In the third class of the Latin from Scratch course, we’ll dive into the five Latin declensions. We’ll summarize what their differences are and learn to recognize what declension nouns belong to.
The combination, the whole set of cases of a word is called declension. In Latin we have five declensions, which we’ll learn to recognize thanks to their statement.
I explain everything in the following video ():
The statement of Latin nouns
In order to know which declension a noun belongs to, the statement of the noun is given. The statement is made up of two cases:
- nominative singular
- genitive singular
These two forms are the ones which appear in the dictionaries, and the ones we have to learn by heart when we study vocabulary. From these two forms we can know what declension a noun belongs to, so we can know the whole declension of the noun.
Let’s give a couple of examples: in the first declension, rosa, rosae, in which rosa is the nominative singular, and rosae, the genitive singular; in the second declension, servus, servi, in which servus is the nominative singular and servi the genitive singular.
How to identify the declension of a Latin noun
From these two forms of the statement (nominative and genitive singular), it is the second one, the genitive, that informs us about the declension, but also about the stem (root) of the word:
- 1st declension: genitive -ae
- 2nd declension: genitive -i
- 3rd declension: genitive -is
- 4th declension: genitive -us
- 5th declension: genitive -ei
This is especially important in the nouns belonging to the third declension, which are the most unpredictable, since the root of the nominative is often different from the one of the genitive, as in caput, capitis, Apollo, Apollinis or iter, itineris.
For this reason, it is useful to practice with this exercise to learn how to identify what declension Latin nouns belong to. You will see it is quite easy once you have understood the routine. It is a simple matter of having memorized and knowing the five endings of the genitive of each declension and, with that information, classify nouns according to their statement.