Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin
Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

3.1 ‘Of’ and the genitive case

When Pliny mentions ‘the death of my uncle’ he uses the phrase auunculī meī exitum. Uncle is auunculus, but the change of ending from ‘-us’ to ‘-ī’ signals a relationship between the noun ‘uncle’ and the noun ‘death’ (exitum). In English this relationship is expressed by the preposition ‘of’ (‘the death of my uncle’).

English can also express the same idea with a change of word ending, as in ‘my uncle’s death’, with an apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s’. This is a rare instance of English working like Latin by deploying a noun ending.


  • carmina Catullī – the poems of Catullus
  • dīvī fīlius – son of a god (one of the titles of the Emperor Augustus, a reference to his adoptive father Julius Caesar)
  • altae moenia Rōmae – the walls [moenia] of lofty Rome
  • amīcī Cicerōnis – friends of Cicero
  • Iēsus Nazerēnus Rēx Iūdaeōrum – Jesus from Nazareth, King of the Jews

The genitive case

These endings are examples of the ‘genitive’ case in Latin. You can think of the genitive case as the ‘of’ case. It generally links two nouns (as in carmina Catullī).


English uses ‘of’ in a wider range of situations than Latin

  • I speak of many things

Note that ‘of’ here does not express a relationship between two nouns. It is closely related to the verb ‘speak’ and is equivalent in meaning to ‘about’.


Activity 14: the genitive case

Select the Latin nouns in the genitive case.

a) Rōma caput mundī – Rome, head of the world







The correct answer is c.

b) Caesaris uxor – Caesar’s wife





The correct answer is a.

c) Turnus rēx Rutulōrum – Turnus, king of the Rutuli







The correct answer is c.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371