1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Latin
  4. >
  5. Latin declensions

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ryan265060

Latin declensions

Can someone please help me with these, I can’t for the life of me understand declensions at all, they make no sense to me and don’t get why words endings change and which words endings are supposed to change and when they’re supposed to change, or what they’re supposed to change to, it just doesn’t make any sense at all

October 10, 2019

14 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SamHunter20

The noun endings change depending on whether they are singular or plural, their gender, what function they perform in the sentence, and what group of nouns they belong to. A group of similar nouns - one's whose endings all do the same thing is called a "declension".

In https://www.duolingo.com/skill/la/Introduction/tips-and-notes they introduce endings for first and second declension for the subject (and predicate) of a sentence (nominative). In the word list they identify which declension each noun belongs to.

Check out the tips for each lesson for more.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tembo441

Declensions in Latin are, as you say, the way word endings change.

The question, of course, is why they change and when you should change them.

First, it's important to consider the construction of any sentence in any language. English is a good point to start, although very few words actually change in English.

So, even if English doesn't change, each word is one of what is called "parts of speech" that make a complete sentence. In Latin, different parts of speech generally have different endings.

Take apart a sentence: I hit the parrot.

"I" This is the SUBJECT of the sentence. Why? It DOES the action. In Latin, this would always be in the NOMINATIVE case.

"Hit" this is the verb. A verb is an action word. It does something. Its endings change depending on WHO is the subject - a different ending for "I" "You" "He/She or It" "We" "You" (when it means more than one person, called "plural") and "They". This is called a verb conjugation, not a declension. Verbs belong to different groups and their endings will change according to the rules for their group and the "person" (I, you, he/she/it, we, you (plural), they).

Finally, we have "the parrot". This is the OBJECT of the sentence, the thing that is being hit. In Latin it would normally be in the ACCUSATIVE case.

Noninative and accusative are the most important cases. It is a good idea to understand these first, and then realise that there are several different groups to which words belong in Latin, and the ending will depend not only which "case" the word needs to be in the sentence, but also which group ("declension") that word belongs. Every declension has every case - work out which case the word should be, work out which declension (group) that word belongs to, and you've got it; with a few irregular exceptions!

Once you understand this, move on:

The Vocative case: A word will have a vocative case ending if someone is talking directly to it. "Hello, parrot" and the word "parrot" has the vocative ending. "Hello, Marcus" and "Marcus" has a vocative ending. Think "vocative"="vocal". Someone's talking to it.

It gets a little more complicated with the others.

Look at the most common uses first:

The GENITIVE case is usually to do with belonging or owning. Think "of". "It is Marcus' dog" = "It is the dog of Marcus" and therefore Marcus will have the genitive case ending. It's something "of Marcus".

DATIVE tends to have the sense of "to" something.

ABLATIVE tends to have the sense of "by" or "with".

LOCATIVE - only a few words use it and it's very specific. Learn about it when you come across it.

None of these is cast in stone, and there are variations. Just get the general idea of it and the rest will come together.

And everything in the PLURAL - meaning more than one of them - has a direct equivalent case to its SINGULAR listed above, and with a different ending.

And what else? Ah, well, some specific cases are ALWAYS used when they immediately follow prepositions like "in" "at" "to" "with" "from" ("in" "ad" "cum" for example). You just have to learn these and know that after a specific preposition, your word must be in a particular case ("in urbe" for example). Some will follow a pattern - like you might nearly always use the same case when the preposition is describing where something is, but usually a different case when it is describing something going from one place to another (moving to, rather than staying in).

Perhaps that's an over-simplification (!) but if you follow it through carefully you have a basic understanding of how and why Latin has declensions and the basis on which they're used. Many other languages need them too, although Latin is mostly more formal and rigid than most others.

AND THE MAIN REASON WE HAVE TO EXPLAIN MOST OF THIS IS BECAUSE THEY DON'T TEACH ENGLISH GRAMMAR PROPERLY AT SCHOOLS THESE DAYS.

OK. I got off my soapbox now...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ryan265060

Thanks brother, this helps a good bit, it’s been the first worthwhile explanation I’ve gotten


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ArtdTax

This is like gold to me. I am a native Spanish speaker and the first Latin lessions were easy, but they become harder after practicing some declination and cases without the theory.

I'll keep practicing with this in my mind. Thank you.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kaet
  • 269

Okay, first of all, which languages do you know already, and how much about their grammar? I'm not a Latin expert, but most languages decline in some manner or other, although Latin does so far more extensively than many.

