Nouns in Locative

This is my favorite case, hands down.  For one, it is the case I can most reliably pick out of sentences, so I usually will translate it first.  For another, it’s just so darned easy.  I love this case!

The locative case expresses location — both physical location and location in time (also known as the locative of time).  It primarily answers the question Kur? or Where?


Simply put, the locative is used any time you want to say something or someone is located in somewhere. If you are in a car, car will be in locative.  If there is water in the pot, pot will be in locative. If you are in the field, field will be in locative.

Yes, it is that easy.  Locative is location.

It is incredibly easy to distinguish – singular nouns will end in a macron, while plural masculine nouns end in -os and plural feminine nouns end with -ās, -ēs or -īs (which is basically their nominative plural + a macron).

Now what is really, really cool about the locative is that Latvians can refer to location very quickly and efficiently, while we English-speakers need a few more words to do it. Like so:

Galds ir istabā. -> The table is in the room.

Latvian cuts that sentence length in half and almost all of that is due to the fact that placing a noun in locative represents an entire prepositional phrase in English. (In fact, I could imply ir with a –, the sentence would still be perfectly understandable and it’d be down to two words!)

Here’s the other neat thing: because of the locative, there really isn’t a need for a prepositional equivalent of in just to indicate that something is in that location. If you need to be more specific about position or relative position, there are prepositions for inside, on top of, next to, etc., but of course, those do not take the locative.

Now, you might be thinking, “Do I put seasons and time into locative then? Can I say ‘Jāņi ir junijā?'” (Jāņi is in June.) Yes, because that calls for the locative of time.

Yes, junijā is left uncapitalized. Latvians do not consider the names of months or days to require capitalization except at the beginning of sentences.

Locative of Time

Locative is used quite a bit when it comes to time and this is probably the most fiddly bit when it comes to understanding the locative case.  Locative is also used to answer both kad and cikos.

The exact K-question word for when is kad but cikos is a more specific way of asking at what time something is to happen.  Kad is used for time in a general sense, like “today,” “next week,” or “this winter.” Cikos is used for time in a specific sense, such as “at 2 pm”.

Interestingly, either kad or cikos can be used for “in 10 minutes” as it can imply either when or at what timeSpecific is important when it comes to cikos! It cannot be used when you’re giving a general estimate of when something will be done, the way we would casually say “in two or three hours” in English. Well, you can, but it’s not a great idea. Cikos implies a request for a specific scheduled time. This is why it is important to remember that cikos translates as “at what time” rather than “when”.

With locative and kad, if you would answer “in [time]”, then you would use the locative.

Kad puses zieda? Vasarā. –> When do flowers bloom? In the summer.

In the example above, you need to use the locative for “in the summer.”  (See the in? Big clue that you should use the locative to express this.)  Note also that this would be singular – there is only one summer and the question is quite general, thanks to kad.

However, when it comes to more specific time, we use cikos and in this case the question word has an ending applied. Cikos? is the locative plural expression of Cik? and expects an answer also in the locative plural.

In short, cikos is always plural and refers to a scheduled time, kad can be singular or plural and can refer to general time.

Cikos mēs brauksim pie ārstes? Četrpadsmitos. –> At what time will we travel to the doctor? At 14 (2pm).

In the example above, we see that četrpadsmitos is in the locative plural, so if we wanted to translate it exactly into an equivalent in English, we’d wind up with something along the lines of “at 1400 hours” which is how the American military (and possibly others) would refer to it.

Pie is used here instead of dative because it is used when you are going “to” someone. It isn’t a true indirect object.

I’ll have to do a post just on time at some point, because there are a lot of little intricacies in Latvian when it comes to time.  More on time in time.

How to Decline the Locative

The endings are as follows:

vsk.   1. dekl. | 2. dekl. | 2. dekl. exc. | 3. dekl.
Kur?      -ā    |    -ī    |    -ī         |   -ū 

vsk.   4. dekl. | 5. dekl. | 6. dekl.
Kur?      -ā    |    -ē    |    -ī 

dsk.   1. dekl. | 2. dekl. | 2. dekl. exc. | 3. dekl.
Kur?      -os   |    -os   |     -os       |   -os 

dsk.   4. dekl. | 5. dekl. | 6. dekl
Kur?     -ās    |    -ēs   |    -īs 

Red indicates potential palatalization changes.
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6 Responses to Nouns in Locative

  1. Eric says:


    With Latvian’s tendency to shorten final long vowels to short vowels, I was wondering if the Locative case is then falling apart? Save the -os ending, the case is very similar to other cases and if the loss in distinction of the final long vowel is gone, that would compromise the entire case. So essentially, do Latvians in normal speech still make the distinction in length in the locative and if not, how do they distinguish it or do they just hope it’s distinguished through context?

  2. Cori Rozentāle says:

    Eric: The locative is very much in use and not “falling apart” at all! The ending long vowel is quite audible to native speakers. It is not contextual. You must learn to hear the ending long vowels because they are there even when subtle. It is also quite easy to read in text.

    Yes, native Latvians do make the distinction in length when they speak. The problem for English speakers is that we’re not used to listening for it. It can be difficult to hear Latvian’s lengthened vowels as they are just doubled – you aren’t listening for an exaggeration, just a lengthening. :)

    Think of the difference between “mood” and “company”. We don’t say moooooooood or mod/mud, we say mood. The oo is long. Now compare that to the o in company, which is short. We could say c’mpany and shorten that vowel almost into nothingness. But we can’t do that to mood without destroying the word entirely. If a foreign speaker tried, we would catch it, right? Same thing with Latvians and their vowels.

    Maybe I should get my husband to record some examples for you. I’ll talk to him.

  3. Eric says:

    I apologise for all the phonetic questions. I have this tendency to be a perfection when I’m learning a new language when it comes to pronunciation. I need to learn to let it develop with time and practice (well, time at least since I have no one to practice with haha!)

    • Cori Rozentāle says:

      Oh, it’s okay. :) But you’re right – you do need to relax! You will pick it up with time. :) The best thing you can do right now is listen as much as you can to native Latvian speakers (Latvijas Radio is perfect for this) even though at first you won’t have the vocabulary to understand most of what you hear. It will train your ears for the sounds we English speakers don’t have and the shortened/lengthened vowels. That will help you with your speech too!

  4. Eric Becker says:

    Good news though is I got a 88% on declining all six declensions of nouns in the nom, gen, acc, dat, and loc. I only messed up the masculine locative plural (I always forget -os) and dative sing 3rd declension and gen sing 6th declension plus second declension palatalisation. :)

    Though I have a question. So the only time palatalisation is necessary is the entire plural second declension and genitive singular, as well as the plural genitive of the 5th and 6th declensions? If I’m reading your charts right then that makes me happy, as it’s considerably less patalisation than I thought and that is great haha! :)

    • Cori Rozentāle says:

      Fantastic! :)

      Yep, you are reading my charts right, that’s when palatalization is required. There really isn’t much of it! I’ve found that the more I work with the nouns, the more it becomes natural to want to change that palatalized consonant in those areas, even on the 5th declension nouns which only change in one case!

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