Lesson 4: First Conjugation

Lesson 4 – First Conjugation

 

So far, we have covered nouns and adjectives, but our Latin sentences have been somewhat uninteresting because we have not yet learned how to use the backbone of the sentence – the verb. In this lesson, we will learn three tenses from the first conjugation; then we will finally be able to put together complete sentences!

 

Verb Refresher

 

Here are a few things about verbs to remember before we get started:

Verbs indicate the action of a sentence. With a few exceptions, sentences cannot be complete without a verb, because the point of a sentence is to make a statement about an action or a state of being.

Verbs use tenses to indicate what time the action is taking place in. Every action takes place in one of three possible time frames: past, present, future. There are a number of tenses which are used to nuance the meaning of the time and the frequency of the action.

Verbs have subjects. The subject is the one who performs the action or is a certain way. Most verbs also have objects; they affect another word in the sentence, establishing meaning in relation to that word.

Those are the basics.

 

Principal Parts

Every Latin verb is identified by four principle parts, which are essential to knowing how the verb works. You must memorize these, first to be able to identify different forms of a verb, second to be able to conjugate a verb properly.

The principal parts consist of the first person singular present indicative active, the present infinitive, the first person singular perfect indicative active, and the supine in –um. Here is an example:

 

To love:

Amō (first person singular present indicative active)             – I love/ I am loving/ I do love

Amāre (present infinitive)                                                      – To love

Amāvī (first person singular perfect indicative active)           – I loved/ I have loved

Amātum (supine in -um)                                                         – loved

 

Each of these principal parts gives you the stem necessary to conjugate the different tenses. For now we need only to focus on the first and second principle parts, because that is how we will get our stems.

 

First conjugation endings

The tenses we will cover today are the present tense, the imperfect tense, and the future tense. Here is a brief explanation of each one:

Present

The present tense denotes action occurring now. It can be translated a few different ways; let’s use to love as an example. The present could be:

I love / I am loving / I do love

 

Imperfect

The imperfect is a past tense. It denotes action having occurred already, but which has some duration of time or continual aspect. It could be translated:

I was loving / I used to love / I kept on loving

Future

The future denotes action that will occur. There are a few ways it can be translated:

I will love / I am going to love / I am about to love

 

We are also covering the present infinitive. It can simply be translated to love, as in I began to love.

 

Here finally, are the endings for each of the tenses we are learning in this lesson:

 

Present

 

Singular                                                           Plural

1st Person        -ō 1st Person        -āmus

2nd Person       -ās 2nd Person       -ātis

3rd Person        -at 3rd Person        -ant

Imperfect

 

Singular                                                           Plural

1st Person        -bam 1st Person        -bāmus

2nd Person       -bās 2nd Person       -bātis

3rd Person        -bat 3rd Person        -bant

Future

Singular                                                           Plural

1st Person        -bō 1st Person        -bimus

2nd Person       -bis 2nd Person       -bitis

3rd Person        -bit 3rd Person        -bunt

Present Infinitive

-āre

 

Now that we know the basics, we will look at a few examples. First, however, we will learn how to determine the stem on which to place the endings.

The best method is to look at the present infinitive and take off the –re. For example, amare becomes ama-. Another method is to remember that the ending basis of the first conjugation in -a-, as in am-a-re. Take the ending off the first principal part, add the -a- and you have your stem.

 

Now let’s look at a verb fully conjugated in the tenses we have learned. We’ll use amo again.

Present

 

Singular                                                           Plural

1st Person        amō 1st Person        amāmus

2nd Person       amās 2nd Person       amātis

3rd Person        amat 3rd Person        amant

Imperfect

 

Singular                                                           Plural

1st Person        amābam 1st Person        amābāmus

2nd Person       amābās 2nd Person       amābātis

3rd Person        amābat 3rd Person        amābant

Future

Singular                                                           Plural

1st Person        amābo 1st Person        amābimus

2nd Person       amābis 2nd Person       amābitis

3rd Person        amābit 3rd Person        amābunt

Present Infinitive

amāre

 

 

Vocabulary

Here is a new set of words. Learning all the verbs will make studying Latin much more interesting:

 

aurum, -ī (n.) gold

amō, amāre, amāvī, amātum to love, to like

caecus, -a, -um blind

dea, -ae (f.) goddess

dō, dāre, dēdī, datum to give

gaudium, -ī (n.) joy

habitō, habitāre, habitāvī, habitātum to dwell, to live, to inhabit

labōrō, labōrāre, labōrāvī, labōrātum to work, to labor

laudō, laudāre, laudāvī, laudātum to praise

parō, parāre, parāvī, parātum to prepare

portō, portāre, portāvī, portātum to carry

pugnō, pugnāre, pugnāvī, pugnātum to fight

saxum, -ī (n.) stone, rock

silva, -ae (f.) forest

superō, superāre, superāvī, superātum to conquer, to overcome

terra, -ae (f.) earth, land

vocō, vocāre, vocāvī, vocātum to call

 

et (conjunction) and

 

