In the second class of the Latin from Scratch course, we’ll start learning some grammar: what are Latin cases and what functions do they have? This is a fundamental characteristic of Latin, which is not present in English. Because of this, we need to make the effort to get familiar with cases and their syntactic functions from the very beginning.
Indeed, Latin nouns have gender (masculine, feminine and neuter), number (singular and plural) and also another characteristic, almost lost in English, which is called case.
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Latin cases and their syntactic functions
Cases are each of the forms a noun can have in order to mark a syntactic function. In Latin there are six cases (plus a seventh, much more infrequent case).
⚠️ In this course we’ll always use the following order of cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative and ablative. In the English-speaking world most sources use a different order, with no advantage and which actually makes studying and learning more difficult.
Nominative is the most basic case: it expresses the subject of the sentence (S). With copulative verbs (e.g. sum) it is also used for the nominative predicate, subject complement or attribute (ATTR).
Puer est probus.
The boy is good.
Homo non est deus.
A man is not a god.
Vocative is used for the appellative function (VOC), i.e. getting the listener’s or second person’s attention. It must be written between commas, both in Latin and in English.
Manete, pueri, hic.
Stay, children, here.
The accusative, without preposition, usually expresses the direct object complement (DO), and sometimes some kind of adverbial (place or time).
The accusative case can have prepositions, in which case it always expresses an adverbial (ADV). The specific kind and meaning of the adverbial depends on the preposition.
Puer videt canem.
The boy sees a dog.
Puer it ad canem.
The boy goes toward the dog.
Genitive expresses, most of the times, the complement of a noun (CN) or an adjective (CAdj). Most of the times the meaning has to do with possession and similar notions.
Puer videt canem puellae.
The boy sees the girl’s dog / the dog of the girl.
Dative expresses the indirect object complement (IO). Take into account that in Latin it is never preceded by any preposition.
Puer dat malum puellae.
The boy gives an apple to the girl / the girl an apple.
Ablative can work both with and without prepositions. It always expresses adverbials (ADV) of many kinds.
When there is a preposition, that’s what lets us know the specific kind of adverbial. If there is no preposition, most of the times we can only know from the general context.
Puer it ad canem cum patre.
The boy goes toward the dog with his father.
Romani pugnant gladiis.
Romans fight with swords.
Locative is used by just a few nouns. It expresses the adverbial of place ‘where’ (ADV PL where).
Stay in Rome.
As we learn, we’ll see that this is a quite basic summary which needs to be elaborated upon, but for now we have more than enough to keep moving forward.
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