Declension Classes

What is a Declension?

A declension is a list of words which have the same (noun or pronoun) root, but different endings; each ending indicates the case (i.e. grammatical function = syntactic role) of that form of the word. Writing or saying this list of words is known as declining a noun or pronoun.

In English a noun declension is quite short, since English nouns only have two cases and two numbers. This is an example of how you might decline the English words woman, man, horse, and judge :

non-possessive singular woman man horse judge
possessive singular woman's man's horse's judge's
non-possessive plural women men horses judges
possessive plural women's men's horses' judges'

Why Declension Classes?

As you can see from the above examples, not all nouns decline in the same way. While woman and man change a vowel to form the plural, horse and judge add the suffix -s. Thus, woman and man decline in one way, and horse and judge decline in another way.

A declension class is a set of nouns which all decline in the same way. In Latvian, all nouns have traditionally been assigned to one of six declension classes. The following sections illustrate how each class declines, and provides examples of nouns which belong to that declension class.

First Declension

The first declension contains a very large number of nouns, all of which have masculine gender. They all end either in -s or in the nominative singular. The following chart illustrates how they are declined:

ending example word
'tree'
example word
'neck'
singular nominative -s kok-s kakl-s
genitive -a kok-a kakl-a
dative -am kok-am kakl-am
accusative -u kok-u kakl-u
locative kok-ā kakl-ā
vocative -s kok-s! kakl-s!
plural nominative -i kok-i kakl-i
genitive -u kok-u kakl-u
dative -iem kok-iem kakl-iem
accusative -us kok-us kakl-us
locative -os kok-os kakl-os
vocative -i kok-i! kakl-i!

Examples of 1st declension nouns: bads 'famine', čigāns 'gypsy', koks 'tree', kakls 'neck', krēsls 'chair', krīts 'chalk', prāts 'mind, sense, intellect', sols 'bench, seat', tēvs 'father', zirgs 'horse'

Additional examples of 1st declension nouns - those which end in : ceļš 'road', teļš 'calf', varš 'copper', vējš 'wind'

The 1st declension includes all nouns ending in the suffix -nieks 'he who ___ ';
e.g. dārznieks 'gardener', saimnieks 'landlord, host', skolnieks 'pupil, school boy'

This class also includes all nouns ending in the suffix -ums, an abstract noun-forming suffix;
e.g. dārgums 'expensiveness', resnums 'thickness, fatness', līdzenums 'flat country, plain'

Lastly, it also includes all nouns ending in the diminutive suffix -ēns 'young ___';
e.g. skolēns '(young) pupil', puisēns '(young) boy'

Second Declension

The second declension contains a fair number of nouns, all of which have masculine gender. They typically end in -is in the nominative singular case. The following chart illustrates how they are declined:

ending example word
'swan'
example word
'salmon'
singular nominative -is gulb-is las-is
genitive -(j)a gulb-ja laš-a
dative -im gulb-im las-im
accusative -i gulb-i las-i
locative gulb-ī las-ī
vocative -i gulb-i! las-i!
plural nominative -(j)i gulb-ji laš-i
genitive -(j)u gulb-ju laš-u
dative -(j)iem gulb-jiem laš-iem
accusative -(j)us gulb-jus laš-us
locative -(j)os gulb-jos laš-os
vocative -(j)i gulb-ji! laš-i!

Some of the forms in the 2nd declension have a -j immediately following the noun root, while others show a change in the pronunciation of the final root consonant. To see more information about this, click here →: j Palatalization.

Examples of 2nd declension nouns: alksnis 'alder tree', brālis 'brother', gludeklis 'iron', gulbis 'swan', kurmis 'mole', ķirbis 'pumpkin', lācis 'bear', lasis 'salmon', papēdis 'heel', skapis 'cupboard'

This declension also includes a handful of masculine nouns ending in -ens, such as: akmens 'rock, stone', asmens 'blade', rudens 'autumn', ūdens 'water', zibens 'lightning'. They are basically declined like all other 2nd declension nouns except that:

ending example word
'rock, stone'
example word
'water'
singular nominative -s akmen-s ūden-s
genitive -s akmen-s ūden-s
dative -im akmen-im ūden-im
accusative -i akmen-i ūden-i
locative akmen-ī ūden-ī
vocative -s akmen-s! ūden-s!
plural nominative -i akmeņ-i ūdeņ-i
genitive -u akmeņ-u ūdeņ-u
dative -iem akmeņ-iem ūdeņ-iem
accusative -us akmeņ-us ūdeņ-us
locative -os akmeņ-os ūdeņ-os
vocative -s akmeņ-i! ūdeņ-i!

Exceptions: the following are 2nd declension masculine nouns which are declined like akmens, even though they don't end in -ens: mēness 'moon', sāls 'salt'.
In addition, the masculine noun suns 'dog' belongs to this declension class (even though it doesn't end in -is); it is declined like alksnis 'alder tree'.