 

Exercises

  1. Conjugate the following verbs into the tenses given:
    1. dō, dāre, dēdī, datum       (present)
    2. pugnō, pugnāre, pugnāvī, pugnātum         (future)
    3. vocō, vocāre, vocāvī, vocātum                  (imperfect)

 

  1. Translate; give person, number, tense
    1. Laudant
    2. Pugnābātis
    3. Superābunt
    4. Dās
    5. Habitābam
    6. Laborāmus
    7. Portābat
    8. Amābis
    9. Vocātis

10.  Parābimus

 

  1. Latin to English: translate the following into English
    1. Caecī nautae pulchrīs fēminīs rosās et parva saxa dant.
    2. Gaudium literārum gladium superābit.
    3. Puerī magna saxa portabant. Labōrant et dabunt aurum deīs. Deae puerōs laudābunt.

 

  1. English to Latin: translate the following into Latin
    1. I am blind. You (pl.) will give gold to blind men. It will give joy to the gods.
    2. He was fighting the evil men.
    3. The goddesses love the forest and the earth.
    4. The poets are fighting and they will prepare (for) war.
    5. The good woman is calling (to) the goddess. She works for the girls.

 

 

Answer Key

 

A.        Conjugate the following verbs into the tenses given:

1.         dō, dāre, dēdī, datum (present)

 

Singular                                                           Plural

1st Person        dō 1st Person        dāmus

2nd Person       dās 2nd Person       dātis

3rd Person        dat 3rd Person        dant

 

2.         pugnō, pugnāre, pugnāvī, pugnātum   (future)

 

Singular                                                           Plural

1st Person        pugnābam 1st Person        pugnābāmus

2nd Person       pugnābās 2nd Person       pugnābātis

3rd Person        pugnābat 3rd Person        pugnābant

 

3.         vocō, vocāre, vocāvī, vocātum            (imperfect)

 

Singular                                                           Plural

1st Person        vocābo 1st Person        vocābimus

2nd Person       vocābis 2nd Person       vocābitis

3rd Person        vocābit 3rd Person        vocābunt

 

 

 

B.        Translate; give person, number, tense

1.         Laudant  – they praise: 3rd person, plural, present

2.         Pugnābātis – you (pl.) were fighting: 2nd person, plural, imperfect

3.         Superābunt – they will conquer: 3rd person, plural, future

4.         Dās – you (sing.) give: 2nd person, singular, present

5.         Habitābam – I was dwelling: 1st person, singular, present

6.         Laborāmus – We are working: 1st person, plural, present

7.         Portābat – He was carrying: 3rd person, singular, imperfect

8.         Amābis – You (sing.) will love: 2nd person, singular, future

9.         Vocātis – You (pl.) are calling: 2nd person, plural, present

10.       Parābimus – We will prepare: 1st person, plural, future

 

C.        Latin to English: translate the following into English

1.         The blind sailors are giving roses and small rocks to the pretty women.

2.         The joy of literature will overcome the sword.

3.         The boys were carrying large rocks. They are working and they will give gold to the gods/goddesses. The goddesses will praise the boys.

 

D.        English to Latin: translate the following into Latin

1.         Caecus sum. Dābitis aurum caecis. Dābit gaudium deīs.

2.         Pugnābat malōs.

3.         Deae silvam et terram amant.

4.         Poetae pugnant et bellum parābunt.

5.         Fēmina bona deae vocat. Puellīs labōrat.

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Lesson 3: Second Declension

In this lesson we will cover nouns and adjectives of the second declension. As in the last lesson, you will find a vocabulary list, exercises and an answer key at the end.

 

Nouns of the second declension

 

In the last lesson, we covered first declension nouns; in this lesson we cover the second of the five declensions. The second declension follows the same principles as the first but uses different endings. The second declension also differs from the first in that its nouns are exclusively masculine or neuter. Furthermore, masculine and neuter words of the second declension have different endings in the nominative, vocative and accusative cases. This makes recognition of the different genders much easier.

 

Second declension endings are slightly more varied than the first declension. The principal ending, however, is –us for masculine words and –um for neuter words. Here is each set of endings:

 

Masculine Second Declension Endings

 

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 -us                                           -ī

Genitive                      -ī                                              -ōrum

Dative                         -ō                                             -īs

Accusative                  -um                                          -ōs

Ablative                      -ō                                             -īs

Vocative                      -e                                             -ī

 

Neuter Second Declension Endings

 

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 -um                                          -a

Genitive                      -ī                                              -ōrum

Dative                         -ō                                             -īs

Accusative                  -um                                          -a

Ablative                      -ō                                             -īs

Vocative                      -um                                          -a

 

 

Note that the vocative masculine singular ending differs from the nominative ending. This is different from other declensions where the two are usually the same.

