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Lesson 07. Noun Cases

You must complete the following assignments for this lesson:

  1. Read through the Memory Work below.
  2. Begin Memory Work.
  3. Read through the entire lesson once.
  4. Study the lesson as you work through the memory work.
  5. Complete the Lesson Assessment.

Lesson

In our readings, we have seen words in different forms, like Deus, Deum and Deo, or homo and hominem. We don’t yet know what these different forms mean. In this lesson we will begin to learn about the meanings of different forms of words.

Let’s consider a bit of basic Grammar. Every sentence consists of two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is who or what the sentence is about. The predicate is what the sentence says about the subject. For example:

Fuit homo missus a Deo.

Think of the English meaning of this sentence. What is this sentence about? It is about homo, a man. Homo is the subject. What does the sentence say about the man? The sentence says: Fuit missus a Deo, or in English, “[he] was sent by God.” This is the predicate.

In a predicate we will normally find an object. The action of a verb in a predicate passes onto one or more objects. The object may be a direct object or an indirect object. For example:

Deus dat dona hominibus.
God gives gifts to men.

In this sentence, the subject is Deus. The sentence says that Deus dat (God gives). God must give something and that something is the direct object–the object onto which the action of the verb directly passes. In this sentence the direct object is dona (gifts). Finally, God must give the gifts to another object and that is the indirect object–the object onto which the action of the verb indirectly passes. In this sentence the indirect object is hominibus (to men). In other words, the action of God’s giving passes onto the gifts directly, and as a result onto men indirectly. The gifts are the direct object of God’s giving and men are the indirect objects.

We will stop here for now. We will learn about these details through most of Grammar I and how sentences work in Grammar II. Make sure that you now understand these simple concepts: subjects, predicates, direct objects and indirect objects. That’s all that matters now.

2. [Rule 26] Understanding the word case requires some background. In philosophy, we will learn to think of things as “essential” or “accidental”. An “essential” is a characteristic that makes a thing what it is. For example, having a likeness to God is essential to a human being. This characteristic distinguishes him from all other creatures. Being tall or short, blue or brown-eyed, thin or fat, African or French are not essential to being a human being, but only accidental. Being round is essential to a ball, but being blue or red, plastic or leather, large or small are all accidental.

When we discuss nouns, we find that some things are essential to a noun and some things are accidental. Nouns have different forms, one of which is the nominative or essential form. The other forms are called “cases” or accidental forms of a word. The essential form is the nominative form because it is the form we use to simply name something. If we look at a dog and say “dog”, we use the nominative case. If a bone belongs to a dog, we say it is the “dog’s” bone. Here we use a different case of the word “dog”. The ending is not essential to this word, but accidental to it. If there are more than one dog we say “dogs” with an added “s”. This form is not essential to the noun, but is a “case” or accidental form of it. “Dog” is the essential form and this is how Latin nouns work as well.

The word “case” means a form of something that is different from its essential form. If a person is sick, a doctor may say that he has “a case of the flu”. The reason the doctor says this is because the flu may not look the same in every person. Two people may have the essential symptoms of the flu, but they may also have different accidental symptoms that are related to the flu, but not essential to it. In Grammar, the “cases” of nouns have the essential part of the noun in them, but they also have accidental parts that may differ. This is why in the definition of the nominative case we read that it “is not a case in the singular number”. The singular nominative form is the essential form, not a “case” or accidental form.

We’ll discuss declension in detail in Lesson 09. You should simply make sure that you understand what a “case” is at this time–and that the Nominative singular form is not really a case, but the essential form of a noun. We refer to it as a case just to make things simple.

3. [Rule 27] Taking a look at the names of the cases will help you to remember their uses. Nominative comes from the Latin word nomen, which means “name”. It is the form we use to name things. Genitive comes from the word genere, which means “to give birth”. The Genitive case is used to show the place where a thing came from or its source. Dative comes from dare, which means “to give”. The Dative case is used to show to whom something is done or given. Accusative comes from the Latin word accusare which means “to bring action upon or against a thing”. The Accusative case is used to show that an object is being acted upon. Vocative comes from the Latin word vocare, which means “to call”. The Vocative case is used when a thing is being called or spoken to. Lastly, Ablative comes from ablatus, which means “taken away”. The Ablative case is used to show that something is taken away from something else, but it is also used with many prepositions. Understanding the meaning of the names of the cases helps us to remember their uses.

Nominative Case

The Nominative case is used to name any object, or to name the subject of a sentence–what the speaker is speaking about. It answers the question Who? or What?. For example, consider the sentence:

Verbum erat apud Deum.

