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Latin Grammar I (2009), Lesson 05. Gender of Nouns

In this lesson, you will study the accidents of nouns. You will learn to name the eight accidents and to define and identify noun gender and number. You must complete the following assignments for this lesson:

  1. Study Grammar Rules 21-25 below. All rules must be mastered and known by memory.
  2. Study the Lessons as you learn the rules.
  3. Complete the Lesson Exercises after studying the Lessons.
  4. Complete the Lesson Examination and submit your answers to your instructor.

Grammar Rules 21-25

  1. How many things happen to a Noun Substantive?
    Six things happen to a Noun Substantive: Gender, Number, Case, Declension, Figure and Kind.
  2. What is Gender?
    Gender is a certain distinction of sex.
  3. How many genders are there?
    There are five genders:
    1. the Masculine, before which is commonly put the pronoun hic, as hic dominus, a Lord;
    2. the Feminine, before which is put haec , as haec ancilla, a handmaiden;
    3. the Neuter, before which is commonly put the pronoun hoc, as hoc mancipium, a servant;
    4. the Common-of-Two, before which is put both hic et haec, as hic et haec parens, a parent;
    5. the Common-of-Three, before which is put hic, haec et hoc, as: hic, haec and hoc prudens, a wise person or thing. This gender belongs only to Noun Adjectives.
  4. What is Number?
    Number is a note of quantity or multitude.
  5. How many numbers are there?
    Two: Singular, which signifies one thing, as: puer, boy; Plural, which signifies many things, as: pueri, boys.


The following lessons are to be studied separately as you work through each grammar rule. The lessons should be thoroughly understood and studied for the lesson examination.

  1. [Rule 21] It would be good at this point to review. So far we have learned that there are eight parts of speech. We then began the study of the first part of speech: Nouns. Then, we learned the two sorts of nouns: Substantive and Adjective, along with the two kinds of substantives: Common and Proper. In this lesson we learn the Accidents or “things that happen to nouns”.
  2. [Rules 22-23] In English, we usually think of three basic genders: Masculine, Feminine and Neuter. Male people and animals are said to be masculine. Female people and animals are feminine. “Things” (trees, rocks, cars, etc.) are generally considered to be neuter in English.

There are, however, substantive nouns that may be masculine or feminine, such as “parent” or “chicken”. These nouns are said to be “Common-of-Two”.

There are also nouns, that may be masculine, feminine or neuter! For example, the noun adjective “wise” has no gender of its own. The gender of an adjective is taken from the gender of the substantive noun it stands next to. If we are speaking of “a wise man”, then wise is masculine. If we speak of “a wise woman”, then wise is feminine. If we speak of “a wise morning”, then wise is neuter. Thus, noun adjectives may be masculine, feminine or neuter and we call this “Common-of-Three”. This is why, at the end of rule 23 we read, “This gender belongs only to Noun Adjectives.”

  1. [Rule 23] In classical languages, gender is much more complicated than in English. “Things” are not necessarily neuter, but may be masculine or feminine. For example, in Latin the word arbor (tree) is feminine and the word gladius (sword) is masculine. We will learn the rules for noun genders in Grammar II. For now, you’ll have to just memorize the gender of nouns as you learn them. What’s important to understand now is that gender in Latin is more complicated than gender in English.

If you remember back to the first reading in John (Lesson 02), you learned that the word hoc means “this”, as in hoc erat in principio apud Deum. (John 1:2). This word is a pronoun that is used as a symbol to mark genders in Latin. The masculine form of the pronoun is hic. The feminine form is haec. The neuter form is hoc. So, if we see a word written Hoc verbum, hoc shows us that verbum is neuter. Hic deus shows us that deus is masculine. Haec vita shows us that vita is feminine.

When a noun is of the “Common-of-Two” gender, we use both hic and haec to mark its gender. For example, parens (parent) can be written as hic parens if the parent is a male (the father) or haec parens if the parent is a female (the mother). The gender of the noun parens is said to be “common-of-two”. The noun can masculine or feminine in gender.

Since noun adjectives are “Common-of-Three”, they may be either masculine, feminine or neuter. For example, prudens means “wise”. Hic prudens means a masculine wise thing. Haec prudens means a feminine wise thing. Hoc prudens means a neuter wise thing. The gender of prudens is “common-of-three” because it depends on the gender of the noun substantive.

  1. [Rules 24-25] We already understand Number from everyday speech. We say “thing” for one and “things” for more than one. “Thing” is singular. “Things” is plural. Just as the “-s” on the end of an English word is a “note of quantity or multitude”, so in classical languages there are forms that show a noun to be singular or plural.

In the example, puer refers to one boy. The “-i” added to puer shows that pueri is plural. There are a few different ways to show that a Latin or Greek noun is singular or plural, but we will learn that later. Right now, all you need to understand is the idea of singular and plural, which is pretty simple.

Lesson Exercises

The following quizzes are intended to help you master the Grammar studied thus far. You may use your notes to take these exams, but the goal is to complete them easily and perfectly without any help. You may take these quizzes as many times as you wish.

  • Quiz 01 Substantive & Adjective Review
  • Quiz 02 Proper & Common Noun Review
  • Quiz 03 Noun Genders Quiz
  • Quiz 04 Noun Numbers Quiz
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