 

Now let’s decline a masculine noun to become familiar with this declension. Here is the declension of the word amicus, -ī, which means friend:

 

Amīcus, -ī (m): friend —- stem: amīc-

 

Singular

 

Nominative amīc- us                       a friend (subject of verb)

Genitive amīc- ī                         of a friend

Dative amīc- ō                        to or for a friend

Accusative amīc- um                     a friend (object of verb)

Ablative amīc- ō                        by or with a friend

Vocative                      amīc- e                         O friend!

 

 

Plural

 

Nominative amīc- ī                         friends (subject of verb)

Genitive amīc- ōrum                  of friends

Dative amīc- īs                        to or for friends

Accusative amīc- ōs                       friends (object of verb)

Ablative amīc- īs                        by or with friends

Vocative amīc- ī                         O friends!

 

 

There are also a few masculine second declension nouns that have a different nominative and vocative ending, but are the same in every other respect. They end in –r rather than –us and since this exception comprises some fairly important words, it is worth looking over an example here.

 

Here is the declension of the masculine second declension word ager, -ī, which means field:

 

Ager, -ī (m): field —- stem: agr-

 

Singular

 

Nominative ag- er                           a field (subject of verb)

Genitive agr- ī                            of a field

Dative agr- ō                           to or for a field

Accusative agr- um                        a field (object of verb)

Ablative agr- ō                           by or with a field

Vocative                      ag- er                           O field!

 

 

Plural

 

Nominative agr- ī                            fields (subject of verb)

Genitive agr- ōrum                     of fields

Dative agr- īs                          to or for fields

Accusative agr- ōs                         fields (object of verb)

Ablative agr- īs                          by or with fields

Vocative agr- ī                            O fields!

 

 

Here there are a couple things to note.

The first is that the nominative is ager but the stem is agr-. This may seem odd at first, but early on in Latin the stem would have been ager- and the endings would have been added to the end of that; for example, the nominative plural would have been agerī. However, with time the ‘E’ dropped out, since the word would have been spoken quickly in everyday conversation. If you say ageri fast a few times, you will see what happens for yourself. Thus for many words in which a consonant precedes –er, the stem will drop the ‘E’. It is best to learn the stem, but if you ever are guessing, follow these principles and you will likely get the proper stem.

The second is that the only difference between this word and normal masculine second declension words is the nominative and vocative singular endings, which end in –r. Aside from that, nothing is different.

 

Now that we have seen masculine words, let’s take a look at neuter endings. Let’s decline the neuter word bellum, -ī, which means ‘war’.

 

Bellum, -ī (n): war —- stem: bell-

 

Singular

 

Nominative bell- um                       a war (subject of verb)

Genitive bell- ī                           of a war

Dative bell- ō                          to or for a war

Accusative bell- um                       a war (object of verb)

Ablative bell- ō                          by or with a war

Vocative                      bell- um                       O war!

 

 

Plural

 

Nominative bell- a                          wars (subject of verb)

Genitive bell- ōrum                    of wars

Dative bell- īs                          to or for wars

Accusative bell- a                          wars (object of verb)

Ablative bell- īs                          by or with wars

Vocative bell- a                          O wars!

 

Note that the neuter endings only change in the nominative, accusative and vocative cases. The rest remains the same (which is why it is all grouped into one declension).

 

 

 

 

Adjectives

 

Now that we have covered the second declension, we can fully use the first group of adjectives (those that end in -us, -a, -um). Remember adjectives must agree in gender, number and case with the noun they modify.

 

Adjectives in Latin can also be used substantively. This means that the adjective is used as a noun, it is used on its own. For example, when referring to a small man in Latin, one would simply write parvus, the adjective for small. It is as though the noun (man) were implied when the adjective is used that way. So if you see an adjective standing on its own, do not be alarmed – it is undoubtedly a substantive adjective.

 

 

Vocabulary

Here are some new words to add to the vocabulary we learned in the last lesson:

 

ager, -ī (m.) field

amicus, -ī (m.) friend

bellum, -ī (n.) war

deus, -ī (m.) god

dōnum, -ī (n.) gift

equus, -ī (m.) horse

filius, -ī (m.) son

gladius, -ī (m.) sword

malus, -a, -um evil, bad

parvus, -a, -um small

periculum, -ī (n.) danger

puer, -ī (m.) boy

regnum, -ī (n.) kingdom

servus, -ī (m.) slave

verbum, -ī (n.) word

vir, -ī (m.) boy

 

Exercises

  1. Decline the following words:
    1. periculum, -ī (n.)
    2. vir, -ī (m.)
    3. filius, -ī (m.)

 

  1. Translate; give gender, number, case
    1. Bellōrum
    2. Servōs
    3. Verbīs
    4. Puerōs
    5. Periculī
    6. Ager
    7. Virō
    8. Gladiī
    9. Puerī sunt parvī.

10.  Equīs

 

  1. Latin to English: translate the following into English
    1. Magnus equus deōrum est dōnum virīs.
    2. Verba malī nautae sunt periculum.
    3. Bellum est malum. Gladius est servus bellī.