Assuming you know English: Verbs: Think of present tense To be: I am You are (archaic Thou art) He/she/it is We are You are They are

While English has lost nearly all of this variation in other languages, Latin has it, and also has different groups of verbs that change slightly differently.

English used to have such group variation too, as we see in our irregular verbs. For example: I typed (regular)/I wrote/I made/I took.

Case (Nominative/accusative/dative/genitive/etc) in English is only seen on pronouns: I/me/my/mine/myself but is much more extensive in Latin.

I don't know enough Latin yet to help you learn all the variants there, but I hope this helps you see that there is sense to the changes, and that they show patterns and variation in meaning.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SamHunter20

"Declension" is for nouns. Verbs "conjugate".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/8aKYoz1p

Marcus Titum pulsat: Marcus hits Titus - Marcum Titus pulsat: Titus hits Marcus. - Marco Titus aquam dat: Titus gives water to Marcus - Marco aqua Titum dat: The water gives Titus to Marcus - Marce, Sexto aquam Titi da: Marcus, give the water of Titus to Sextus.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IamJules2020

This is changing the case of a noun. Both Marcus and Titus belong too the same declension.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/93k8nXGk

Apparently we can blame Pythagoras for the terms. He had some very odd ideas about numbers and foods that gave you flatulence though those views are still held in the east. But I digress. So people have pointed out that Latin words have two parts the stem which contains the meaning and the ending which modifies it. So in English not much left of this system. Dog is the stem add the ending 's and it becomes a genitive meaning of the dog. From the stem if you just add an s without the apostrophe it becomes a plural meaning more than one dog. And if you add an s' its a genitive plural of the dogs. But that's about it.

Take the word Man. The stem is really M if you change the an to en it becomes a plural.

Pythagoras put all the different endings of the stem into a circle. The nominative he put at the Apex of the circle and it became knowns as the Casus Rectus. The upright spoke of the wheel. And all the other cases the ablative (by the dog) the dative (for the dog) etc he set around the points of a clock. These were called Casus obliqui or oblique case.

As they were arranged in this semi-circle your Pythagorean inspired Grammar teacher would ask their students to decline (declina) which means to turn down your gaze (especially in preparation for sleep). And when you got an ending wrong the teacher would beat you. Sometimes of course the teacher or Magister would beat you if you didn't make a mistake in order to stop you becoming too proud.

Pythagoras also believed that you should avoid eating beanz because they probably contained the spirits of your ancestors given that spiritus was carried in the breath and beanz gave you flatulence. Which is what we call today scientific method.

He also believed that integers were perfect numbers and his fascination for circles and squares led to great advances in alchemy and magick which unfortunately turned out not to be so popular or long lasting.

The only real tragedy of his life was discovering that the square of the hypotenuse equalled the sum of the squares of the other two sides of a triangle. Indian tile makers had worked out something similar because they needed to do a lot of tiling and needed to know how many tiles they'd need if they snapped a square or oblong tile across the diagonal. So they knew how many tiles to make but they hadn't actually proved the math. But Mr Pythagoras having done that realized that the answer even when you began with perfect beautiful integers would never result once you get to square roots in perfect integers and this caused a massive intellectual spiritual and existential crisis for him from which he never recovered.

That's probably why young men would get beaten a lot when learning about declensions. If you are still a little confused well that's a residual effect of his teachings. There's no longer any need to confuse students in that way as teachers aren't allowed to beat their students to help build moral fibre any more.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tembo441

Uh...

No. Probably.

Most of the stories of Pythagoras' life, like this, are pure myth. Many were invented hundreds of years after his death - not least by the Romans

The term "Casus Rectus" is Latin, not Greek. It seems unlikely Pythagoras would have used it.

Apart from a very few verifiable facts about Pythagoras' life, all that has come down to us with any certainty are his mathematical teachings, and even those may not have come from Pythagoras himself.

But there was something about Pythagoras that caught the imagination of other writers and philosophers, who related, embellished and invented stories about him. He must have done something significant to have prompted the poet/philospher Heraclitus - one of the few who may have lived during Pythagoras' lifetime and in the same area, and whose writings refer to him - to become so fired up about Pythagoras that he called him a "clever charlatan" who "manufactured a wisdom for himself with much learning and artful knavery."

Still, as the various accounts of what he might or might not have done contradict each other, all this is as good a piece of fiction as any.


Learn Latin in just 5 minutes a day. For free.
Get started