In this lesson we will cover nouns and adjectives of the first declension. At the end of the lesson, you will find a vocabulary list, exercises and an answer key.
Nouns of the first declension
As we saw in the last lesson, Latin uses a system of declensions to identify what a word is doing in a sentence. By looking at the ending of a word, you will be able to see what the function of a word is. There are five declensions in Latin; in this lesson, we will be studying the first.
The first declension endings are based around the letter ‘A’. We saw the case endings in the last lesson as an example. Here they are again:
First Declension Endings
Nominative -a -ae
Genitive -ae -ārum
Dative -ae -īs
Accusative -am -ās
Ablative -ā -īs
Vocative -a -ae
If you do not remember what each case means, do not worry. There will be a number of examples and exercises that will make it clear. Just remember that the ending indicates what case a word is in; the case, in turn, tells you what function the word is occupying in the sentence or phrase (subject of the verb, object of the verb, possessive, etc.).
Now, every word in a declension adds the endings of that declension to its stem. The stem can usually be obtained by looking at the nominative singular and removing the ending. It is, however, best to look at the genitive singular to obtain the stem, because in some declensions the nominative is different from other cases. Remember that each time a noun is given, the nominative and genitive will be indicated. You should memorize both endings.
Let’s look at an example using rosa, or rose. The hyphens are used to show the separation of stem and endings.
Rosa, -ae (f): a rose —- stem: ros-
Nominative ros- a a rose (subject of verb)
Genitive ros- ae of a rose
Dative ros- ae to or for a rose
Accusative ros- am a rose (object of verb)
Ablative ros- ā by or with a rose
Vocative ros- a O rose!
Nominative ros- ae roses (subject of verb)
Genitive ros- arum of roses
Dative ros- īs to or for roses
Accusative ros- ās roses (object of verb)
Ablative ros- īs by or with roses
Vocative ros- ae O roses!
Now that you have learned to decline this word, you can decline any word of the first declension. Memorize the simple endings and memorize rosa, -ae in all its forms; listen to the rhythm – once you get it down, you will never forget it!
There are a few things to remember about Latin words. There are no proper articles in Latin, and when you translate a word, you must supply ‘a’ or ‘the’, or decide to omit it, depending on the sense you discover in the sentence. In addition to this, because English operates the way it does, you must supply certain words depending on the case or function of a word. That is why some of the translations of single words have for, of, etc. in front of them. Where there is an alternative (denoted by ‘or’ above), you will have to decide which one makes the most sense in your English translation.
First declension nouns are predominantly feminine, with a few exceptions, which generally denote males. For example, nauta, -ae is a sailor, and since sailors were exclusively men in Ancient Rome, the word is masculine despite belonging to the first declension. If you see a first declension word and you do not know what gender it belongs to, always guess that it is feminine, unless it is an occupation that was probably done by men in Ancient Rome.
Adjectives qualify nouns, and agree with them in number (singular or plural), gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and case. Adjectives belong to two groups: the first group uses the endings of the first and second declension; the second group uses the endings of the third declension. For the time being, we will look only at the first group.
The first group uses the first declension endings when the adjective is feminine; it uses the second declension when the adjective is masculine or neuter. In this lesson, we will focus on the first declension (feminine) part of the group, but we will be learning the second declension (masculine and neuter) part in the next lesson.
Like nouns, adjectives have a stem and add the endings of the relevant declension to that stem. It works the very same way as nouns, except that you use the nominative form of the adjective to determine the stem. This is because adjectives are presented not with nominative and genitive forms, as with nouns, but with masculine, feminine and neuter forms. For example, the Latin adjective for big is magnus, -a, -um; the first form is the masculine, the second the feminine, the third the neuter. The stem is magn- because the masculine nominative ending of the second declension is –us. Do not worry about the second declension too much now. Just remember that for the first group of adjectives, take off –us.
Now you have the basics of first declension nouns and adjectives. Below you will find a vocabulary list, exercises and an answer key.
In every lesson from henceforth, there will be a vocabulary list which you should learn. Words from previous lessons will come up in later lessons. You will see that each vocabulary word has multiple definitions; when translating, use the word you think would make the most sense.
agricola, -ae (m.) farmer
aqua, -ae (f.) water
bonus, -a, -um good
fēmina, -ae (f.) woman
Gallia, -ae (f.) Gaul
littera, -ae (f.) letter; in plural, letter, epistle, literature
magnus, -a, -um great, big, large
nauta, -ae (m.) sailor
nātūra, -ae (f.) nature
poēta, -ae (m.) poet
pulchrus, -a, -um pretty, handsome, beautiful
puella, -ae (f.) girl
rosa, -ae (f.) rose
vīta, -ae (f.) life
sunt (they) are
- Decline the following words:
- nauta, -ae
- vita, -ae
- aqua, -ae
- Translate; give gender, number, case
- Puellae sunt pulchrae.
- Latin to English: translate the following into English
- Gallia est magna.
- Litterae agricolārum sunt pulchrae.
- Vita fēminae est bona.
- English to Latin: translate the following into Latin
- The water is good.
- The roses of the girls
- The farmer is a poet.
- To good nature
- A beautiful life is good.
A. Decline the following words:
1. nauta, -ae
Nominative nauta nautae
Genitive nautae nautārum
Dative nautae nautīs
Accusative nautam nautās
Ablative nautā nautīs
Vocative nauta nautae
2. vita, -ae
Nominative vita vitae
Genitive vitae vitārum
Dative vitae vitīs
Accusative vitam vitās
Ablative vitā vitīs
Vocative vita vitae
3. aqua, -ae
Nominative aqua aquae
Genitive aquae aquārum
Dative aquae aquīs
Accusative aquam aquās
Ablative aquā aquīs
Vocative aqua aquae
B. Translate; give gender, number, case
1. Poētārum – of the poets: masculine, plural, genitive
2. Vītas – lives (object of verb): feminine, plural, accusative
3. Litterīs – by/with or for/to literature: feminine, plural, ablative or dative
4. Agricolās – farmers (object of verb): masculine, plural, accusative
5. Fēminae – of a woman, to a woman, women (subject of verb): feminine; singular, genitive, dative; plural, nominative
6. Aqua – water (subject of verb): feminine, singular, nominative
7. Nātūrā – by/with nature: feminine, singular, ablative
8. Nauta – a sailor (subject of verb): masculine, singular, nominative
9. Puellae sunt pulchrae. – The girls are pretty. (feminine, plural, nominative)
10. Puellīs – by/with or to/for the girls: feminine, plural, ablative or dative
C. Latin to English: translate the following into English
1. Gaul is great.
2. The epistle of the farmers is beautiful.
3. The life of the woman is good.
D. English to Latin: translate the following into Latin
1. Aqua est bona.
2. rosae puellārum
3. Agricola est poēta.
4. nātūrae bonae
5. Vita pulchra est bona.