 

  1. English to Latin: translate the following into Latin
    1. The danger is small.
    2. The dangers of war
    3. The slave is a farmer.
    4. For small boys
    5. A good friend is a gift.

 

 

Answer Key

 

A.        Decline the following words:

1.         periculum, -ī (n.)

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 periculum                                pericula

Genitive                      periculī                                    periculōrum

Dative                         periculō                                   periculīs

Accusative                  periculum                                pericula

Ablative                      periculō                                   periculīs

Vocative                      periculum                                pericula

 

 

2.         vir, -ī (m.)

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 vir                                            virī

Genitive                      virī                                           virōrum

Dative                         virō                                          virīs

Accusative                  virum                                       virōs

Ablative                      virō                                          virīs

Vocative                      vir                                            virī

 

3.         filius, -ī (m.)

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 filius                                        filiī

Genitive                      filiī                                           filiōrum

Dative                         filiō                                          filiīs

Accusative                  filium                                       filiōs

Ablative                      filiō                                          filiīs

Vocative                      fili                                            filiī

 

 

B.        Translate; give gender, number, case

1.         Bellōrum – of the wars: neuter, plural, genitive

2.         Servōs – slaves (object of verb): masculine, plural, accusative

3.         Verbīs – by/with or for/to words: neuter, plural, ablative or dative

4.         Puerōs – boys (object of verb): masculine, plural, accusative

5.         Periculī – of a danger, neuter; singular, genitive

6.         Ager – field (subject of verb): masculine, singular, nominative

7.         Virō – by/with or to/for a man: masculine, singular, ablative or dative

8.         Gladiī – of a sword, swords (subject of verb): masculine, singular, genitive; plural, nominative

9.         Puerī sunt parvī. – The boys are small. (masculine, plural, nominative)

10.       Equīs – by/with or to/for the horses: masculine, plural, ablative or dative

 

C.        Latin to English: translate the following into English

1.         The great horse of the gods is a gift for men.

2.         The words of the evil sailor are a danger.

3.         War is evil. The sword is the slave of war.

 

D.        English to Latin: translate the following into Latin

1.         Periculum est parvum.

2.         Pericula bellī

3.         Servus est agricola.

4.         Parvīs puerīs

5.         Amīcus bonus est dōnum.

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Lesson 2: First Declension

In this lesson we will cover nouns and adjectives of the first declension. At the end of the lesson, you will find a vocabulary list, exercises and an answer key.

 

Nouns of the first declension

 

As we saw in the last lesson, Latin uses a system of declensions to identify what a word is doing in a sentence. By looking at the ending of a word, you will be able to see what the function of a word is. There are five declensions in Latin; in this lesson, we will be studying the first.

 

The first declension endings are based around the letter ‘A’. We saw the case endings in the last lesson as an example. Here they are again:

 

First Declension Endings

 

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 -a                                             -ae

Genitive                      -ae                                           -ārum

Dative                         -ae                                           -īs

Accusative                  -am                                          -ās

Ablative                      -ā                                             -īs

Vocative                      -a                                             -ae

 

If you do not remember what each case means, do not worry. There will be a number of examples and exercises that will make it clear. Just remember that the ending indicates what case a word is in; the case, in turn, tells you what function the word is occupying in the sentence or phrase (subject of the verb, object of the verb, possessive, etc.).

 

Now, every word in a declension adds the endings of that declension to its stem. The stem can usually be obtained by looking at the nominative singular and removing the ending. It is, however, best to look at the genitive singular to obtain the stem, because in some declensions the nominative is different from other cases. Remember that each time a noun is given, the nominative and genitive will be indicated. You should memorize both endings.

 

Let’s look at an example using rosa, or rose. The hyphens are used to show the separation of stem and endings.

Rosa, -ae (f): a rose —- stem: ros-

 

Singular

 

Nominative ros- a                           a rose (subject of verb)

Genitive ros- ae                          of a rose

Dative ros- ae                          to or for a rose

Accusative ros- am                        a rose (object of verb)

Ablative ros- ā                           by or with a rose

Vocative                      ros- a                           O rose!

 

 

Plural

 

Nominative ros- ae                          roses (subject of verb)

Genitive ros- arum                     of roses

Dative ros- īs                           to or for roses

Accusative ros- ās                          roses (object of verb)

Ablative ros- īs                           by or with roses

Vocative ros- ae                          O roses!

 

 

Now that you have learned to decline this word, you can decline any word of the first declension. Memorize the simple endings and memorize rosa, -ae in all its forms; listen to the rhythm – once you get it down, you will never forget it!

 

There are a few things to remember about Latin words. There are no proper articles in Latin, and when you translate a word, you must supply ‘a’ or ‘the’, or decide to omit it, depending on the sense you discover in the sentence. In addition to this, because English operates the way it does, you must supply certain words depending on the case or function of a word. That is why some of the translations of single words have for, of, etc. in front of them. Where there is an alternative (denoted by ‘or’ above), you will have to decide which one makes the most sense in your English translation.

