Gender doesn't necessarily have anything to do with sex. After all, most nouns refer to inanimate objects (like "table" galds) or even to abstract concepts (like "time" laiks). Fortunately most Latvian nouns signal their gender by the type of suffix used in the subject case. Thus, nouns ending in -s or -is are (almost always) masculine, while those ending in -a or -e are (almost always) feminine. Therefore, piens "milk" is a masculine noun, while sula "juice" is a feminine noun.
|case||name of function||description of function||English example (using "Mary")|
|nominative||subject||doer or agent of the action||Mary kissed Edward.|
|genitive||possessor||"owner" of possessed noun||Mary's book is blue.|
|dative||indirect object||recipient/beneficiary of direct object||Edward sent Mary a book.|
|accusative||direct object||acted upon by subject||Edward kissed Mary.|
|locative||location||place (either literal or abstract)||Edward believes in Mary.|
|vocative||direct address||person to whom speaker is talking||Mary! What are you doing?|
The example sentences were in English (which has only one case-marking suffix: -'s); so what are these suffixes in Latvian?
Well, that depends on which declension class the noun belongs to:
|case||Class 1 endings||Class 2 endings|
* For Class 2 nouns the -j- of the genitive singular only appears if the noun root ends in p, m, v, or m. Otherwise the -j- "combines" with the final consonant of the noun root, resulting in a "palatalized" consonant, like ļ, ņ š, ž or č. Thus, the genitive singular form of zīmulis "pencil" is zīmuļa.
** The symbol -∅ is used to indicate that there is no ending; masculine nouns of class 1 typically have no suffix in the vocative; thus, the vocative form of Gunārs is Gunār!
|case||Class 4 endings||Class 5 endings|
The term person refers to the one who is performing the action of the verb; specifically: whether it is the speaker, the person addressed (the hearer), or some other, third person. The one performing the action is typically indicated by the subject pronoun (which also indicates number, and sometimes gender as well). Take a look at the following chart:
|person||relationship to speaker||English subject pronoun(s)||Latvian subject pronoun(s)|
|1st||speaker||I / we||es / mēs|
|2nd||hearer||you (singular or plural)||tu / jūs|
|3rd||neither speaker nor hearer||he /she / it / they||viņš / viņa / viņi / viņas*|
* These pronouns are literally "he" / "she" / "they (masc. or both genders)" / "they (fem.)".
However, in Latvian the subject pronouns are often optional, since the endings on the verb typically mark the person and number as well. The verb endings vary a little (depending on the conjugation class to which the verb belongs, and the tense of the verb). However, all verbs have some version of the following endings (and please remember that third person endings are always identicalthere is no difference between singular and plural verb endings for the third person):
|2nd||-i or ∅|
|3rd||-∅ or -a|
(Note: remember that the symbol ∅ stands for "zero", in other words, for no ending whatsoever.)
The "vowel" in this chart varies depending on the tense of the verb, and which conjugation class it belongs to. So let's now review conjugation classes:
|number||person||Class 2||Class 3(a)||Class 3(b)|
|sample verbs:||mazgāt "to wash"||darīt "to do"||zināt "to know"|
As this table shows, the endings for classes 2 and 3(a) are identical, except that class 2 verbs don't have an -i ending in the 2nd person singular. However, classes 2 and 3 have one major difference: class 2 verbs keep their "thematic vowel" in the present tense, while class 3 verbs do not.
A thematic vowel doesn't really have a "meaning"; it is the vowel which appears before the -t of the infinitive ending. In other words, it is the -ā in mazgāt or zināt, or the -ī in darīt. For example, the thematic vowel (and the "separating" -j-) shows up in the 1st person singular present tense of the class 2 verb mazgāju "I wash", but not in the class 3 verb zinu "I know".
Now let's look at how this works for verbs in different tenses.
