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images from ms. of De civitate Dei
image of from the Bayeux tapestry
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Grammar: Pronouns

There is probably no other grammar topic that gives students more trouble than pronouns. It is really more of a vocabulary problem than a grammar problem. Yet it is a special kind of vocabulary problem, simply because many of the Latin pronouns do not have an equivalent word in English. If you study your Latin vocabulary just by putting together Latin words with English translations, the pronouns are always going to give you trouble.

And the pronouns are EVERYWHERE in Latin. It is very important to be able to take the pronouns as they come! I've known some students who just skip any word that has a "qu-" in it, because it is just "one of those quis words...!" Believe me, you will get very lost if you do that. Pronouns are used exactly because they fulfill a vital function in the sentence: they provide a reminder -- with gender, case, and number -- of the person, place or thing that is being talked about.

All the students in this class probably learned Latin from different first-year textbooks, and the pronouns were probably presented in a different order in each of these books. What you should do this week is go through your old Latin textbook and take a look at the sections or chapters about pronouns. You need to make sure that you feel comfortable and confident with these different pronouns and their many different forms (masculine, neuter and feminine; singular and plural; nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative).

Below you will find a list of the pronouns that you should know and feel comfortable with, along with some hints to help you understand how the pronoun system is put together in Latin.

Personal Pronouns: There are first person pronouns ("I" and "we") and second person pronouns ("you"). There is no true third person pronoun ("he"). For the third person, you choose from the demonstrative pronouns.

  • EGO - NOS: first person, "I" and "we"
  • TU - VOS: second person, "you"

Demonstrative Pronouns: These pronouns can be used both as nouns and as adjectives.

  • IS - EA - ID: weakest of the pronouns, no special connotations - this is the one most commonly used as a personal pronoun
  • HIC - HAEC - HOC: something close, near
  • ILLE - ILLA - ILLUD: something remote, far
  • ISTE - ISTA - ISTUD: not near, not far (sometimes implies contempt)
  • IPSE - IPSA - IPSUM: intensive, used for emphasis (id ipsum! that very thing!)

Reflexive Pronoun: Refers back to the third-person subject of the main verb

  • SE: (no nominative form, since by definition it cannot appear in the nominative case)

Relative Pronoun: Agrees with the noun it refers back to (antecedent) in gender and number, but it takes its grammatical case from the function it has in its own clause (interfecerunt eum, qui me amabat - they killed the man who loved me: eum is masculine singular accusative, object of interfecerunt, but qui is masculine singular nominative, subject of amabat)

  • QUI - QUAE - QUOD: who, which (that)

Interrogative Pronoun: Used to ask a question.

  • QUIS - QUID: who, what

Compound Pronouns:

These pronouns contain a pronoun-root (based on quis or is), combined with another word that does not change. Be sure to look up the declension of these pronouns if you are not sure how this works.

  • QUIQUE = QUIS + QUE. "each, everybody" - the quis part changes, but the que part stays the same.
  • QUICUMQUE = QUIS + CUMQUE. "whoever" - the quis part changes, but the cumque part stays the same.
  • QUIVIS = QUIS + VIS. "any one you will, whoever" - the quis part changes, but the vis part stays the same.
  • QUILIBET = QUIS + LIBET. "any one you want, whoever" - the quis part changes, but the libet part stays the same.
  • ALIQUIS = ALI + QUIS. "somebody" - - the quis part changes, but the ali part stays the same.
  • QUIDAM = QUIS + DAM. "a certain one" - the quis part changes, but the dam part stays the same.
  • IDEM = IS + DEM. "the same" - - the is part changes, but the dem part stays the same.

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