Adjectives are descriptive words which attach themselves to nouns and
tell us something more about their nature. All adjectives are in form really
nouns, that is they have the same endings as nouns by and large, and they
fall into two classes:
Class I: Adjectives based on Declensions I and II
CLASS: Adjective 1 Declension, Fem. "good" SINGULAR PLURAL Nominative bona bonae Genitive bonae bonarum Dative bonae bonis Accusative bonam bonas Ablative bona. bonis
CLASS: Adjective 1I Declension, Masc. "good" SINGULAR PLURAL Nominative bonus boni Genitive boni bonorum Dative bono bonis Accusative bonum bonos Ablative bono bonis
CLASS: Adjective II Declension, Neut. "good" SINGULAR PLURAL Nominative bonum bona Genitive . . Dative . . Accusative bonum bona Ablative . .(The unlisted neuter forms are exactly the same as the Masc.)
CLASS: ADJECTIVE III Declension, "brave" SINGULAR PLURAL Nominative fortis (forte) fortes (fortia) Genitive fortis fortium Dative forti fortibus Accusative fortem (forte) fortes (fortia) Ablative forte fortibus(The bracketed forms are neuters, the others are Masc.= Fem.)
CLASS: Adjective III Declension, "headlong..." SINGULAR PLURAL Nominative praeceps (praeceps) praecipites (-ia) Genitive praecipitis praecipitum Dative praecipiti praecipitibus Accusative praecipitem (praeceps) praecipites )-ia) Ablative praecipite praecipitibus
CLASS: Adjective III Declension, "old" SINGULAR PLURAL Nominative vetus (vetus) veteres (vetera) Genitive veteris veterum Dative veteri veteribus Accusative veterem (vetus) veteres (vetera) Ablative vetere veteribusYou will note immediately that in Class III one form covers both masculine and feminine. Many of these forms also apply to the neuter, with the exception of the subject/object singular subject/object and plural, which have separate forms, just as in noun Class II b. And again Dative and Ablative plurals are always the same, and no vocatives exist anywhere here.
A few more things remain to be said about adjectives in general:
They can precede their noun, or follow it, or be separated by a distance of many words, since tagged Latin words are generally easily identified aside from word order. Therefore we can say that Latin has a fairly free word order. This confers a freedom and beauty on the art of writing poetry, where inversions and artistic separations are pretty much a standard practice. A line of verse can have artistic form as well as artistic meaning.
Any adjective, if used without a noun to attach itself to, can be considered a noun in its own right. So vir bonus or VB on Roman electioneering posters, "good man" a standard term in politics, can be reduced to bonus, which is now a noun. And fortis "brave", an adjective, by itself means "a brave man". This is not commonly found in English so you will have to watch carefully. But "the meek" (as a noun) may still inherit the earth!
A cardinal rule which governs every Latin sentence, is that:
Everything must agree with everything else in every possible way.
This has no direct relevance to the structure of Roman society, although it certainly sounds that way. It might be more typically American ! Certainly language and society exhibit parallel features, as the American linguist Whorf noted thirty years ago. But back to grammatical agreement...:
Rules for grammatical agreement:
(A sharp eye might notice that in the phrase Marce Tulli, something is wrong, because it might well have been Marce Tullie. A subrule states that masculine names in -ius have a Vocative ending simply in -i, probably as a condensation of a historical *Tulli-e which does not occur.)
I mention the above example here to advise you that I am not going to
note unusual exceptions and rare forms for you at this stage of our introduction.
We are trying to get the general features firmly grasped, and you can learn
the exceptions later. You will find a list of all the exceptions you are
likely to find in a standard grammar (Allen & Greenough...). Remember
that although Latin is by and large standardized (although it can seem
irregular) there are many exceptions to rules which are in themselves the
rule in early Latin, common parlance Latin , Vulgar Latin (which is not
"vulgar"), Church Latin, Medieval Latin, Scholastic Latin, and even Renaissance
Latin. It is no surprise to find the Perfect "davit" for dedit in a late
The "Grades" of Adjectives
Adjectives have three grades (this scaling is called the Comparison of Adjectives traditionally), as follows:
1) The base or regular adjectival form, which we have been discussing above.
2) The "comparing" stage, which is similar to English "more" when there is something real or implied to compare the word to, i.e. "this tree is taller than that". But it is important to note that if no comparison is present, this form is like English "rather...", this "this tree is rather tall....". It is this second use (without comparison) which confuses the student most.
In form this class follows class II Adjectives, with no distinction between masculine and feminine forms (on the left in the following examples), while neuter endings are in brackets.
Note that the Acc. Pl. always ends in -es ( but Decl. III nouns have alternate forms: long -is/es).
CLASS: Comparative adj. "braver", SINGULAR PLURAL Nominative fortior (-ius) fortiores (-iora) Genitive fortioris fortiorum Dative fortiori fortioribus Accusative fortiorem (-ius) fortiores (-iora) Ablative fortiore fortioribusIn this case the comparative forms are based on the regular word-stem, fort- .
