Latvian Adjectives

What is an Adjective?

An adjective is normally described as a part of speech which describes (i.e. "modifies") a noun (or a pronoun). For example, look at the following example sentences in English; the adjectives are all in dark red, and the nouns that they modify are in olive green:
  1. The quick red fox jumps over the lazy brown dog.
  2. She bought a battered old trunk.
  3. The irritating thing about Martha was her hideous perfection.

Latvian Adjectives

Adjectives (īpašības vārdi) in Latvian work in exactly the same way. Look at the following example sentence, in which the adjectives are also shown in dark red, and the nouns that they modify are in olive green:
  1. Vecs sarkans šķūnis stāvēja pie mazas upes. 'An old, red barn stood by a small river'.
  2. Mana māte vakāja vecu sarkanu mēteli. 'My mother wore an old, red coat'.
  3. Lielas baltas pīles peld mazā upē. 'Large white ducks swim in a small river.'

As the preceding examples show, adjectives in Latvian typically come before the nouns that they modify (just as in English).

Adjective Agreement

However, Latvian adjectives also have case endings which agree with the noun that they modify. Take a look at the following chart, which illustrates the endings seen on the adjective liels 'big' when it modifies a masculine (1st declension) noun cimds 'glove', and when it modifies a feminine (4th declension) noun māja 'house'. I have separated the endings from the roots by a dash:

case adj. + 1st. decl. masc. noun adj. + 4th. decl. fem. noun
singular nominative liel-s cimd-s liel-a māj-a
genitive liel-a cimd-a liel-as māj-as
dative liel-am cimd-am liel-ai māj-ai
accusative liel-u cimd-u liel-u māj-u
locative liel-ā cimd-ā liel-ā māj-ā
plural nominative liel-i cimd-i liel-as māj-as
genitive liel-u cimd-u liel-u māj-u
dative liel-iem cimd-iem liel-ām māj-ām
accusative liel-us cimd-us liel-as māj-as
locative liel-os cimd-os liel-ā māj-ā

In the above examples the ending on an adjective is exactly the same as the ending on the noun that it modifies. However, the endings are not always identical. Take a look at the following chart:

case adj. + 2nd decl. masc. noun 'cupboard' adj. + 3rd decl. masc. noun 'market' adj. + 5th decl. fem. noun 'mouse' adj. + 6th decl. fem. noun 'fish'
singular nominative liel-s skap-is liel-s tirg-us liel-a pel-e liel-a ziv-s
genitive liel-a skap-ja liel-a tirg-us liel-as pel-es liel-as ziv-s
dative liel-am skap-im liel-am tirg-um liel-ai pel-ei liel-ai zivij
accusative liel-u skap-i liel-u tirg-u liel-u pel-i liel-u ziv-i
locative liel-ā skap-ī liel-ā tirg-ū liel-ā pel-ē liel-ā ziv-ī
plural nominative liel-i skap-ji liel-i tirg-i liel-as pel-es liel-as ziv-is
genitive liel-u skap-ju liel-u tirg-u liel-u peļ-u liel-u ziv-ju
dative liel-iem skap-jiem liel-iem tirg-iem liel-ām pel-ēm liel-ā ziv-īm
accusative liel-us skap-jus liel-us tirg-us liel-as pel-es liel-as ziv-is
locative liel-os skap-jos liel-os tirg-os liel-ās pel-ēs liel-ās ziv-īs

As the preceding table shows, the adjective and noun endings are not always identical. However, they do agree in gender, number, and case. How can this be?

Even though the adjective ending is not the same as the ending on the noun it modifies, it is still and ending with the same function. In other words, if the noun is a locative plural feminine noun, then the adjective modifying it will also have a locative plural feminine ending.

Adjectives use the same endings as First Declension nouns (if the noun the adjective modifies is masculine) or as Fourth Declension nouns (when the noun that the adjective modifies is feminine).

To continue to the next section "Definite vs. Indefinite Adjectives, please click here → Definite vs. Indefinite.

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This page created and maintained by
A. Steinbergs

Last revised September 16, 2008