"substantive" comes from the Latin words
and literally means "standing in place of." A substantive is an
adjective that doesn't modify a noun, but replaces the
meek shall inherit the earth."
"Meek" is an
adjective. In this
sample sentence, what noun is "meek" modifying? It isn't modifying anything.
It really stands for "meek somethings," which we automatically fill in as
"people". Here's another one (provide sound effects as you wish):
Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."
the bad, and the ugly what?
Men, of course. We just automatically fill it in. In Latin, it is slightly
more complicated (or more precise, actually), since the adjective will have
not only case, but also number and gender. So if you see
you know it means "a good man" but so does "bonus" all by itself.
could mean "a good woman" if it were in the nominative, but more probably
would refer to "good things" and be found in the nominative/accusative
neuter plural. Multi
means "many" as in "many people" and
means "many things."
the context of a sentence can provide the correct translation of a
like small tables, but you like big ones"
parvas mensas amo, sed magnas amas
don't default to "feminine plural things = women" because there is
a feminine noun in the sentence to which this adjective refers. magnas
simply replaces parvas
mensas in the same
context, = "big tables". You only default to "man, woman, or
ting" if there is no clue in the sentence suggesting a specific and
So how can
you tell if you have a substantive or just a regular adjective? See if the
adjective agrees with a noun - in case, number, and gender - if it does,
then translate them together. If an adjective appears to be sitting there
all by itself - and you need a noun for subject or object or whatever - then
try translating it as a substantive. If it doesn't agree with ANY noun in
the sentence (see example above), then default to generic terms (men, women,
things) to translate the three genders.
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