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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



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.


OK. I got off my soapbox now...


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


And that acknowledgement makes it worthwhile thinking it through and writing all that.

Thank YOU too.


Thank you again friend, your notes are helping me so damn much, I’m still getting some stuff wrong but I’m getting the hang of it.


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.


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.


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.


This YouTube channel explains declensions really well: https://www.youtube.com/user/latintutorial

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