whom. The one biting is called the ‘subject’ and the one who is being bitten is called the ‘object’.
You see that this is very different from English. It is the equivalent of being able to say ‘man-obj bit dog-subj’, meaning ‘the dog bit the man’.

Latin nouns have gender. This does not in itself affect the noun’s endings, but it does affect the adjectives that describe the noun. This is similar to French, Spanish etc, except in Latin there are three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. You can find more information on which nouns are usually masculine or feminine in the Declensions section.


It is extremely important to be able to know what a noun is doing in a sentence. The different functions of the noun, e.g. subject and object, are called ‘cases’.

In Latin there are six cases. Nouns change their endings depending on the case. There are five types of noun, called ‘declensions’. Nouns in each declension change their endings in a different way. All the nouns in first declension, for example, follow the same pattern when they change their endings.

Consult the following pages for a detailed description of cases and tables of declensions.

Cases and their Usage

Declensions 1-5



Includes: cases & their usage; declensions;

Personal, reflexive, relative pronouns etc.

Includes: tenses, voices & moods, and sequence of tenses; parts of a verb and conjugation of regular verbs; conjugation of deponent verbs; conjugation of irregular verbs; participles

Adjectives & Adverbs
Also includes comparative and superlative

Conjunctions & Prepositions
Includes prepositions and their meanings with cases

Gerund & Gerundive
Includes gerund as noun, gerundive of obligation etc.
(But for ad + gerundive as purpose, see Purpose Clauses below)

Conjunctions and Prepositions

Gerund and Gerundive


Time Idioms

Subordinate Clauses
Includes: ‘cum’ + subjunctive and rules of sequence; ‘cum’ + indicative; clauses with ‘ubi’, ‘postquam’ etc; prepositional phrases e.g. ablative absolute; ‘dum’ meaning while

Purpose & Fearing Clauses
Includes: ‘ut’ + subjunctive; ‘qui’ + subjunctive; ‘ad’ + gerundive; ‘causa’ + genitive; fearing clauses using ‘timeo’ & ‘vereor’; ‘dum’ meaning until + subjunctive

Consecutive (Result) Clauses
Also includes generic subjunctive & doubt

Indirect Speech
Includes: indirect command, statement & question; accusative + infinitive; oratio obliqua; past jussive

Conditional Clauses

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