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Beginners' Latin
Chief Justices’ rolls, court of King’s Bench, extract. 1549. Cat ref: KB 27/1150/2

Lesson 2: Introduction to nouns; first declension nouns; cases of nouns

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Six cases of nouns

1. Nominative

Used for the subject of the verb. The subject is the person or thing doing the verb.
For example

regina orat
the queen prays

The queen is the subject, as she is praying. The queen is in the nominative case.

2. Vocative

Used to call or address someone or something.
For example

O domina! Oh lady!
O regina! Oh queen!
O Maria! Oh Mary!

The vocative case is the same as the nominative, except in the second declension.

Latin document points Latin document points
The vocative case is used in chronicles and in the inscriptions on tombs. You will not find it in many other sources.

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3. Accusative

Used for the object of a verb. The object is the person or thing the verb is done to.
For example

domina cartam confirmat.
The lady confirms the charter.

‘the lady’ is the subject and in the nominative. ‘the charter’ is the object and in the accusative.

4. Genitive

Used for nouns that are ‘of’ something else and also to show possession.
For example

terra ecclesie. The land of the church.
filie vidue. The widow’s daughters.

5. Dative

Used for nouns that are to or for something.
For example

terram ecclesie do.
I give land to the church.

‘I give’ is the verb – do. ‘land’ is the object – it is in the accusative. ‘to the church’ is in the dative.

6. Ablative

Used for nouns that are by, with or from something.
For example

papa ecclesiam carta confirmat.
The pope confirms the church by a charter.

‘the pope’ is the subject – it is in the nominative. ‘confirms’ is the verb.
‘the church’ is the object – it is in the accusative. ‘by a charter’ is ablative.

Word order in Latin

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Think about the order that words are arranged in sentences.

In English, ‘I give land’.
The word order is: subject (I) + verb (give) + object (land).
The Latin translation is: terram do.
The word order is: object (land) + verb (I give).
The subject is: ‘I’, which is expressed in the word do.

Often in Latin

  • The subject is at the beginning of the sentence
  • The verb is at the end of the sentence
  • The object of the sentence follows the subject
domine cartas dant. ‘the ladies give charters’.
The word order is: subject (the ladies) + object (charters) + verb (give).

However, these rules were not always applied and vary between documents.
You may find that the word order is different in your document. It may even be in the same order as English.

Look out for sentences that do and don’t keep to these rules during the tutorial.

Checklist Checklist:
Are you confident with:
The six cases for nouns and when they are used?
Where the subject, verb and object may appear in a Latin sentence?

Practice sentences

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