Latin Adjectives I

Now that you know some of the basics of nouns and verbs, and you can construct simple sentences using them, it is time to complicate things. In this section, Latin adjectives and how they work will be introduced here. Topics in this lesson include:

  • Adjective Role Reviewed
  • Adjective Types
  • Declining Adjectives:
    • Nominative
    • Accusative
    • Genitive
  • In Sentences

Adjective Role Reviewed

Adjectives modify a noun by simply giving more information about the noun's state or possibly location. While it is simple to say that a man has shoes, what state is this man in? Is he happy? Sad? We can therefore use an adjective to describe this man, and in this case we will say that the happy man has shoes. "Happy" here describes man.

Adjectives have the same role in Latin as well. In most Latin sentences written in this dictionary, you will see that the adjective will appear after the noun that it modifies, though since word order doesn't matter it can also proceed the noun. It is important however that the adjective be adjacent to the noun it modifies.

  • Vir laetus calceos habet.

Furthermore, some nouns may have more than one adjective modifying it.

Adjective Types

Just as in nouns there were declensions, and in verbs there were conjugations, there are indeed a few type of adjectives. However, there is no need to worry due to the way adjectives form. Latin adjectives since they modify nouns also form similarly to nouns. In fact, you can say that they decline in much the same way because adjectives take the same endings as nouns do!

Mainly, there are seven types of nouns. These types are related to certain noun declensions which are shown on the below chart.
Type Description Example
First/Second These adjectives imitate the first and second declension noun endings and act very normal in terms of declining. Iratus, Irata, Iratum
First/Second R These adjectives are very much the same as the First/Second adjectives except that the masculine form ends in an r, and the superlative forms1 differently. Pulcher, Pulchra, Pulchrum
First/Second I These adjectives are like subsets of the above two First/Second sets. The difference between these adjectives lies in their singular genitive and dative forms. Alius, Alia, Alium
Third Adjectives of the Third type decline similarly like third declension nouns. Many of these adjectives differ slightly in their plural neuter forms from nouns. Audax, Audacis
Third R This is the equivalent of the First/Second R adjectives except they decline like third declension nouns. Acer, Acris
Third L Only six adjectives are in this category. They decline like third declension nouns, and they differ in the superlative forms from both the regular Third adjectives and Third R adjectives. Facilis, Facilis
Irregular A handful of adjectives are considered flat out irregular since they have a strange pattern in declining, especially in their comparative and superlative forms. Bonus, Bona, Bonum

For now, we will only concentrate on the First/Second and First/Second R adjectives.

As you may have noticed, for instance in the First/Second adjective section, I listed what appears to be three adjectives that look almost the same. Actually, all three represent a single adjective. First/Second adjectives have three primary forms.

When an adjective is modifying a noun in Latin, we want that adjective to somehow relate to the role that the noun is playing. Adjectives decline in much the same way that nouns do. Why? Because they end up taking the same "role" as their nouns do. Adjectives much match their modified noun in case, number, and gender! This means if a noun is nominative, then the adjective that modifies it is also nominative. If a noun is plural, then its adjective(s) are also plural. If a noun is feminine, its adjectives are also feminine. This is why adjectives (of the First/Second) have three forms. They represent the nominative singular of each of the three genders!

  • Masculine, Feminine, and Neuter

Declining Adjectives

Fortunately, declining adjectives is extremely similar to declining nouns. The First/Second adjectives will decline like first and second nouns. The feminine part will decline like a first declension noun, the masculine will decline like the masculine second declension noun, and the neuter will decline like the neuter second declension noun. Here is a chart showing the nominative, genitive, and accusative forms.

Positive Degree2
Feminine Masculine Neuter
Nominative -a -us/r -um
Genitive -ae -i -i
Accusative -am -um -um
Nominative -ae -i -a
Genitive -arum -orum -orum
Accusative -as -os -a

For instance, let's say we want the accusative plural feminine form of the adjective bonus, -a, -um3. Like with nouns, we need to identify the stem. The stem is found by removing the ending of the genitive singular feminine part (the -ae). Then we attach the ending to the stem to achieve the form. For a noun such as bonus, we remove the -ae from bonae which gives the stem of bon-. Then, we apply the -as ending (accusative plural) to get "bonas".

Time to identify the case, number, and gender of the underlined adjectives. To identify these things, one must know the case, number, and gender of the noun the adjective modifies.

Sentence Answer Latin Equivalent
The boy loves the beautiful girl. Accusative Singular Feminine Puer puellam pulchram amat.
The man's absurd mind told him that he was evil. Nominative Singular Masculine Animus absurdus viri ei dixit eum malum fuisse.
The sad girls do not have boyfriends. Nominative Plural Feminine Puellae miserae amicos non habent.
The wisdom of the little boy is not developed. Genitive Singular Masculine Sapientia pueri parvi non explicatur.
We have strange dreams. Accusative Plural Neuter Somnia nova habemus.

