A Guide to Latin Personal Pronouns

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A pronoun stands in for a noun. A personal pronoun works like a noun in one of the 3 persons, which are, predictably, numbered 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. In Latin, nouns, pronouns, and adjectives are declined: endings signify the specific use of the pronouns in the sentence. These uses and endings are the "cases." Commonly, there are nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative cases.

Latin Personal Pronouns in the Subject or Nominative Case

Subject or Nominative Case pronouns function as the subject of a sentence. (The subject is the word in the sentence that "does" the verb.) Here are the English subject pronouns followed by the Latin nominative pronouns.

  • I - Ego
  • You - Tu
  • He/She/It - Is/Ea/Id
  • We - Nos
  • You - Vos
  • They - Ei

Oblique Case Pronouns: Genitive Case

The oblique cases are the cases that are not nominative/subject. One of these is familiar with English pronouns. This familiar case is the possessive or Genitive Case, as it is called in reference to Latin. The English determiner "my" is a possessive. The English pronouns "mine", "ours", "yours", and "his/her/its" are possessive pronouns.

Other oblique cases are the direct object (Accusative Case in Latin) and the prepositional cases (in English).

Accusative Case

The Accusative Case is used as the direct object of a sentence or the object of a preposition. Not all Latin prepositions take the Accusative Case. Some prepositions take other cases.

Dative Case

The Dative Case is the equivalent of the English indirect object case. The indirect object is used in English when a verb takes 2 objects: one is acted upon (the direct object/Accusative Case) and one receives the object (the indirect object/Dative Case). (Subject does direct object to indirect object [example below].) You can generally spot the indirect object easily in English because the prepositions "to" and "for" precede it*. In Latin, there are no propositions for the Dative Case.

He gave the letter to you (Epistulam tibi donavit.)
He = Subject/Nominative Case
To You = Indirect Object/Dative Case = tibi
The Letter = Direct Object/Accusative Case
Doing it all with pronouns:
He gave it to you. (Id tibi donavit)**
He = Subject/Nominative Case
It = Direct Object/Accusative Case = id
To You = Indirect Object/Dative Case = tibi

Besides the Dative Case for the indirect object, where the English preposition is spelled out ("to" or "for"), there are other prepositional cases.

Ablative Case

The Ablative Case is used with a wide variety of propositions, including "with" and "by." Like the Dative Case, the prepositions are sometimes implied in Latin, rather than written out. The case that is used for the direct object — which you'll remember is called the Accusative Case — is also used with some prepositions. Some prepositions take either the Ablative or the Accusative Case, depending on the meaning.

Note: Not all instances of the prepositions "to" and "for" in English signify the indirect object.

The subject personal pronoun is not spelled out but is included in the information from the verb, which tells you person, number, voice, mood, aspect, and tense. You could say Ille id tibi donavit if the "he" in question were important.

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Gill, N.S. "A Guide to Latin Personal Pronouns." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/latin-personal-pronouns-p2-112185. Gill, N.S. (2023, April 5). A Guide to Latin Personal Pronouns. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/latin-personal-pronouns-p2-112185 Gill, N.S. "A Guide to Latin Personal Pronouns." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/latin-personal-pronouns-p2-112185 (accessed June 8, 2023).