Latin/Infinitives Lesson 1

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Salvēte omnēs! Welcome back to Latin for Wikiversity. Here you can peruse a new lesson in Latin, in a simple format. If you would like to catch up, you can find a directory of lessons, a classified vocabulary list, and Memrise courses at the links on the right.

To infinitives and beyond! For the next several lessons we’ll focus not so much on learning new words, but on learning to use the verbs already introduced in different ways.

New Grammar[edit]

The infinitive is a verbal form that allows a verb to function as a noun. I like to describe it as having “one foot in Nounland, the other foot in Verbland.” As a verb it can take an object, express tense (time) and voice (active or passive), and it can be modified by an adverb or adverbial phrase. As a noun it functions as a neuter, indeclinable noun; the infinitive form may be used as a neuter noun as a subject (nominative), predicate noun (nominative) and direct object (accusative).

In Latin, the second principal part of the verb is the present active infinitive. In English, the infinitive is the “to verb” form, but English tends to use the gerund form “verbing” as well. The Latin infinitive is also essential to complete the meaning of many common “modal” verbs (volo, licet, oportet, possum, etc). We have studied some of these already so this is not completely new. In future lessons, we’ll learn about how to create more complex infinitive phrases to express indirect statements; this is a construction that is very common in Latin and totally different in English.

Reviewing the forms of the 4 regular conjugations, the present active infinitive (yes, there are other infinitive forms) is listed second of the 4 principal parts in a typical dictionary, and you will notice a characteristic vowel for each conjugation:

  • 1. portāre 2. monēre 3. mittere 4. audīre

New Sentences[edit]

Latin English Notes
Cantāre mihi placet. I like to sing/singing. (lit. To sing pleases me.)infinitive used as subject noun  
Cantāre amō. I like to sing/singing. infinitive used as direct object
Vivere est discere. To live is to learn. infinitive as both subject and predicate noun
Errāre est hūmānum. To err is human. note the neuter form of adjective to agree with infinitive
Id crēdēre nōn possum. I cannot believe it/I am not able to believe that.
Vōs omnēs potestis librum legēre. All of you are able to read the book.
Īre nunc dēbent. They ought to go now.
Librum scrībere dēbēs. You ought to write a book.
Oportet nōs eum adjuvāre. It is right for us to help him/ We should help him.  
Rogāre timeō. I am afraid to ask.
Signum ferre vult. He wants to bear the standard.
Signifer esse vult. He wants to be the standard-bearer.
Lūcia amat cafeam bibere. Lucia loves to drink coffee.
Potesne audīre? Can you hear?
Domum īre timent. They are afraid to go home.
Difficile est dicere. It is difficult to say.
Paula natāre cōnātur. Paula tries to swim.
Puerī volunt esse mīlitēs. The boys want to be soldiers.
Hoc facere nolō. I do not want to do this.
Stāre mālō. I prefer to stand.
Mārcus clāvēs suas invenīre nōn potest. Marcus cannot find his keys.
Licetne nōbīs īre? May we go/Is it permitted for us to go?
Licetne mihi tabulam vidēre? May I see the menu?

Practice[edit]

Practice and learn the words and phrases in this lesson
Step one First learn the words using this lesson:
Step two Next try learning and writing the sentencing using this:
Note that the Memrise stage covers the content for all lessons in each stage.
If you are skipping previous stages you may need to manually "ignore" the words in previous levels (use the 'select all' function)

Next time we’ll look at more infinitives, including those of deponent and irregular verbs. As you may have noticed, sometimes the infinitive is before and sometimes after the main verb: I am not aware of a rule governing word order in infinitive phrases, and have seen examples from textbooks of both ways. It might become frustrating if you are trying to duplicate the sample sentences here exactly; keep in mind the flexible Latin word order. If you have any questions or comments, as always, feel free to leave them below. Bonam fortūnam!