Who or what is this sentence about? It is about Verbum. Verbum is the subject of the sentence and is in the Nominative case. Find the subject of the following three sentences:

Lux in tenebris lucet.
Fuit homo missus a Deo.
Mundus eum non cognovit.

In the first sentence, if we ask “Who or What?”, the answer is “lux”. In the second sentence it is “homo”. In the third sentence it is “mundus”. These nouns name the subjects of these sentences and they are all in the Nominative case.

Genitive Case

The Genitive case denotes the place where a thing came from, or its source. It answers the question “Whose?” or “Whereof?”. For example, consider the sentence:

Vita erat lux hominum.

Look at the word “lux”, which means “light”. Whose or whereof is the light? It is the light “hominum” (of men) and this is a noun in the Genitive case because it shows whose the light is.

Dative Case

The Dative case denotes something done, attributed or given to anyone. It answers the question “To whom?” or “To what?”. For example, consider the sentence:

Fuit homo missus a Deo cui nomen erat Iohannes.

We learned that the word cui meant, “for whom” and refers to John. Cui is in the Dative case because by it we attribute the name to the man.

Accusative Case

The Accusative case is used to show that the action of a verb is passing upon a person or thing. For example, consider the sentence:

Erat lux vera quae inluminat omnem hominem.

In English, this sentence reads, “He was the true light which illuminates every man.” In this sentence, “he” is the subject. Look at the words omnem hominem, which together mean “every man”. They are in the Accusative case. The action of the verb inluminat passes onto omnem hominem, which is why they are in the accusative case. They answer to the question “Whom does the light illuminate?” The light illuminates omnem hominem.

Vocative Case

The Vocative case is used to show that a person or thing is being called or spoken to. For example, consider the sentence (Psalm 5:4):

Ad te orabo, Domine.
To you I will pray, O Lord.

In this sentence, David is speaking to the Lord in prayer. “Domine” is in the Vocative case, because David is calling on or speaking to the Lord. In English, we often use the sign “O” to show that a person or thing is being spoken to–“O Lord”.

Ablative Case

The Ablative case is used to show that something is the source of another thing. For example, consider the sentence:

Fuit homo missus a Deo cui nomen erat Iohannes.

In this sentence we read that there was a man sent “a Deo“. The small word “a” is a preposition that means “from”, but “Deo” is the source. John was sent by or from God. Therefore, Deo is in the Ablative case.

The Ablative case is also used with many prepositions, for example:

Non erat ille lux, sed ut tesimonium perhiberet de lumine.
In mundo erat.
Sine ipso factum est nihil quod factum est.

Each of the underlined words above follows a preposition and is in the Ablative case.

Conclusion

This lesson contains a great deal of information and you should study it very carefully. We will review all of this later in Lesson 21. When we understand the cases of nouns, we will be able to begin reading not by memorizing the English meanings in prelections, but by using our knowledge of the forms to translate the Latin sentences without any help. We are just getting started in this study in this lesson, so don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult.

Memory Work

  1. (Review). 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 a Case?
    A case is the changing of terminations in declining.
  3. How many cases are there?
    There are six cases:
    1. the Nominative, by which we name a thing. This answers to the questions ‘Who?’ or ‘What?’. The Nominative case is used to mark a subject. Note: The Nominative Case is not truly a “case” in the singular number. See lesson explanation for details.
    2. the Genitive, which signifies whose anything is, or to whom it pertains. This answers to the questions ‘Whose?’ or ‘Whereof?’
    3. the Dative, by which we attribute some thing to any one. This answers the questions, ‘To whom?’ or ‘To what?’. The Dative case is used to mark an indirect object.
    4. the Accusative, which follows an Active verb, and on which the action of the verb passes. This answers to the questions, ‘Whom?’ or ‘What?’. The Accusative case is used to mark a direct object.
    5. the Vocative, by which we call on persons or things.
    6. the Ablative, by which we signify something to be taken from another, and it most commonly follows a preposition, which governs it.
  4. What are the two parts of a sentence?
    The two parts of a sentence are the subject and the predicate.
  5. What is the subject of a sentence?
    The subject of a sentence is that about which the sentence speaks.
  6. What is the predicate of a sentence?
    The predicate of a sentence is that which is said about the subject.
  7. What is an object?
    An object is a thing onto which an action passes.
  8. What is a direct object?
    A direct object is an object onto which an action directly passes.
  9. What is an indirect object?
    An indirect object is an object onto which an action indirectly passes.

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