So I’ve decided to stop playing around and really learn Latin. 90% of the time, Visual Latin is enough for my child. But that other 10% of the time? He doesn’t get it, watching the video over doesn’t help, and trouble starts if I haven’t studied up enough to help him. No matter how helpful videos can be (and I love them, and they are helpful), nothing can replace the mother who can answer questions, who can say it in another way.
I hate admitting this because it means I can’t stay as I am and teach well. My children can learn a lot of stuff from books, of course, but sometimes they need me.
This is the good thing about homeschooling, right? It makes us grow and change and learn in all these ways we never would have on our own.
What is your child asking you questions about? Mine is asking about Latin. And subsequently, I have studied up…and fallen in love with Latin. Latin is like math: it makes perfect sense. I feel more sensible for being around my Latin books!
Latin study tripped me up from the very beginning: the terminology. Why can’t we say “possessive” if that is what we mean? Why do we have to get all philologist about it?
I can’t answer those questions, but I can try and explain what the “cases” are, which is basically what this new, unscheduled and therefore unruly, series will be about. It’ll attempt to explain some of the basic nuts and bolts about Latin so that you can answer questions when your children ask.
Or maybe you’ll even study on your own!
So today we’ll talk about the cases using a basic English sentence:
I used red to do to the sentence what we are asked to do in our exercises from KISS Grammar. We underline the subject, put “IO” over indirect objects, “DO” over direct objects, and parentheses around prepositional phrases. Then I noted the possessive just because. They haven’t asked us to do that in grammar (yet).
Each of these five different uses of nouns (subject, indirect and direct objects, prepositional phrase, and possessive) has a “case” which corresponds to it in Latin.
I’m not going to decline any Latin words, so don’t freak out. I’m just going to define relative terms, as I already did in the picture above, in blue. The nominative case corresponds to the subject of the sentence. The genitive case is possessive. The dative case is where you file all your indirect objects (as well as prepositional phrases beginning with “to” and sometimes “for” — either way, the dative noun is receiving the direct object), while direct objects are in the accusative case. Finally, there is the ablative case, which is sometimes called the “by/with/from” case — it’s used with lots of prepositions.
When we decline Latin words, we do it in this order:
I quickly learned that there is nothing I can do to ease my way in Latin like memory work. Memorizing this stuff speeds the process up rapidly. I study Latin the exact same way I studied necessary facts in college: flash cards. I write what I want to memorize on one side of a 3×5 card, and some sort of prompt on the other. I punch a hole in a corner of the card, and I put the card onto my binder ring clips.
These clips let me flip through cards easily. I quiz myself before I start each new study session, then clip them back to the inside of my Latin binder.
I wanted to remember the cases, in declension order. So, my prompt was, “Name and define the five main cases.” On the back it says:
Dative: indirect object
Accusative: direct object
Ablative: used with by/with/for prepositional phrases
Technically, there are two other cases. It’s true. But when you study declensions, you’ll see that these are the five you usually work with. So here we shall begin our Latin study.
Suggested Study Helps
If you want to teach yourself Latin, might I suggest these helpers? These are what I use myself.
- Visual Latin
- Visual Latin & Henle Latin Teaching Guide
- Henle Latin Grammar
- Henle First Year Latin
- Henle First Year Latin Answer Key
- Wheelock’s Latin
Wheelock’s is what I started with, ages ago, so it will always have a special place in my heart. But to be honest, the combination of Henle and Visual Latin is exactly what I needed. I still use Wheelock’s as an occasional reference.
Read More in this Series:
Lesson 1: Understanding the Five Basic Cases ←you are here
Lesson 2: What Does Declining Mean?
Lesson 3: A Preposition Inside the Genitive Case
Lesson 4: A Preposition Inside the Dative Case
Lesson 5: How to Determine the Gender of a 3rd Declension Noun (A Flow Chart)
Get the (almost) weekly digest!
Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.