Latvian nouns have two genders: masculine and feminine. In general it's fairly easy to figure out the gender of a noun: if it ends in -s or -š, it's masculine; if it ends in -a or -e, it's feminine. Here are a few examples:
|saimnieks||landlord, farm owner, host||saimniece||landlady, farm wife, hostess|
|dziedātājs||(male) singer||dziedātāja||(female) singer|
All of the above examples refer to human beings, who (of course!) have two sexes. However, gender applies to all nouns including those that refer inanimate objects or abstract concepts. Notice the following examples:
As you can see from these examples, grammatical gender really has very little to do with sex. Instead, you can think of it as a way that the language groups nouns into classes. These classes aren't logical or rational; they are pretty much arbitrary. In other words, there is no logical reason why piens 'milk' (which is produced by female mammals) should be masculine, while maize 'bread' is feminine.
Fortunately, it is possible to determine the gender of most nouns by the final letter. As already stated above: if a noun ends in -s or -š, it's masculine; if it ends in -a or -e, it's feminine. But, as with everything there are exceptions. Here are a few:
There is nothing you can do with exceptions except memorize them. Sorry!
"Number" is very straightforward:
|Masculine noun||Feminine noun|
Although they don't work 100% of the time, you can use the following as guidelines for forming noun plurals:
That's not so hard, is it?
Noun Cases (locījumi)
English nouns only have two cases: possessive (dog's) and non-possessive (dog). Latvian nouns have six cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, locative, and vocative.
|Latvian sentence||English translation||Grammatical role of galds 'table'|
|Galds ir brūns.||The table is brown.||Subject of the sentence|
|Galda virsma ir balta.||The top of the table is white.||Possessor of virsma 'top'|
|Galdu druscītiņ pakustināju.||I moved the table a little bit.||Direct object of verb pakustināju 'moved'|
|Galdā stāvēja trīs pudeles.||Three bottles stood on the table.||Location of pudeles 'bottles' (i.e. 'on the table')|
In English these different grammatical functions are indicated by word order, or by the use of prepositions (e.g. on, in). In Latvian this is not necessary. Notice that the Latvian word galds (meaning 'table') has a different ending in each case, but the word itself can be in the same position in the sentence and the sentence will still be perfectly correct.
Here is a table listing the different cases, and illustrating their grammatical functions, which uses the Latvian word māte 'mother' as the example word:
|Case||Grammatical function||Latvian sentence||English translation|
|nominative||subject of the sentence||Māte neēd aprikozus.||Mother doesn't eat apricots.|
|genitive||possessor||Mātes cepure ir brūna||Mother's hat is brown|
|dative||indirect object of the verb||Anna iedeva mātei cepuri.||Anna gave (her) mother (a) hat.|
|accusative||direct object of the verb||Anna mīl savu māti.||Anna loves (her) own mother.|
|locative||location (in, on)||Anna tic mātē.||Anna believes (in) (her) mother.|
|vocative||direct address||Māt! Ko tu dari?||Mother! What (are) you doing?|
Note: some Latvian grammars include a seventh case, the instrumental, but this is incorrect. These grammars show a form of the word which occurs with the preposition ar 'with, by' (for example: ar zīmuli 'with (a ) pencil'; ar roku 'by hand'). There is no separate instrumental case in Latvian.
To continue on with nouns, click at right to see Declension classes.