Noun Adjective Agreement



Hello all, I am currently taking Latin as a foreign language in college.

I am very confused about a couple (probably simple things)

Adjectives need to agree with their respective nouns in number, gender, and case. OK, this makes sense, at least for a little bit...

Now here comes my question (and I feel this may be the factor confusing many of my peers), does the declension of the adjective determine determine it's gender to match up with its noun?

In other words I keep hearing different things about adjective/noun agreement. I feel like no one can give me a definitive, straight-forward logical answer.

Thanks very much for looking!


Nouns fall into into one of five general groups with similar endings known as declensions, e.g. terra, -ae is a noun of the first declension, servus,-i is in the 2nd declension, etc.

Every noun also has a gender--masculine, feminine, or neuter. Some declensions "favor" one gender over others; thus, nouns of the first declension are overwhelmingly feminine (the main exceptions are the names of specific males, like agricola, -ae - "farmer"), while nouns of the second declension are mostly masculine (if the nominative ends in -us or -r, like servus, -i - "slave", puer, -i - "boy") or neuter (if the nominative ends in -um, like bellum, -i - "war").

Adjectives fall into two general classes, and these classes borrow the endings of the noun declensions to cover all possible combination of gender, number, and case. An adjective like bonus, -a, -um - "good" borrows the endings of the seond declension to provide masculine and neuter endings, and borrows the first declension for feminine endings.

Now if I tell you that nox - "night" is a feminine noun (of the third declension) in the nominative case, then "good night" would use the nominative feminine form of bonus, -a, -um to describe nox. Since this adjective borrows the feminine endings from the first declension, the correct Latin is bona nox - "good night".

Now recall that agricola - "farmer" is one of those exceptional masculine nouns from the first declension. How then would you say "good farmer"? The answer is bonus agricola--the masculine nominative singular noun agricola requires a masculine adjective form, and since bonus, -a, -um borrows its masculine endings from the second declension, you end up with a phrase where the gender, number, and case all agree even though the endings appear to be mis-matched.

For now let's leave out the other class of adjective (which borrows endings from the third declension)...does the above explanation make sense?


Wow Cato, thanks so much for your wonderful response! :D I feel like it all makes sense now. :dancing:

I think the culprit that was confusing me were the noun genders. I originally assumed all nouns of the 1st declension were feminine due to the fact that the feminine adjective endings follow first declension endings which is somewhat misleading to me.

Again, thank you so very much!