The third declension is the big one
The first declension was brought to you by the letter "a," which was usually visible. The second was sponsored by the letter "o," which was not. The "o" was absorbed by the endings except in things like puero or puerorum. The other 21 letters give you the third declension, which gives an idea of its importance. Some people assert that the letter "u" gives the fourth declension, and "e" the fifth, but this is superfluous for our purposes. For us, these will be just special cases of the third declension, as they really are.
Decline fraus, fraudis (fraud, feminine) We have already used pumex, pumicis (pumice) which happens to be hermaphroditic - you can make it either masculine or feminine. Canis, canis (dog) can also be masculine or feminine; it depends on the dog.
The nominative singular typically ends in s, often in the form of x. The -um is genitive plural (compare -arum and -orum), and the very memorable -ibus is dative and ablative plural. Decline pes, pedis (foot). This gives us the useful case pedibus, meaning on or by foot. When somebody asks you how you came, reply in Latin: pedibus! The ablative case by itself, without any preposition, tells how or with what something was done. How would you say: the man kills the bear with a knife? Answer: vir ursum cultro necit. The fact that culter is there in the ablative says that it was used for the deed.
One very useful class of feminine nouns ends in -io, -ionis. For example, natio, nationis (birth). This is a special case of nouns ending in -o, which are masculine unless they end in -io, -do, or -go, however: try leo, leonis (lion), or homo, hominis (human being), which are masculine. Homo does't mean a male specifically; it is used when sex is not an issue. Mulier, mulieris (f) is the feminine counterpart of vir, viri, which do mean "woman" and "man". There are many variations and exceptions in the third declension, but recognition of the case is usually not too difficult. For example, titio, titionis (firebrand) is masculine, not feminine as you might expect. You might find this word amusing to use.
There is a rule, not a very strict one, that nouns with the same number of syllables in nominative and genitive have -ium in the genitive plural, while those that have an additional syllable in the genitive have -um. collis, collis (m, hill), for example, has collium. canis, canis (m, dog), panis, panis (m, bread), however, have -um. animal, animalis (n, living being) is just like mare, except that it has -ium. Confusing? Sometimes even Romans didn't know whether to use -um or -ium! All these nouns can be considered as having a stem ending in -i, which is why "i" is so popular with them. Note also that the ablative singular ends in -i, not -e, for such nouns. The nouns in -is, -is, which are numerous, are never neuter.
|case||m & f||neut||m & f||neut|
Try to express latine (ablative; "with latin"): the happy (felix) farmer loves the faithful (fidelis) dog. This is: tama menac meledif aliocirga xileF. The Latin is written backwards so you have a chance to make up a sentence without being prompted by the answer.
As they give rise to different declensions in nouns, different stem vowels give rise to different conjugations in verbs. The long e gives us the second conjugation, which is just like the first. Examples are timeo (fear), teneo (hold), habeo (have), video (see), maneo (remain, stay), moveo (move), debeo (owe), doleo (grieve, suffer), terreo (frighten), augeo (increase), doceo (teach) and moneo (warn). Note how many cognates you can find in English to help you remember these verbs! They go timeo, times, timet, etc. They all have infinitives ending in -ere where the first e is long, and remains as a short e when the endings are added. They are conjugated like the first conjugation. This is not a very big bunch of words, but it's convenient to introduce them here. Write: the small farmer fears the large bear. musru mungam temit alocriga suvraP. Backwards Latin is easy to say, it seems!
Habeo and teneo both mean "have, hold", but the first is more figurative, the latter more concrete. Habeo is not a helping verb in Latin that can make past tenses when combined with the past participle, nor does it imply necessity or compulsion. There are better ways to say both these things. In Spanish, teneo has come to mean "have, hold" while habeo is used exclusively as a helping verb, and no longer means to have or hold. In English, "to have" is used in both ways.
Here is a quote from Terence, the early poet and playwright: auribus teneo lupum. You may be able to figure this one out with no help; it's not because its so easy, it's because you are already learning some Latin. Auris, auris (f) is ear, of course. What does the case imply?
Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 24 June 1999
Last revised 2 January 2005