CLASS: Comparative Adj. "good/better" bonus melior SINGULAR PLURAL Nominative melior (-ius) meliores (-iora) Genitive melioris meliorum Dative meliori melioribus Accusative meliorem (-ius) meliores (-iora) Ablative meliore. melioribusBut in this case, as often in commonly used words, the comparative is based on entirely different stem, in fact it is a different word "suppleted" to go into that linguistic space. This should be no surprise to speakers of English who are well accustomed to "good/better", let along "go/went" and many other similar oddities.
There is a group of quite common words which are irregular, and which you will have to learn by experience as you read. Who could ever guess that "good, better, best" would be in Latin bonus....melior....optimus...? (But look back at the English... good/better).
A list of the most commonly seen comparatives (with the superlatives, discussed below) is:
bonus melior optimus malus peior pessimus magnus maior maximus parvus minor minimus multus plus plurimus multi plures plurimi (of persons) nequam (indecl.) nequior nequissimus frugi (indecl.) frugior frugissimusA few words are found in Comparative and Superlative without a "positive", namely:
3) The "most" stage, somewhat gaudily titled the "superlative" in traditional-ese grammar, is much easier to deal with since it is quite regular in its forms:
In form it regularly follows class I Fem. and II Masc/Neut. Adjectives:
From "spissus" 'thick' we make up our "most" form by adding -issimus, and then derive up the rest of the grammatical forms according to Class I/II Adjectival procedure:
gratissimus gratissima gratissimum etc etc etcThere are, however, some phonetic changes which took place presumably for ease of pronunciation, and we have :
celer "quick" but celerrimus for *celerissimusfacilis "easy" but facillimus for *facilissimus
Once you are aware of this change, you can probably recognize most of the altered forms, but again there are the real irregulars, which may even substitute a different root in this form.
bonus melior optimus malus peior pessimus magnus maior maximus parvus minor minimus multus plus plurimus multi plures plurimi (of persons) nequam (indecl.) nequior nequissimus frugi (indecl.) frugior frugissimus
Adverbs are basically adjectival forms which are matched up with verbs, rather than nouns. They "modify", that is, they explain and further develop a verbal concept, hence they "go with" the verb and were so named by the Roman grammarians: pro + verbum "near or beside the verb", a neat term in fact. But adverbs do not grammatically agree with the verb they match, nor are they fused on so as to become one word with the verb. Adverbs have one, fixed form, hence they are easy to deal with for an English speaker, since they are analogous to English adverbs, which also have a single, fixed form. Adverbs are listed in the dictionaries as "undecl." or undeclined, fixed forms.
1) The most common class of adverbs ends in -e, and is derived from Decl. I/II Adjectival formation:
Beside the Adjective bellus bella bellum "pretty" we have the Adv. belle "nicely, cutely"
(This last word "bell-" is not the word for "war", which is identical. Latin has the same identity problems as every language, cf. English lead (the verb form: to lead etc.) as well as lead "plumbum, the metallic element". )
Beside bona bonus bonum we would expect bone, but we get bene, the vowel phonetically shifted by use. But the basic rule stands: Adjectives in "-us -a, -um" make an adverb in -e, and this includes the "most" m or Superlative grade in -issimus -a -um, which make adverbs by the same rule: -issime. "most....-ly"
2) Adjectives which normally occur in our Class II Adjectives (like Class III nouns) regularly take the ending -ter, which makes an adverb just as well, and with no difference in meaning from the above.
So fortis "brave" gives fortiter "bravely". This class is common and pretty regular, no special problems
3) But if you want to make an adverb from a "more" (comparative) adjectival form, you don't use this -ter ending, but use instead the comparative neuter form just as it stands.
So from the grade normal adj. tristis "sad", you make the "more" comparative up as tristior "sadder or rather sad", and then the adverb will be the same as the neuter singular in -ius:
tristius "rather sadly, or more sadly".But this can also be a straight neuter adjectival form going with some neuter noun in the sentence, so in reading you might consider both options. Authors, then as now, are usually conscious of ambivalencies, and common sense usually cuts the Gordian knot.
4) Adjectives in the "most" or superlative grade will always be of the Class I /II Adjectives with -a -us -um endings, whether regular or irregular and so will use the simple and easily recognizable Adverb ending -e, used in the first group listed above. The root and the appearance of the word may change but the ending will just as you expect: -e.
5) Within the formal class of adverbs is a bagful of words which are
just plain root-words with no formal tag ending. One might mention cras
"tomorrow", mane "early in the AM", tot "so many", as well as the sentence
connectors enim "indeed." quippe "to be sure (sarcastic)", autem "on the
other hand" and many more. You look each up in a dictionary, each is a
word with a meaning, and that's all there is to it.
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© Zdravko Batzarov