Uses of the Nominative Case

The nominative case gets its name from “nomen,” as does the English word “noun” (through the French from the Latin nomen, used in grammar for a noun/adjective). Its most common use is to “name” the subject and, as the subject, to match the verb (agreeing in person and number) of the clause. Since the subject usually carries over (like a speed limit) and is not expressed other than by the verb ending in subsequent clauses, however, it is not the most commonly used case in Latin. It is the third most frequently used, accounting for 15% of the case uses.(1) Discourse context and word order are important in distinguishing uses of the nominative. My “nickname” for the case is the “Normal Nominative” and the color blue, illustrating that, as a primary color, it is usually a core part of the sentence. The color blue may also be helpful in remembering the uses of subject and complement (spelled with “e” because it “completes” the sense of a linking verb): Blue [subject] is [linking verb/=] a color (complement/predicate nominative); Blue is cool! (complement/predicate adjective).

Characteristic Clues



Early in sentence/clause
Note: It may also come after the verb, especially as a (synonym) confirming the continuation of the same subject or a change to a new subject affecting the previous subject.
Translate before (with) verb.
If, however, the sentence begins with a form of sum, translate the verb as the existential and the subject after. (“There is/was, etc. a _______.”
Linking verb (sum, fio, habeor, etc);
preceding noun in nominative (without a comma);
“Ille iuvenis filius est regis.”
Note: A genitive going with the complement is often separated by the linking verb, especially a form of sum (moved up so it is not sentence final.)
Translate after verb

“That youth is the son of the king.”

(Subject Complement)
Predicate Nominative (noun)
Predicate Adjective (adj.)
After another nominative (proper) noun, usually separated by a comma, defining/identifying the previous (proper) noun.
Aristides, Lysimachi filius, . . .
Translate following the order of the Latin. Make sure you include the comma, and do not add a verb “is,” etc. between them, making it a complement.
“Aristides, the son of Lysimachus, . . .”
Appositive (< ad + positus, from pono:) (noun phrase "put to/at" another noun in the same case)

(1) Paul F. Distler, S.J. Teach the Latin, I Pray You (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1969), p. 10.