 

First declension nouns are predominantly feminine, with a few exceptions, which generally denote males. For example, nauta, -ae is a sailor, and since sailors were exclusively men in Ancient Rome, the word is masculine despite belonging to the first declension. If you see a first declension word and you do not know what gender it belongs to, always guess that it is feminine, unless it is an occupation that was probably done by men in Ancient Rome.

 

Adjectives

 

Adjectives qualify nouns, and agree with them in number (singular or plural), gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and case. Adjectives belong to two groups: the first group uses the endings of the first and second declension; the second group uses the endings of the third declension. For the time being, we will look only at the first group.

 

The first group uses the first declension endings when the adjective is feminine; it uses the second declension when the adjective is masculine or neuter. In this lesson, we will focus on the first declension (feminine) part of the group, but we will be learning the second declension (masculine and neuter) part in the next lesson.

 

Like nouns, adjectives have a stem and add the endings of the relevant declension to that stem. It works the very same way as nouns, except that you use the nominative form of the adjective to determine the stem. This is because adjectives are presented not with nominative and genitive forms, as with nouns, but with masculine, feminine and neuter forms. For example, the Latin adjective for big is magnus, -a, -um; the first form is the masculine, the second the feminine, the third the neuter. The stem is magn- because the masculine nominative ending of the second declension is –us. Do not worry about the second declension too much now. Just remember that for the first group of adjectives, take off –us.

 

Now you have the basics of first declension nouns and adjectives. Below you will find a vocabulary list, exercises and an answer key.

 

Vocabulary

 

In every lesson from henceforth, there will be a vocabulary list which you should learn. Words from previous lessons will come up in later lessons. You will see that each vocabulary word has multiple definitions; when translating, use the word you think would make the most sense.

 

 

agricola, -ae (m.) farmer

aqua, -ae (f.) water

bonus, -a, -um good

fēmina, -ae (f.) woman

Gallia, -ae (f.) Gaul

littera, -ae (f.) letter; in plural, letter, epistle, literature

magnus, -a, -um great, big, large

nauta, -ae (m.) sailor

nātūra, -ae (f.) nature

poēta, -ae (m.) poet

pulchrus, -a, -um pretty, handsome, beautiful

puella, -ae (f.) girl

rosa, -ae (f.) rose

vīta, -ae (f.) life

est is

sunt (they) are

 

 

Exercises

  1. Decline the following words:
    1. nauta, -ae
    2. vita, -ae
    3. aqua, -ae

 

  1. Translate; give gender, number, case
    1. Poētārum
    2. Vītas
    3. Litterīs
    4. Agricolās
    5. Fēminae
    6. Aqua
    7. Nātūrā
    8. Nauta
    9. Puellae sunt pulchrae.

10.  Puellīs

 

  1. Latin to English: translate the following into English
    1. Gallia est magna.
    2. Litterae agricolārum sunt pulchrae.
    3. Vita fēminae est bona.

 

  1. English to Latin: translate the following into Latin
    1. The water is good.
    2. The roses of the girls
    3. The farmer is a poet.
    4. To good nature
    5. A beautiful life is good.

 

Answer Key

 

A.      Decline the following words:

1.         nauta, -ae

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 nauta                                       nautae

Genitive                      nautae                                      nautārum

Dative                         nautae                                      nautīs

Accusative                  nautam                                                nautās

Ablative                      nautā                                       nautīs

Vocative                      nauta                                       nautae

 

2.         vita, -ae

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 vita                                          vitae

Genitive                      vitae                                        vitārum

Dative                         vitae                                        vitīs

Accusative                  vitam                                       vitās

Ablative                      vitā                                          vitīs

Vocative                      vita                                          vitae

 

3.         aqua, -ae

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 aqua                                         aquae

Genitive                      aquae                                       aquārum

Dative                         aquae                                       aquīs

Accusative                  aquam                                      aquās

Ablative                      aquā                                         aquīs

Vocative                      aqua                                         aquae

 

B.        Translate; give gender, number, case

1.         Poētārum – of the poets: masculine, plural, genitive

2.         Vītas – lives (object of verb): feminine, plural, accusative

3.         Litterīs – by/with or for/to literature: feminine, plural, ablative or dative

4.         Agricolās – farmers (object of verb): masculine, plural, accusative

5.         Fēminae – of a woman, to a woman, women (subject of verb): feminine; singular, genitive, dative; plural, nominative

6.         Aqua – water (subject of verb): feminine, singular, nominative

7.         Nātūrā – by/with nature: feminine, singular, ablative

8.         Nauta – a sailor (subject of verb): masculine, singular, nominative

9.         Puellae sunt pulchrae. – The girls are pretty. (feminine, plural, nominative)

10.       Puellīs – by/with or to/for the girls: feminine, plural, ablative or dative

 

C.        Latin to English: translate the following into English

1.         Gaul is great.

2.         The epistle of the farmers is beautiful.

3.         The life of the woman is good.

 

D.        English to Latin: translate the following into Latin

1.         Aqua est bona.

2.         rosae puellārum

3.         Agricola est poēta.

4.         nātūrae bonae

5.         Vita pulchra est bona.

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Lesson 1: Latin Parts of Speech

In this Lesson, we will review some basic English grammar and cover the Latin equivalents.

 

Parts of Speech and Grammar

 

In Latin, grammar is essential to understanding what is being said. While in English we can sometimes deduce meaning even when faced with bad grammar, Latin becomes incomprehensible if one is not meticulous about being grammatically correct. Let’s review the eight parts of speech and see what differences exist between Latin and English.

 

Nouns

 

A noun is a proper name or a word that is used to name a thing. House, dog, table, philosophy and John are examples of nouns. Latin uses nouns the same way English does. The difference is that all nouns (with only rare exceptions) have different endings, depending on how they are used in a sentence. The name for this changing of endings is called a declension (we say that words are declined). Many ancient languages use declensions, including Greek, Hebrew, and even Old English. Some modern languages still retain them to some extent, German and Russian are examples of these. In Latin, there are five declensions, and each one has different endings based on what role a word is playing in a sentence.

 

Each declension indicates how a word will end depending on how it used in a sentence, that is depending on its case. This may sound complicated and confusing, but you probably learned cases in school – they just had different names, and focused on the function of words or phrases in a sentence. In English, the function of a word is determined by its position in the sentence. If you change where a word is placed in an English sentence, it can change the meaning completely. Thus: The girl flies a kite, makes perfect sense. Change the place of the words and you get A kite flies the girl. Latin does not have this problem because the ending of the words tell you what each word’s function is. This resolves a lot of ambiguities, but is also makes the language a lot more complicated.

 

Latin uses six cases. You will find them below, along with their English equivalent. English examples will follow.

 

NominativeSubject of the sentence (doer of the action)

GenitivePossessive (the thing or person something belongs to – usually preceded by of, in English)

DativeIndirect Object (in English, preceded by to or for)

AccusativeDirect Object of the verb (the thing the action is performed on)

AblativeIndirect Object (the Ablative in Latin has many roles, it is often preceded by a preposition)

Vocative – Used when calling to someone/something or addressing a person/thing

 

Let’s look a few sentences so that we have examples of each case and its function.

 

The boy kicks the ball.

 

Here the boy is the subject; it is in the nominative case. This is because the boy is the one doing the kicking. The ball is the direct object; it is in the accusative. It is receiving the action of the verb – it is being kicked. This is where you need to be careful in Latin; if you confuse the endings on the words, the ball could be the one doing the kicking!

 

Mary, did I tell you to give the gift to John?

 

In this sentence, Mary is in the vocative case; she is being addressed. I is in the nominative; it is the subject. Because this is a question, the subject comes after the verb – a peculiarity of English construction. You is in the accusative; it is the direct object. Whom did I tell? I told you. The gift is also in the accusative; it is receiving the action of to give. It is the thing that is being given. Finally, John is in the dative; the gift is being given to him.

 

The Act of Congress violated my rights.

Here the Act is nominative; it is the subject of the sentence – it is what is violating. Congress is in the genitive, because Congress is the one whose Act it is. Whose act is it? Congress’. Congress is doing the possessing, it is thus in the genitive case. My rights is in the accusative, because they are receiving the action of the verb.

 

Now you know each of the six Latin cases. Let’s look at an example of the case endings of a first declension word. (Singular means there is only one thing; plural means there are many things).

 

First Declension Endings

 

Singular                                   Plural

Nominative                 -a                                             -ae

Genitive                      -ae                                           -ārum

Dative                         -ae                                           -īs

Accusative                  -am                                          -ās

Ablative                      -ā                                             -īs

Vocative                      -a                                             -ae

 

Every Latin noun belongs to a certain declension. Nouns have a stem, and to that stem the appropriate ending is added. Let’s look at an example of the Latin word for rose. (Note that Rosa is followed by a hyphenated ending. When indicating a Latin noun, one always gives the full nominative singular form and the genitive singular ending. This assures us that we know what declension a word belongs to – that becomes especially important in the third declension, where there are many nominative forms)

Rosa, -ae (f): a rose

 

Singular                                   Plural

 

Nominative                 rosa                                          rosae

Genitive                      rosae                                        rosārum

Dative                         rosae                                        rosīs

Accusative                  rosam                                       rosās

Ablative                      rosā                                          rosīs

Vocative                      rosa                                          rosae

 

In the next lesson, we will focus on the first declension, so don’t worry if it is not all together clear yet.

 

Latin nouns have three possible genders: masculine, feminine or neuter. It is important to know what gender a noun is, because any adjective or pronoun that goes with a noun must agree with the nouns gender and number (adjectives must also agree with the case). We give the gender in brackets after the noun – that is what the (f) next to rosa, -ae is.

