Introduction to Latin/Verbs

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The Latin Verb[edit | edit source]

Latin verbs (and verbs in general) all have the following five characteristics:

1. Person - This refers to the subject of the verb; in active verbs, it refers to who is performing the action; in passive verbs, it refers to who receives the action.

     *1st person - I, we
     *2nd person - you, you (plural)
     *3rd person - he/she/it,they

2. Number - Refers to how many subjects; singular or plural.

3. Tense - Refers to the time of the action of the verb; Latin has six tenses (present, future, imperfect, perfect, future perfect, and pluperfect).

4. Mood - Refers to the manner of indicating the action or state of the verb; Latin has three moods - the Indicative (which governs facts), the Imperative (which governs commands), and the Subjunctive (which deals with hypothesis/potentiality and subordination).

5. Voice - In transitive verbs, voice refers to whether the subject receives the action or performs the action; Latin has two voices, active and passive.

     *active - The man eats a sandwich.
     *passive - The sandwich is eaten by the man.

Verb Conjugation[edit | edit source]

A verb conjugation lists all of its forms according to the five variations listed above (person, number, tense, voice, mood).

Let's conjugate an English verb (To Love) in the Present Indicative Active (Present = tense, Indicative = mood, Active = voice).


Person Singular Plural
1st I love We love
2nd You love You (You all) love
3rd He/She/It loves They love

Note 1: The form "To Love" is known as the infinitive. In this case, it is the present active infinitive. Infinitives come in the form "to ----" or "to be -----", and they lack person and number.

Note 2: A verbal form such as "I love" is known as a finite form, because it shows all of the five characteristics of a verb. (cf. - finite vs. infinitive)

Personal Endings[edit | edit source]

Notice that in English, in order to ascertain the subject of a verb, either the subject itself or a personal pronoun (I, we, you, he, she, it, they) must be given. We cannot say "loves food" in proper English. We must say "he loves food."

Latin, however, indicates the subject of a verb by inflected endings, called personal endings.

The personal endings for the active voice are as follows:

Person Singular Plural
1st -o, -m -mus
2nd -s -tis
3rd -t -nt

Therefore, -o corresponds to I; -s to you (singular); -t to he/she/it; -mus to we; -tis to you (plural); -nt to they.

First Conjugation: Present Infinitive Active, Present Stem, and Conjugation[edit | edit source]

Let's look at our first Latin verb: amo, amare, amavi, amatum (to love).

Each normal verb entry (if you were to look it up in the dictionary) contains four principal parts. Right now, we will only concern ourselves with the first two principle parts (i.e. - amo, amare).

First, let's look at the second principle part, amare. This is the present active infinitive, which translates as "to love". All that we have to do to get the present stem of this verb is drop the -re ending. The present stem of amo, amare, amavi, amatum, therefore, is simply ama-.

Next, all that we have to do is add the various active personal endings to this stem to conjugate the verb in the present active indicative.

The first principle part, amo, gives us the 1st person singular present active indicative form.

  • Note: This is our first of many paradigms, which are various patterns that we must memorize in order to gain fluency in Latin.
Person Singular Plural
1st amo amamus
2nd amas amatis
3rd amat amant

Notice that the stem remains the same throughout, ama-. Just add the personal endings and, voilà, you have yourself a verb conjugated in the present active indicative.

IMPORTANT: This verb (amo, amare) is known as a 1st Conjugation verb because it contains an -are in its infinitive. It is also known as an -are verb. Many other verbs will follow this same paradigm.

Second Conjugation: Present Infinitive Active, Present Stem, and Conjugation[edit | edit source]

Unlike 1st Conjugation verbs, 2nd Conjugation verbs are characterized by the ending -ere in the second principle part.

QUIZ QUESTION: What form is the second principle part of a verb? (answer: present active infinitive)

Let's look at a second conjugation verb: moneo, monere, monui, monitum (to advise).

Just like 1st Conjugation verbs, you get the present stem of a 2nd Conjugation verb by going to the present active infinitve (second principle part) and dropping the -re ending.

So, we have mone- as our present stem.

Let's conjugate this verb in the present indicative active. (Once again, the first principle part gives us the 1st person singular present active indicative.)

Person Singular Plural
1st moneo monemus
2nd mones monetis
3rd monet monent

Easy enough, right?

Present Active Imperative[edit | edit source]

The imperative, as already discussed, is the mood in which commands are issued. The present active imperative is very easily formed in Latin.

1. Simply drop the -re ending from the present active infinitive to form the singular imperative. (NOTE: this is also the present stem...)

  e.g. - amare --> ama, love!

2. To form the plural present active imperative, simply add -te to the present stem.

  e.g. - ama- --> amate, love!

This works exactly the same for second conjugation verbs.

For moneo, monere, monui, monitum, the imperatives are:

singular --> mone plural --> monete

Exercises[edit | edit source]

1. Write out the present active indicative conjugation for amo, amare, amavi, amatum two or three times.

2. Write out the present active indicative conjugation for moneo, monere, monui, monitum two or three times.

3. Conjugate the 1st conjugation verb, laudo, laudare, laudavi, laudatum (to praise). After writing out the conjugation, repeat it aloud a few times. You need to automatically think "I praise" whenever you hear or see "laudo", or "he praises" whenever you see or hear "laudat".

3. What is the first principle part?

4. What is the second principle part?

5. What is an infinitive? Give the three examples that you have seen so far of Latin infinitives.

6. Form the singular and plural imperatives for laudo, laudare, laudavi, laudatum. Say them aloud a few times and think about what they mean as you say them.