To know God and to make Him known.

Latin Pronouns: It is sad that the Romans did not have a computer that could bold!

I hope that everyone is enjoying this school year. I thought that I would spend a few months talking about Latin parts of speech (if you have an article idea, please e-mail me at


It is always good to start with our native language. We know that a pronoun replaces a noun to avoid repetition (my six year old, when she was four, thought it was to avoid reputation!). So, let’s take a look at English pronouns first. They come in several flavors:


• personal (I, you, we, etc.) 


• demonstrative (that one, this one) 


• reflexive (myself, themselves—reflecting back to the subject of the sentence)


• relative (who, which—not in a question, though), and 


• interrogative (who, whom, which—in a question) 


Pronouns, in both Latin and English, agree with their antecedents (the nouns to which they refer) in gender and number, but their cases are determined by their uses in their own clauses. For example, consider this sentence: “The man, whose name was John, was sent by God.” In this example, “whose” is a pronoun referring to “the man.” The pronoun is masculine and singular because the man is masculine and singular. “Whose” is genitive because it is showing possession of the name (“of whom,” by the way, is equivalent to “whose”).


Personal pronouns function just like personal endings in that they change form to indicate  the specific personal pronouns intended— not just in the nominative case, but in all cases (I/me, you/you, he/him, she, her, etc.). You will not see the nominative of a personal pronoun much, because it is embedded in the verb. The nominative is used for emphasis. Cicero, for example, uses the nominative to emphasize certain sentences: Dixi ego idem in senatu is translated as “I said the same thing in the senate.”


Demonstrative pronouns/adjectives point out a person, place, thing, idea, or activity (the Latin verb demonstro, demonstrare means to point out). I like to picture the speaker pointing in order to remind myself of this. There are three kinds of demonstrative pronouns:


Hic, haec, hoc means “this one,” “these ones,” “this ______,” and “these ______” i.e. the one/ones closer/closest. In English, when we say “the latter,” we are talking about the one closest to us.


Ille, illa, illud means “that one” or “those ones,” i.e. the one farther/farthest away. “The former” is used in English to specifically denote that location relationship.


Is, ea, id is a catch-all pronoun that means “all of the above” as well as “he/she/it/they.”  


All of these pronouns (hic, ille, and is) can also be used as adjectives. The only thing that is necessary is for the nouns to agree with them. If instead of hic by itself we had hic vir, then hic would be acting as an adjective. 


Qui, quae, quod is a pronoun/adjective which means “who, which.” It is usually going to introduce a subordinate clause. In the nominative, just as in English, the subjective form is the only one that uses “who”— all other forms use “whom.”


Finally, one of the most important pronouns/adjectives is ipse, ipsa, ipsum. It is a type of pronoun that we do not need in English because we can bold or underline a word with our computers. Ipse, ipsa, ipsum means  “myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, yourselves, and themselves.” It is called an intensifier. It intensifies whatever it modifies or replaces.  Any time you see a form of ipse in a sentence, the intention is to draw attention to whatever it modifies. For example:


Maria pecuniam ipsam amisit.


This means that, “Mary lost the money itself.” It emphasizes the money. Maybe the money was all she had, or the money was someone else’s, and the writer wants to draw attention to the word money. 


But consider the following sentence:


Maria ipsa pecuniam amisit.


What is emphasized here? “Mary herself lost the money.” Perhaps it was thought that someone else lost the money and it was revealed that she herself lost the money. 


Ipse, ipsa, ipsum is frequently used in Caesar, Cicero, and the Latin Vulgate. When it is used, pay careful attention to what it is replacing or modifying because that is what is important in the passage!


TIERS: challenge
CATEGORIES: Articles, Classical Christian Education, Dialectic Stage (ages 12 to 14), Rhetoric Stage (ages 14 to 18)

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