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Learn to Read Latin says on p151 in Section 74 Third-Declension Adjectives:

To find the stem of third-declension adjectives with three or two nominative singular forms, take the feminine singular nominative and drop the ending -is.

To find the stem of third~declension adjectives with one nominative singular form, take the genitive singular form and drop the ending -is.

Does the quote imply that

  • the feminine singular nominative endings of third-declension adjectives with three or two nominative singular forms are always -is?

  • the feminine singular nominative ending of third-declension adjectives with one nominative singular form is never -is or not necessarily -is?

If I am correct,

  • the table for the rules of third-declension i-stem noun specifies "-" for the feminine singular nominative ending, which means variations in the ending. (c.f. Section 53 Noun Morphology: Third Declension on p108.)

  • Third-declension adjectives follow the same rules. (c.f. "third-declension adjectives, which borrow their endings from third-declension nouns using all i-stem features all the time." on p151)

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  • I believe this is a more or less complete list of one-ending 3rd-declension adjectives: vetus, dives, pauper, particeps, princeps. No -is in sight. Commented May 10 at 15:25
  • @SebastianKoppehel could you elaborate?
    – Tim
    Commented May 10 at 15:27
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    @SebastianKoppehel: There are plenty more than the ones in that list (e.g. atrōx, ferōx, audāx, etc.), but I also don't know of any common ones in -is
    – Asteroides
    Commented May 10 at 15:30
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    @Asteroides You're right, the list I remembered pertained to consonant-stem adjectives (and even so, there are a few more: embarrassingly, my own Stack Exchange profile contains the word superstes, feminine no less). Commented May 10 at 15:36

1 Answer 1

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the feminine singular nominative endings of third-declension adjectives with three or two nominative singular forms are always -is?

Yes. Third-declension adjectives of three terminations always end in -r, -ris, -re in the nominative singular, and third-declension adjectives of two terminations always end in -is, -e in the nominative singular.

the feminine singular nominative ending of third-declension adjectives with one nominative singular form is never -is or not necessarily -is?

Third-declension adjectives of one ending certainly don't typically end in -is in the nominative singular.* But that isn't really the point of this guideline.

The only reason the book is mentioning the feminine singular nominative ending is because there is a convention in dictionaries of listing the two or three nominative singular forms (but no genitive form) for third-declension adjectives of two or three endings, but listing the nominative singular form and genitive singular form for third-declension adjectives of one ending.

If you see audāx, (aud)ācis, adj., you know that the second form is the genitive singular and removing the -is from the genitive singular gives you the stem (just like for a third-declension noun).

If you see celer, celeris, celere, adj. or celer, -is, -e adj. in a dictionary, you can't use the genitive singular to find the stem (since the genitive singular is not provided) so you would use the feminine nominative singular form in this case. But there isn't any reason to think about the feminine nominative singular in cases where you have access to the genitive singular form.


*Third declension adjectives of one ending are mostly composed of participle or pseudo-participle forms with nominative singulars ending in -ns and adjectives with nominative singulars ending in -x, along with some rarer types like ones ending in -r, -ps or -bs.

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