Adjectives in Sentences

Now it is time to complicate the sentences. In reality, the sentence structure is still the same, however now we are adding a few words to give more information about the thought. Instead of saying, "The man has shoes," we can now say, "The happy man has many shoes." All it requires is the ability to place adjectives in the correct part of the sentence or identifying adjectives in Latin.

English to Latin

For this, we will want to translate "The happy man has many shoes" to Latin. The first thing you will want to do is determine the part of speech for each word (except articles4). If a word is an adjective, then you will want to also write down what noun it is modifying. If it is a noun, write down its number. This is done in the chart below.
Word Part of Speech
happy Adjective (describes "man")
man Noun (singular)
has Verb
many Adjective (describes "shoes")
shoes Noun (Plural)

In the best of all worlds, you won't need to do this every time you translate. With practice, this process should happen instantaneously and naturally as well. This is meant to get you into the good habit of knowing how to translate or how it happens.

Now we need to identify the necessary information for each word in order to determine the endings of their Latin correspondences. For nouns, we need their role in the sentence to determine case. For verbs, we need to know the voice, mood, tense, person (of the subject), and number (of the subject). For adjectives, all we need is what noun they modify and how the verb modifies the noun relative to the sentence (this gets into positive/comparative/superlative, but for now adjectives will all be positive). The chart below shows what we need.

Word Part of Speech Information
happy Adjective (describes "man") Positive
man Noun (singular) Subject (nominative)
has Verb Active, Indicative, Present, Third, Singular
many Adjective (describes "shoes") Positive
shoes Noun (Plural) Direct Object (accusative)

Now we need what Latin word corresponds with each of the words in the sentence. You do not need to decline or conjugate yet.

Word Part of Speech Information Latin
happy Adjective (describes "man") Positive Laetus
man Noun (singular) Subject (nominative) Vir
has Verb Active, Indicative, Present, Third, Singular Habere
many Adjective (describes "shoes") Positive Multus
shoes Noun (Plural) Direct Object (accusative) Calceus

Now that we have all of this, we can determine the endings of each of the words and arrange them into the sentence. Vir is nominative singular, so it retains its form. Laetus describes vir, so laetus also receives the nominative singular ending. Since vir is masculine, so will laetus be. Calceus is accusative plural, and it is masculine, so it will receive the -os ending. Multus describes calceus, so it too will have that ending and retain the masculine gender. Finally, habere is active indicative present third singular, and therefore it will have the -et ending to the common stem. The overall sentence is below:

  • Vir laetus calceos multos habet.

Latin to English

Now we want to translate "Femina pulchra cibum bonum videt". We practically tackle the sentence in the same way. We first need to identify the parts and what role they have in the sentence. The twist now is that you will need to know which words are nouns, which words are verbs, and which words are adjectives. This comes with the raw memorization of the words and their translations in English.

So first, let us identify each part of the sentence. You will want to begin training yourself to notice nouns and their respective adjectives by common endings. For instance, if a noun and an adjective have the same type of ending, in gender, case, and number, then those two more than likely go together5. We will group these together.

  • Femina pulchra cibum bonum videt.

Here, you can immediately see that we have grouped "Femina pulchra" as one group. This is because it is a noun and adjective associated by case, number, and gender. As the adjective does not match with any other noun in the sentence, we know with certainty that "pulchra" modifies "femina". Now we will translate the noun into English. "Femina" translates to "woman". Since it is nominative, then it is the subject. And since it takes the singular form, the English word will be singular. To complete this phrase, we will translate "pulchra" to its English equivalent, "beautiful". Therefore, we have a "Beautiful woman".

The next phrase is also a noun-adjective pair. Both are masculine, accusative, and singular. But wait, couldn't it be neuter, since neuter second declension nouns have the -um ending? We know that the phrase isn't neuter because the noun, "cibum", isn't neuter. Whether it was or not wouldn't make a difference in this sentence since it would still be accusative, but in other sentences it will be very important to know the gender of each noun. "Cibum" means "food" and is the direct object, and "bonum" means "good", and it modifies "food". So now we have "good food".

Finally, we have only the verb to translate now, and afterward we will arrange the minor translations into a coherent English sentence. The verb here is "videt", a form of "videre" meaning "to see". The verb is of the second conjugation, since its second principle part ends in -ere, and its first principle part ends in -eo. Therefore, we know that the ending of this verb, -et, is Active Indicative Present Third Singular. So something is seeing something else.

Finally, we rearrange the sentence into understandable English. The subject naturally comes first, and the direct object normally comes after the verb. The adjectives will come before their respective nouns they modify as to have the correct effect of modification in English. Therefore, our final sentence is this:

  • The beautiful woman sees good food.

With that, here are some sentences to try, along with suggested vocabulary.

Sentence Translation
Familiam tuam paro. I am preparing your family.
Puer parvus sapientiam magnam habet. The small boy has great wisdom.
They are happy. Laetus sunt.
Fate warns bad men. Fatum viros malos monet.

Suggested words:

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