Latin is an inflected language. That means that the endings of the words change to change the function of that word in a sentence. English is slightly inflected (mainly pronouns).
The dog chases the cat.
The cat chases the dog.
Both English sentences contain the exact same five words, yet the sentences are complete opposites. In English, the word order conveys the thought. The subject, which performs the action, comes first. Then, the verb is next, followed by the direct object or receiver of the action. English is a word order based language. Latin is not. The word order in a Latin sentence does not effect the function of the words in the sentence. The endings do. The use of endings is governed by the following section.
Nouns can do several jobs in a sentence.
- subject -who or what the sentences is about
- direct object - receives the action of the verb
- indirect object - answers to whom or for whom
- possessive - shows ownership
- direct address
- appositive - renames the noun it immediately follows
- object of the preposition - noun that occurs right after a prep
- predicate nominative - follows a linking verb and renames the
All nouns in Latin and in English have three characteristics.
I. Gender - whether a noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter. This is important in Romance languages because adjectives have to "agree" with the nouns they modify in gender. We will discuss more of this later. Most nouns in English are neuter. Most nouns in other languages are not.
II. Case - tells the function of a noun in a sentence. i.e., whether the noun is the subject, direct object, indirect object, object of a preposition, etc.
III. Number - how many? Singular is one. Plural is more than one.