The personal pronouns are used to indicate the subject of a sentence. We’ve dealt with this concept extensively as we learned how to conjugate verbs, and we’ve been using the personal pronouns in English translations of verbs. For example, as we translate amāmus as “we love”, “we” serves as a personal pronoun. These pronouns can also occur in other cases: for example, as an accusative direct object: “He loves us.”
The personal pronouns are primarily used in the oblique cases (genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative). We can explicitly state a nominative personal pronoun in Latin, but because the person and number of the verb indicates the subject, we normally only use an explicit personal pronoun in the nominative for the purposes of emphasis or differentiation from another subject.
There are three personal pronouns, each corresponding to the person of a verb (1st, 2nd, and 3rd person). Each of these pronouns can be singular (I, me, you, he/she/it, him/her/it) or plural (we, us, you all, they, them).
The 1st person personal pronoun is ego (singular), nōs (plural).
The 2nd person personal pronoun is tū (singular), vōs (plural).
The 3rd person personal pronoun is is, ea, id, which we’ve seen and used many times at this point.
The declension charts for these personal pronouns can be found here.
Take a look at the following examples of the personal pronouns in context:
When a pronoun in a non-nominative case refers back to the subject of the sentence, we call this a reflexive pronoun (from the Latin verb reflectere “to turn back”). In English, reflexive are usually translated as with the suffix -selves:
For first and second person pronouns in Latin, the form of the reflexive pronoun is the same as the personal pronoun. Below are some examples:
Things get a little trickier in the case of the third person pronoun. While there is no ambiguity in first and second pronouns (that is, “I”/”me” and “you” are always self-explanatory), there can be ambiguity in the third person pronoun (there are lots of possible hims and hers). As a result, Latin like English differentiates between the regular pronoun (is, ea, id) and the reflexive (sui = genitive, sibi = dative, sē = accusative, sē = ablative):
Interestingly, the same forms are used for the 3rd person plural reflexive pronoun (sui = genitive, sibi = dative, sē = accusative, sē = ablative):. This is because all reflexives refer back to their subject and thus there is no ambiguity between singular and plural.
Identify the pronoun and state whether it is reflexive or personal in the following sentences.
Feminae sibi dona dedērunt.
Feminae eīs dona dedērunt.
Virī ab mē cucurrērunt. mē; personal
Nōs iuvāmus. nōs; reflexive
Virī nōs iuvāre poterat. nōs; personal
Deponent verbs are verbs that are passive in form, but active in meaning. That means that although we will conjugate the verb only in the passive voice, when we translate it, we will translate it actively. As such, deponents can act like intransitive or transitive verbs, the latter in the sense that they can take a direct object. For example:
You can tell what verbs are deponent based on their dictionary entry. Deponent verbs will have only three principal parts; these will correspond to the first three principal parts of a regular verb, except that the forms will be passive. Take a look at this sample 1st conjugation deponent verb:
hortor, although 1st singular present passive indicative in form, is translated actively as “I exhort.” hortārī, although a present passive infinitive in form, is translated actively as “to exhort.” hortātus sum, although 1st singular perfect passive indicative in form, is translated actively as “I exhorted” or “I have exhorted.”
We must be able to identify deponent verbs from regular verbs because the difference in translation is vast! Take a look at the following examples of deponent verbs used in context:
There are a number of irregular verbs in Latin, in the sense that their conjugation patterns often do not follow the normal rules or regular patterns that we’ve been learning for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd -iō, and 4th conjugation verbs. We’ve encountered two irregular verbs so far (sum and possum); here, we introduce 5 more.
The conjugation patterns for these five verbs can be found here.
Some general comments on memorizing the forms: