Latvian Pronouns

What is a Pronoun?

A pronoun (vietniekvārds) can be defined as a part of speech which can substitute for a noun or noun phrase. Take a look at the following English sentences (nouns or noun phrases are shown in olive green):
  1. Marie sings beautifully.
  2. My sister sings beautifully.
  3. That beautiful silver-haired lady sings beautifully.
In each case the noun or noun phrase which acts as the subject of the sentence could be replaced with the pronoun she, as shown below (now the pronoun is olive green): In this sentence the pronoun she is also acting as the subject of the sentence. Thus, you see that a pronoun can fulfil the same role in a sentence (i.e. have the same syntactic function) as a noun or noun phrase.

Pronoun Reference

The actual person or thing to which the pronoun refers depends on the context. For example, if the first sentence you say to someone when you meet them is "She sings beautifully", this makes no sense. Your hearer has no idea to whom you are referring.

On the other hand, if you are at a concert and point to someone (although it is considered quite rude to point!) and you say "She sings beautifully", then the referent of the pronoun she is perfectly clear: it is the woman to whom you are pointing.

Likewise, if you have been having a discussion with someone about Jennifer Lopez, and in the middle of the discussion you say: "She sings beautifully", then the referent is also clear: from the context it must be Jennifer Lopez. Right?

Personal Pronouns

Pronouns such as she, he, you, we, us, me, etc. are referred to as personal pronouns. They can help establish the "person" of the subject or object.

"Person" is a grammatical term that refers to the type of particpant in the action of speaking. Here are a few example sentences that illustrate the subject pronoun in three different persons:

Latvian sentence Translation Person of subject pronoun Type of participant
Es cepšu maizi. 'I will bake bread.' First person Speaker
Tu cepsi maizi. 'You (singular) will bake bread.' Second person Hearer
Viņa ceps maizi. 'She will bake bread.' Third person Neither

In other words, if the person who is speaking refers to himself or herself, this is a first person reference (as in 'I will bake bread.'). If the person speaking is referring to their hearer (i.e. the person they are adressing), then this is a second person reference (as in 'You (singular) will bake bread.'). Finally, if the person speaking is referring to someone who is neither himself or herself, nor the party addressed, but a third party, this is third person reference. Clear?

Latvian Personal Pronouns

Latvian personal pronouns have case, just as nouns do. Here is a chart that illustrates how to decline the personal pronouns of Latvian in five different cases (Note: pronouns have no vocative case) and two numbers (singular and plural):

1st person 2nd person 3rd person
masculine feminine
singular nominative es tu viņš viņa
genitive manis tevis viņa viņas
dative man tev viņam viņai
accusative mani tevi viņu viņu
locative manī tevī viņā viņā
plural nominative mēs jūs viņi viņas
genitive mūsu jūsu viņu viņu
dative mums jums viņiem viņām
accusative mūs jūs viņus viņas
locative mūsos jūsos viņos viņās

Here are some example sentences that illustrate the use of personal pronouns in five different cases (pronouns are in olive green):

Latvian Sentence English translation Case of pronoun
Jūs esat zagļi! You (plural) are thieves! Nominative
Viņa cepure ir brūna. His hat is brown. Genitive
Hermanis aizsūtija viņai konfektes. Herman sent her candy. Dative
Raimonds redzēja mūs. Raymond saw us. Accusative
Anna tic tevī. Anna believes in you (singular). Locative

Use of Second Person Pronouns

Note that Latvian (like French, German, Russian, etc.) distinguishes between a singular second person (tu) and a plural second person (jūs). English used to do this (thou vs. you), but standard English no longer does.

(Note: the singular/plural distinction does still occur certain dialects of English: (you vs. you'all) in the southern United States and (you vs. ye) in Newfoundland, for example.)

Just as in many other languages, Latvian also uses the singular/plural distinction to differentiate between familiar and formal address. Thus, when meeting a stranger for the first time, you address him or her using the plural form (jūs), but with a close friend or relative you use the singular form (tu).

Note (1): once you get to know a person better, you can request that they use tu when speaking to you.
Note (2): the singular form tu is used when speaking to children (even if meeting them for the first time).

To continue with pronouns, go to: Reflexive Pronoun

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This page created and maintained by
A. Steinbergs

Last revised September 19, 2008