To make things even simpler, the endings on both class 2 and class 3 verbs are identical in the past tense:
(Note: the thematic vowel is always separated by a -j- from a following person and number ending; thus: zināju "I knew", zināji "you knew", zināja "he/she knew", etc.)
|būt 'to be'||present tense|
|singular||1st p.||esm-u (pronounced e*smu)|
||es-a-m (pronounced e*sam)
||es-at (pronounced e*sat)
The second irregular verb is iet "to go, walk"; this verb has the following present tense forms:
|iet 'to go'||present tense|
Finally, you were introduced to the irregular verb dot "to give". This verb is irregular because the present stem and the past stem are quite different. This is the table which shows the verb in both present and past tense forms:
|Irregular verb dot "to give"|
|number||person||present tense||past tense|
Thus, "good daughter" is lab-a meit-a (in the nominative, with a feminine noun), but "good table" is lab-u gald-u (in the accusative, with a masculine noun).
Latvian nouns have six different declension classes (of which you have only seen four, so far). However, adjectives have only two sets of endings: one for masculine and one for feminine. Regardless of which class of noun an adjective is modifying, an adjective uses the endings of declension 1 nouns if it modifies a masculine noun, but the endings of declension class 4 nouns if it modifies a feminine noun.
Thus, "good mother" is lab-ai māt-ei (in the dative, with a feminine class 5 noun), but "good brother" is lab-u brāl-i (in the accusative, with a masculine class 2 noun).
Also note that interrogatives like cik "how much?" and kur "where?" are normally classed as adverbs.
no galda "off (of) the table", no Rīgas "from Riga"
pēc launaga "after lunch/snack", pēc dziesmas "after the song"
Other prepositions require the accusative case, like ar "with" or uz "on, to, at", as seen in the following examples:
ar Jāzepu "with Joseph", ar zīmuli "with a pencil"
uz Rīgu "to Riga", uz to adresi "to that address"
Note, however, that the preposition uz only takes the accusative case if it is describing motion towards that object or location. If there is no motion, just a description of the location, then the genitive is used, as seen in these examples:
uz galda "on (top of) the table, uz mašīnas "on the car"
|case||1st p. sg.||2nd p. sg.|
By comparison, the third person pronouns viņš "he" and viņa "she" are are almost identical to the endings found on first and fourth declension nouns. Although not quite as similar, the pronouns kas "who, what" and tas "that one" also generally follow this pattern. Take a look at this chart:
|case||Latvian||English translation||Latvian||English translation||Latvian||English translation||Latvian||English translation|
|nominative||viņ-š||he||viņ-a||she||tas||that one||tā||that one|
|genitive||viņ-a||his||viņ-as||hers||tā||that one's||tās||that one's|
|dative||viņ-am||to him||viņ-ai||to her||tam||to that one||tai||to that one|
|accusative||viņ-u||him||viņ-u||her||to||that one||to||that one|
|locative||viņ-ā||in him||viņ-ā||in her||tanī||in that one||tajā||in that one|
As far as plural pronouns go, to date you have only been introduced to the nominative form: mēs "we", jūs "you (pl. & formal)", viņas "they (feminine)", and viņi "they (masc. & both genders)".
Kur ir viņas māja? "Where is her house?"
Kur tu dzīvoji "Where did you live?
Kas grib dziedāt? "Who wants to sing?"
Yes/no questions in Latvian always begin with the interrogative word vai. Here are some example sentences:
Vai Roberts grib ēst? "Does Robert want to eat?"
Vai tu dziedāji? "Did you sing?"
Rita nezvanīja Jāzepam. "Rita didn't call Joseph."
Es nekur neredzu Annu. "I don't see Anna anywhere." (Literally: I no-where not-see Anna.)
Lindai ir skaista māja. "Linda has a beautiful house." (Literally: To-Linda is beautiful house.)
The verbs patikt "to like, be pleasing to" and piederēt "to own, belong to" have similar constructions:
Man patīk Ritas mašīna. "I like Rita's car." (Literally: To-me is-pleasing Rita's car.)
Jānim piederēja ļoti liela māja. "John owned a very large house." (Literally: To-John belonged very large house.)
Please translate the following sentences into Latvian:
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