I've just started learning 'Latin' on the internet, and there is something I just don't understand - but I'm sure there is an easy explanation:Hallais was further confused by the notion of a neuter gender, but then her native French allows of one more noun gender than English. That's a related issue, for which see Latin Gender.
certus, -a, -um - sure, fixed
What do the '-a' and -'um' represent? Do I use this to change 'certus' into a plural or feminine form?
Certus is the Nominative Singular Masculine form.
The masculine ending in certus is -us. The -a and -um are endings in the Nominative Singular for, respectively, the feminine and the neuter. You use the -a and -um instead of the masculine ending.
Certa is in the Nominative Singular Feminine. Note the -a ending.
Certum is in the Nominative Singular Neuter. Note the -um ending.
Not only do you need to know how to read the Latin adjectives when you come across them in a glossary or dictionary, but you should get in the habit of writing them that way, too, on your personal vocabulary lists, so you can easily distinguish adjectives from nouns.
There are 2 basic layouts for Latin adjectives in dictionaries. Both often have hyphens to indicate that something is attached at that spot. If they lack hyphens, they should still have commas. One form of Latin adjective has 2 hyphens as in certus, -a, -um (or just commas) and the other has only one.
2-Hyphen Adjectives (Adjectives of the 1st, 2nd, and some of the 3rd Declensions)
When you see an adjective listed with 2 hyphens (as in certus, -a, -um), it means that the non-hyphenated form is the Masculine Nominative Singular. The form includes the ending.
The second entry -- the one after the first hyphen or comma -- is the ending you attach for the feminine, and the third entry -- the one after the second hyphen -- is the ending you attach for the neuter.
Adjectives of the 1st and 2nd declension have the ending of
- -us or -er for the masculine,
- -a, for the feminine, and
- -um, for the neuter.
Remember, the masculine form already has its ending.
Dictionary entry: carus, -a, -um 'dear'
carus, a, um
- To form the masculine of this adjective, you use carus if the noun modified is nominative and singular.
- To form the feminine of this adjective, you use cara if the noun modified is nominative and singular.
- To form the neuter of this adjective, you use carum if the noun modified is nominative and singular.
- carus - the listed, complete form for the Masc. Sing. Nom.
- car + a = cara - the Fem. Sing. Nom.
- car + um = carum - the Neut. Sing. Nom.
1-Hyphen Adjectives (Some Adjectives of the 3rd Declension)
When you see an adjective with a comma, followed by an optional hyphen and an [e], the first, un-hyphenated form is the masculine AND feminine, while the hyphenated bit (-e) shows the ending to be attached to the stem when you want to form the Neuter Singular Nominative.
Dictionary entry: gravis, -e 'heavy'
- To form the masculine OR feminine of the adjective gravis you use gravis for the Nominative Singular.
- The Neuter Nominative Singular is grave.
- Incidentally, the Neuter Genitive Singular is gravis, like the masculine and feminine in either the Nominative or Genitive Singular.
- gravis - the listed, complete form for the Masculine or Feminine Singular Nominative
- grav + e = grave - Neuter Singular Nomominative
Latin FAQ Index
- Is Latin easy?
- What do the Latin tenses mean?
- Do you have any tips on memorizing endings?
- Where can I find a Latin translation of...?
- In Latin, how do you say "I used to go"? "Fearless and determined"? "Thank you"?
- What is the correct Latin for "deus lo vult"?
- What is the plural of virus?
- Why does the neuter nominative and accusative plural match the nominative feminine singular?
- Are our borrowed words from French or Latin?