Third Declension

The third declension contains a small handful of nouns, all of which have masculine gender. They all end in -us in the nominative singular. The following chart illustrates how they are declined:

ending example word
'beer'
example word
'market'
singular nominative -us al-us tirg-us
genitive -us al-us tirg-us
dative -um al-um tirg-um
accusative -u al-u tirg-u
locative al-ū tirg-ū
vocative -us al-us! tirg-us!
plural nominative -i al-i tirg-i
genitive -u al-u tirg-u
dative -iem al-iem tirg-iem
accusative -us al-us tirg-us
locative -os al-os tirg-os
vocative -i al-i! tirg-i!

Examples of 3rd declension nouns: alus 'ale, beer', klepus 'cough', ledus 'ice', lietus 'rain', medus 'honey', tirgus 'market'

Fourth Declension

The fourth declension contains a very large number of nouns, almost all of which have feminine gender. They all end in -a in the nominative singular. The following chart illustrates how they are declined:

ending example word
'day'
example word
'daughter'
singular nominative -a dien-a meit-a
genitive -as dien-as meit-as
dative -ai dien-ai meit-ai
accusative -u dien-u meit-u
locative dien-ā meit-ā
vocative -a dien-a! meit-a!
plural nominative -as dien-as meit-as
genitive -u dien-u meit-u
dative -ām dien-ām meit-ām
accusative -as dien-as meit-as
locative -ās dien-ās meit-ās
vocative -as dien-as! meit-as!

Examples of 4th declension nouns: diena 'day', grīda 'floor', lapa 'leaf', lieta 'thing, object', māja 'house', māsa 'sister', meita 'daughter', vara 'power', vista 'hen, chicken'

This declension class includes all nouns ending in the suffix -ība, an abstract noun-forming suffix;
e.g. mīlestība 'love', gudrība 'intelligence, wisdom', rakstība 'spelling, orthography'

Exceptions: a handful of nouns ending in -a which have masculine gender belong to this class: auša 'windbag', paziņa 'acquaintance', pļāpa 'gossip, chatterer', puika 'boy, lad'.

Fifth Declension

The fifth declension contains a quite a few nouns, almost all of which have feminine gender. They all end in -e in the nominative singular. The following chart illustrates how they are declined:

ending example word
'shoe'
example word
'mouse'
singular nominative -e kurp-e pel-e
genitive -es kurp-es pel-es
dative -ei kurp-ei pel-ei
accusative -i kurp-i pel-i
locative kurp-ē pel-ē
vocative -e kurp-e! pel-e!
plural nominative -es kurp-es pel-es
genitive -(j)u kurp-ju peļ-u
dative -ēm kurp-ēm pel-ēm
accusative -es kurp-es pel-es
locative -ēs kurp-ēs pel-ēs
vocative -es kurp-es! pel-es!

In the genitive plural, some 5th declension nouns have a -j immediately following the noun root, while others show a change in the pronunciation of the final root consonant. To see more information about this, click here →: j Palatalization.

Examples of 5th declension nouns: drēbe 'cloth, fabric', egle 'fir or spruce tree', klase 'class', krūze 'mug, jug', māte 'mother', pele 'mouse', sakne 'root', sēne 'mushroom', zīme 'sign'

This declension class includes all nouns ending in the suffix -niece 'she who ___';
e.g. saimniece 'landlady, hostess', skolniece 'female pupil', rakstniece 'authoress, female writer'

Exceptions: bende 'torturer' which has masculine gender

Sixth Declension

The sixth declension contains a handful of nouns which end in -s in the nominative singular, but which are almost all feminine gender. The following chart illustrates how they are declined:

ending example word
'fish'
example word
'heart'
singular nominative -s ziv-s sird-s
genitive -s ziv-s sird-s
dative -ij ziv-ij sird-ij
accusative -i ziv-i sird-i
locative - ī ziv-ī sird-ī
vocative -s ziv-s! sird-s!
plural nominative -is ziv-is sird-is
genitive -(j)u ziv-ju sirž-u
dative -īm ziv-īm sird-īm
accusative -is ziv-is sird-is
locative -īs ziv-īs sird-īs
vocative -is ziv-is! sird-is!

In the genitive plural, some 6th declension nouns have a -j immediately following the noun root, while others show a change in the pronunciation of the final root consonant. To see more information about this, click here →: j Palatalization.

Examples of 6th declension nouns: acs 'eye', auss 'ear', balss 'voice', brokastis (always plural) 'breakfast', durvis (always plural) 'door', krāsns 'oven', kūts 'animal barn/shed, stable', nakts 'night', pils 'castle', zivs 'fish', zoss 'goose'

Exception: ļaudis (which only occurs in plural) 'people' has masculine gender.

To continue on with nouns, click at right to see Diminutives.


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This page created and maintained by
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Last revised August 19, 2011