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I think its something with declension, but can't quite wrap my head around why it would be pulcher instead of pulchrus for that phrase.

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There is no word pulchrus. The word in the masculine, nominative, singular is pulcher, and it is one of the 2nd declension noun and adjectives that end in -er.

There are many adjectives of this type, and some of the most common include: aeger (sick), ater (bad, unlucky, dark), dexter (right, like right-handed), integer (complete, intact), macer (skinny), niger (black), piger (sluggish), ruber (red), sacer (holy), and sinister (left).

For these words, the only place you see the -er is with the masculine singular nominative/vocative. For the rest, the -er is dropped and the root is formed with just the -r-; so you'll have aeger, aegri, aegro, aegrum, aegrae, aegrae, etc.

(There are some exceptions. Some writers kept the -e- in dexter, though it's not as common, and you'll also find sinisterior in the comparative.)

You also have a whole class of words ending in -fer or -ger, like belliger, bifer, dulcifer, and somnifer, as well as a few others, like asper (rough), lacer (mutilated, mangled), liber (free), miser (poor), and tener (soft), for which the -er remains throughout; so belliger, belligeri, belligero, belligera, etc.

There are also a handful of nouns that fall under this pattern, with the most common being ager (gen. agri) and puer (gen. pueri).

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    Note: Asper, lacer, tener, liber and miser always keep the -e-. May 20, 2021 at 17:29
  • @SebastianKoppehel Thanks, I added them in.
    – cmw
    May 20, 2021 at 17:53

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