 

 

Adjectives

 

Adjectives are what qualify nouns. Blue, beautiful and mad are examples of adjectives. Latin adjectives each belong to their own declension, but must agree in gender, number and case with the noun they modify. That is how you know what adjective goes with what word. We will study adjectives later on.

 

Articles

 

Articles are determiners; they tell you in what way someone is speaking of a thing. The and a are common articles. Latin does not have articles strictly speaking, though sometime demonstrative adjectives (e.g. that, those), are used as articles. Nouns usually will not have any kind of articular word with them, so in translation you will have to supply the article that makes the most sense in English. This will become very easy, especially with practice.

 

 

Pronouns

 

Pronouns stand in for nouns, so that we don’t have to repeat the full noun over and over. I, You, He/She/It, We, You (pl)., They are English pronouns. Latin does have pronouns, but they are seldom used unless to emphasize the person. This is because Latin verbs have endings that indicate what person is doing the action, so pronouns are not necessary to know the meaning. Pronouns are declined. We will see pronouns later in this course.

Verbs

 

Verbs are the words that tell you what the action of the sentence is. Are, tell and is were the verbs of the last sentence. Every verb follows a conjugation, which gives the appropriate endings for each verb form. Conjugations are like declensions of verbs in a way, but conjugations are much more complex. This is because conjugations in addition to persons, have different tenses, voices and moods.  This may sound complicated, but English verbs have all those things too – you can definitely learn all of these if you are reading this. There are four conjugations in Latin.

 

Persons are just the pronouns – I, You, He/She/It, We, You (pl)., They. In grammatical terms, there are three different persons and singular and plural versions of each one.

 

Singular                       Plural

First person                             I                                   We

Second person                         You                             You

Third person                            He/she/it                      They

 

In Latin, each person has a different ending. In English, we have dropped most of our ending (though they still remain in old forms like thou dost, he doeth, etc.), so the only thing that changes for the most part is the third person singular – e.g. I do, he does. English essentially uses pronouns to indicate person. Latin does not usually use pronouns, but its verb endings indicate person.

 

Tenses indicate what time the action takes place in. There are past, present, and future tenses, but that is not all. Tenses convey more meaning than just time; they tell you something about the importance or occurrence of the action too. English does this as well, so it is not as foreign as it may sound. We will cover all of this in better detail when we go over verbs.

 

Voices indicate whom the action is happening to. Latin has an active and a passive voice, just like English.

 

The girl throws the ball, is an active verb sentence.

The ball is thrown by the girl, is a passive sentence.

 

Moods have to do with the grammatical construction a verb is being used in. Examples of moods are indicative, subjunctive, infinitive. We will cover these in depth later on.

 

When indicating a Latin verb, one always gives the four principle parts. These are the first person singular present indicative active, the present infinitive, the first person singular perfect indicative, and the supine in –um. Here are the principle parts of the verb to love: amō, amāre, amāvī, amātum.

 

We will cover verbs extensively in this course.

 

 

Adverbs

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. Most English adverbs happily end in –ly. Most Latin adverbs end in –ter, and are not declined (indeclinable).

 

Prepositions

Are words that precede a word and indicate its relation to other words in the sentence or paragraph. After, before, out of are English prepositions. The words that a Latin preposition is modifying will be in a particular case depending on the preposition in question. Prepositions themselves are indeclinable.

 

Conjunctions

 

Conjunctions are words that join sentences together. And is probably the most famous/used. But and or are other examples. Latin uses conjunctions similarly, and they are indeclinable.

 

 

That concludes our grammar review, and you know what to expect. In the next lesson we will focus on nouns of the first declension.

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Introduction

Introductory Lesson

Latin is a descendent of Indo-European, the parent-language to many languages, including Greek, Sanskrit and many Old Nordic languages. Latin is a very useful language to learn because it is also one of the many parents of English. Learning Latin helps you better understand English, since it helps you see where English words come from. It also gives you a better grasp of grammar, since Latin is a very complex language and the endings of words change depending on their role in the sentence; working in such a framework will lead you examine the grammatical correctness of your English sentences – even if only subconsciously. Finally, Latin is a very interesting language to learn, because of its place in history and literature. By learning Latin, you open a gateway to some of the most important leaders, poets, philosophers of Western Civilization.

 

Pronunciation

 

a. Alphabet

 

The Latin alphabet is no different from the English alphabet. In fact, the alphabet we use is the Latin alphabet. This is good news for you, since you will have one less thing to learn. Latin pronunciation differs slightly from English pronunciation, however, so read on to learn how to pronounce Latin words.

 

b. Consonants

 

Consonants in Latin are pronounced essentially the same as English, with a few exceptions. Let’s go through each consonant and note any exceptions:

 

B – The Latin ‘B’ is the same sound as the English letter, EXCEPT when followed by ‘S’ or ‘T’; it was then pronounced as a ‘P’. Thus –bs is pronounced –ps­, and –bt is pronounced –pt.

 

C – The Latin ‘C’ is always hard, like the ‘C’ in car. If it helps, think of it as a ‘K’

 

D – Pronounced the same as in English.

 

F – Pronounced the same as in English.

 

G – The Latin ‘G’ is always hard, like the ‘G’ in gum.

 

H – The Latin ‘H’ is aspirated, like in English, but more softly.

 

I – In English, ‘I’ is a vowel, but in Latin, it is both a vowel and a consonant. You will know it is a consonant when it starts a word (as in Iulus), or when it is between two vowels (as in eiectus). In both cases, pronounce it like a ‘Y’.

 

J – There is no ‘J’ in Latin. Sometimes you will see it (especially in ecclesiastical texts) when it is used instead of ‘I’ to indicated a consonantal sound. If you see it, pronounce it like a ‘Y’, never like the ‘J’ in Jim.

 

K – ‘K’ is pronounced the same as in English. It is, however, a very rare letter in Latin. One of the only word it occurs in is Kalends – meaning the ‘first of the month’.

 

L – Pronounced the same as in English.

 

M – Pronounced the same as in English.

 

N – Pronounced the same as in English.

 

P – Pronounced the same as in English.

 

Q – ‘Q’ is always followed by a ‘U’. Together they were pronounced –kw as in ‘quotient’.

 

R – ‘R’ is rolled, like in Spanish and Italian.

 

S – ‘S’ is always pronounced like it is in secure. It is never pronounced like a –z, like the second s in season.

 

T – ‘T’ is always hard like it is in tree, never soft like in condition.

 

V – ‘V’ is pronounced like the English ‘W’, never like it is in vine.

 

W – There is no ‘W’ in Latin.

 

X – ‘X’ is always pronounced –ks, as in axis.

 

Z – ‘Z’ is pronounced as in English, but it occurs only in words imported into Latin from other languages (mostly Greek).

 

c. Vowels

 

Latin vowels have only two pronunciations; they are either long or short. In some texts the length of the vowels is indicated with marks above the letter. Thus, short vowels are denoted by micron, a dipped dash above the letter (e.g. ă), while long vowels are denoted by a macron, a bar over the letter (e.g. ā). In these lessons, we will indicate usually indicate long vowels, using a macron. It is important to know the lengths of vowels and syllables generally, because the length of a syllable will sometimes change the meaning of words. For example liber means a book, while līber is an adjective which means free. See the table below for how each is pronounced:

 

Short Long
A ă – as in cap: Latin alta ā – as in father: Latin āvoco
E ĕ – as in set: Latin ferre ē – as in whey: Latin ēduco
I ĭ – as in sit: Latin digitus ī – as in chino: Latin cupīdo
O ŏ – as in frog: Latin modus ō – as in drove: Latin ōrdō
U ŭ – as in put: Latin onus ū – as in include: Latin nūbō
Y ‘Y’ is pronounced as a French ‘U’, whether short or long.

 

d. Diphthongs

 

Diphthongs are combinations of vowels that create a different sound, but that remain a single syllable. An English example would be the –ou sound in loud. Latin has six diphthongs, and they are always long. You will find them listed below, along with how to pronounce them:

 

ae – pronounced like the English word eye.

au – pronounced like the English word loud.

ei – pronounced like the English word feign.

eu – there is no English equivalent. Pronounce the sounds separately but quickly.

oe - pronounced like the English word coil.

ui – pronounced like the English word gooey but very quickly (also like the Spanish muy). ‘UI’ only occurs as a diphthong in cuius, huius, huic, cui, hui – in other instantces, the ‘U’ and ‘I’ are pronounced separately.

 

e. Syllables

 

The number of syllables in a Latin word is equal to its number of vowels and diphthongs. Thus, praestiti is divided prae-sti-ti and has three syllables.

 

In Latin syllables have quantities – they are either long or short. Some are long by nature – they consist of a diphthong or long vowel. Others are long by position – when a short vowel is followed by two consonants or –x.

Examples

Long by nature: cae-dō (both long)

Long by position: cōn-ser-vō (all long)

 

The quantity of a syllable is essential in determining where the stress accent falls.

 

f. Accent

 

In Latin, a specific syllable of each word is emphasized. We say that this syllable is accentuated, or that that is where the accent falls. Latin accentuation is based on the quantities of the syllables at the end of a word. There are X rules for accentuation, and they are always followed:

  1. In a two-syllable word, the accent always falls on the first syllable. Thus: lau-do.
  2. In words of three syllables or more, the accent falls on the next to last syllable (the penult – for penultimate) if that syllable is long – if it is not long, the accent falls on the syllable before the next to last (the antepenult). Thus: con-ser-vat,

re-cu-pe-ra-ti-o.

 

 

You now have the basics to begin your study of Latin. In the next lesson, we will cover some basics of Latin grammar – declensions, conjugations and other grammatical essentials – so that you know what to expect, and then we will start nouns of the first declension.

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