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Beginners' Latin
detail of Virgin Mary with the Christ child, illustration. 13th century. Cat ref: E 36/266. Crown copyright

Lesson 5: First and second declension adjectives; ego and nos

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Concentrate on learning words marked with an asterisk* first.

An adjectiveGlossary - opens in a new window is a word used to describe a noun

For example 'magna carta' the great charter
novum testamentum the new will
bonus dominus a good lord
predicta regina Isabella the aforesaidGlossary - opens in a new window Queen Isabella
sancta Maria SaintGlossary - opens in a new window Mary

An adjective

  • Is normally in front of the noun it describes; sometimes it is behind
  • Agrees with the noun in
    • GenderGlossary - opens in a new window (masculine, feminine or neuter)
    • NumberGlossary - opens in a new window (singular or plural)
    • CaseGlossary - opens in a new window (nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative or ablative)
  • Belongs to one of two groups depending on whether it declines
    • Like first and second declension nouns
    • Like third declension nouns

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This lesson covers adjectives that decline like first and second declension nouns.
Look at our example of novus, -a, -um   new

novus, -a, -um    new

Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative novus nova novum
Vocative nove nova novum
Accusative novum novam novum
Genitive novi nove novi
Dative novo nove novo
Ablative novo nova novo
Masculine Feminine Neuter
novi nove nova
novi nove nova
novos novas nova
novorum novarum novorum
novis novis novis
novis novis novis

Most first and second declension adjectives take these endings.

novam ecclesiam video
I see the new church.

Noun and adjective are feminine accusative singular.

parsona pueros novos vocat
The parson calls the new boys.

Noun and adjective are masculine accusative plural.

Don’t assume that the ending of the noun and the adjective are always the same. Sometimes they are different, for example

novus agricola est
He is the new farmer.

Noun and adjective are both masculine nominative singular.

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In the word list, first and second declension adjectives are written ‘novus, -a, -um’ This shows the three nominative singular forms:

  • novus is masculine and declines like dominus from the second declension
  • nova is feminine and declines like carta from the first declension
  • novum is neuter and declines like testamentum from the second declension

When you see an adjective written like this, you will know that it is first or second declension. You will be able to decline it using the same endings as novus.

antiquus , -a, -um old
bonus , -a, -um good
dimidius , -a, -um half
dominicus , -a, -um demesneGlossary - opens in a new window
magnus , -a, -um great, big
predictus , -a, -um aforesaidGlossary - opens in a new window
quietus , -a, -um free, quit
sanctus , -a, -um saintGlossary - opens in a new window, holy


ecclesia sancte Marie church of Saint Mary  
ecclesia sancti Edwardi church of Saint Edward  Edwardus, -i
 (m.) Edward
ego dimidium manerium filiabus predictis domini do I give a half manor to the aforesaid daughters of the lord.  
predicta domina tenet dimidium mercatum nova carta The aforesaid lady holds half a market by a new charter.  
dominice terre domini sunt They are the demesne lands of the lord.  
dimidiam marcam predicto agricole damus We give half a mark to the aforesaid farmer.  

Look out for adjectives that end ‘er’ in the masculine nominative singular.
Most lose the ‘e’ when declined, for example    pulcher, pulchra, pulchrum    beautiful
A few keep the ‘e’, for example    liber, -era, -erum    free
These are fully declined in the table of grammarGlossary - opens in a new window

Irregular adjectives

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There are nine irregular adjectives. These decline like novus, -a, -um but

  • Genitive singular ends ‘-ius’
  • Dative singular ends ‘–i’ for all genders

You are most likely to find unus, totus and alius, so remember these three.

alius , alia, aliud the other [genitive singular is sometimes alterius]*
alter , altera, alterum the other (of two things)
neuter , neutra, neutrum neither (of two things)
nullus , -a, -um no, none
solus , -a, -um alone, only
totus , -a, -um all, whole*
ullus , -a, -um any
unus , -a, -um one*
uter , utra, utrum which (of two things)


et debent unam marcam alii domino And they owe one mark to the other lord.
totum manerium dimidium mercatum terras alias et octo marcas filiis Henrici do I give the whole manor, half the market, other lands and eight marks to the sons of Henry.


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Numbers two and three also decline. Obviously, they only have plural forms.
You will learn the endings with practice.

duo    two

Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative duo due duo
Accusative duo(s) duas duo
Genitive duorum duarum duorum
Dative duobus duabus duobus
Ablative duobus duabus duobus

totam terram duabus filiabus Gregorii legamus We leave all the land to the two daughters of Gregory.
duo maneria et duas marcas Willelmo filio Edwardi carta do et confirmo I give and confirm by charter to William son of Edward two manors and two marks.


tres    three

Case Masculine and Feminine Neuter
Nominative tres tria
Accusative tres tria
Genitive trium trium
Dative tribus tribus
Ablative tribus tribus


parsone trium parochiarum sunt
They are the parsons of three parishes.


Handy hints Handy hints - patterns in word endings
Keep looking for these. For example, when you read through tres, note that
  • Genitive plural ends in ‘–um’
  • Dative and ablative plurals are the same
What other patterns can you see?
Checklist Checklist:
Are you confident with:
The three ways that an adjective agrees with a noun?
What predictus, -a, -um tells you?
The connection between unus, totus and alius?


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