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Predicate Nouns and Adjectives

"Linking Verbs" in Latin

The "predicate" of a sentence strictly speaking means the part of a sentence that is not about the subject. The idea is that every sentence has a subject, and makes a declaration (a "predication") about the subject.

The phrase "predicate" is used more loosely to refer to the way that there can be nouns and adjectives that refer back to the subject of the sentence, but which are not technically the subject of the sentence.

  • Nero was the ruler of Rome.
    Subject: Nero
    Verb: was
    Predicate: the ruler of Rome
  • Autumn days get shorter and shorter.
    : Autumn days
    Verb: get (this is not the transitive verb "get the money, get the book" - it is intransitive)
    Predicate: shorter and shorter

In Latin, it is important to understand that predicate nouns and adjectives be in the same case as the subject. Usually this means that predicate nouns and adjectives are in the nominative case, because this is usually the case for the subject in the Latin sentence. But you know that the subject of an infinitive is in accusative case, which means that predicate nouns and adjectives are in the accusative case when the verb is an infinitive.

  • Nero imperator Romanus fuit.
    Subject: Nero
    Verb: fuit
    Predicate: imperator Romanus
  • Credo Neronem imperatorem Romanum fuisse.
    Subject of main verb: (ego)
    Main verb: credo
    Second verb: fuisse
    Subject of second verb: Neronem
    Predicate: imperatorem Romanum

You need to be able to recognize what kinds of verbs can introduce predicate nouns and adjectives in Latin. There are a number of different verbs of being and becoming which will introduce predicate nouns and adjectives. Latin also uses a number of passive verbs, like videor, which introduce predicate nouns and adjectives. The predicate is underlined in these sentences. Notice that the predicate often comes before the verb in Latin. This can be hard for English-speakers to get used to!

  • sum. Marcus amicus meus est.
  • sum. Amici tui stulti sunt.
  • fio. Frater meus felix factus est.
  • fio. Factus sum miles.
  • fio. Facta sum mulier.
  • videor. Samson confusus videtur.
  • videor. Cornelia mulier sapiens videtur.

Predicate Adjectives Used Adverbially

Latin is a language that is very poor in adverbs, but it uses predicate adjectives in a very creative way in order to do "adverbial" things. Here's an example:

Marcus felix dormit.
Marcus sleeps happy. -> Marcus sleeps happily.

It is very important to understand the subject and predicate of this sentence in order to translate it correctly:

  • Marcus felix dormit.
    Marcus sleeps happily.
    Subject: Marcus
    Verb/Predicate: felix dormit.
  • Rex sapiens regnat.
    The king rules wisely.
    Subject: Rex
    Verb/Predicate: sapiens regnat.

As English speakers, it is really easy to get confused about sentences like this, because we almost never use predicate adjectives in this way. It is a very common usage in Latin!

Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM