Latin/Passive Voice 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.

If you have followed along in this course so far, we have learned active voice verbs in all six tenses of the indicative mood, active voice. (Present, imperfect and future tense make up the “present system”; perfect, pluperfect and future perfect make up the “perfect system”.) Now it is time to add the flip side of active voice, the passive voice.

Active voice comes from the Latin root

agō, agere, egī, actus = act;

the subject of the sentence is the agent, or actor, who performs the action of the verb. To help my students get this, I have them adopt a superhero pose. Passive voice comes from the Latin root

patior, patī, passus = suffer, allow;

the subject of the sentence is the “patient” who receives the action of the verb. I tell my students to mimic roadkill. Middle school students LOVE this, and if nothing else, I’ve helped them learn a valuable life lesson; generally it’s better to be active than passive. As a writer, you should use passive voice only when you want to focus on the action itself and what it does to the person/thing receiving it; otherwise your writing becomes weaker. But of course as a student it is something that needs to be learned.

If you remember how to conjugate deponent verbs, you already know the passive voice endings! Deponent verbs are verbs with an active meaning, but passive forms. They are introduced here:

In present tense: Deponent verbs, present tense.
In imperfect tense: imperfect tense 3.
In future tense: future tense 3.

These are the three tenses of the present system. The passive voice endings are

r, ris, tur, mur, minī, ntur

for all three tenses; in the imperfect tense, the connecting vowel (ā for first conjugation, e for 2, 3, and 4) is added to the tense sign –ba- followed by the endings.

In the future tense, 1st and 2nd conjugations have their connecting vowels, followed by the tense sign, which also undergoes some vowel changes so it ends up as

–bor, beris, bitur, bimur, biminī, buntur

3rd and 4th follow the pattern

–ar, -ēris, -ētur, ēmur, ēminī, entur

A pretty good conjugation chart can be found here although you may prefer macrons rather than umlauts over the long vowels. There are also charts at Wikibooks.

To indicate the living agent (the person or animal who does the action of a passive verb), use the “ablative of agent” = preposition ā / ab + the ablative. To indicate the non-living agent or means, use the “ablative of means” which is the ablative alone, no preposition. It may help to remember that people are more important than things; they get a preposition, things do not.

New Vocabulary

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Latin English Audio (Classical) Notes
fossa, ae ditch, trench
vallum, i wall, rampart a defensive wall; contrast with murus
occidō, occidere, occidī, occisus, 3
interficiō, interficere, interfecī, interfectus, 3
kill We are mildly surprised we have managed to get this far in Latin without introducing this verb, but please excuse any violent example sentences!

New Sentences

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Latin English Notes
Mārcus pīlam jacit. Marcus throws the ball. Active voice
Pīla ā Marcō jacitur. The ball is thrown by Marcus. Passive Voice
Pīlae ā puerīs jacientur. Balls will be thrown by the boys.
Lūcia ab omnibus amātur. Lucia is loved by all.
Lūcia ā frātre suō amābātur. Lucia was loved by her brother.
Ab omnibus canibus in urbe amābimur. We will be loved by all the dogs in the city.
Mārcus ā Lūciā occīditur. Marcus is killed by Lucia.
Gladiīs occīduntur. They are killed with (by means of) swords.
Ab eīs nōn occīdar. I will not be killed by them.
Pānis cultrō secātur. The bread is cut with a knife.  
Arānea ab ave editur. The spider is eaten by the bird.
Omnia crūstula ā puerīs edentur. All the cookies will be eaten by the boys.
Capiēris/ Capiēmini. You will be captured.
Ā serpentibus terreor. I am frightened by (terrified of) snakes.
Hic liber a multīs legitur. This book is read by many.
Mīles a civibus memoriā tenētur. The soldier is remembered by the citizens.
Negōtiō retineor. I am held back (restrained) by business/duty.
Ā magistrō dīmittentur. They will be dismissed by the teacher.
Oppidum incenditur. The town is being burned.
Vocāmur. We are being called.
Paula ā Gāiō vidētur. Paula is seen by Gaius.
Paula negotiosa vidētur. Paula seems/looks busy. Passive voice of video often means “seems, looks, appears.” Think of it as “is seen to be”.
Gāius laetus vidētur. Gaius looks happy.
Multī librī scrībuntur. Many books are (being) written.
Multae epistulae scrībēbantur. Many letters were being written.
Multa verba scrībentur. Many words will be written.
Quōmodo Latīnē dīcitur? How is it said in Latin?/ How do you say it in Latin?
Fāber honestus esse dīcitur. The craftsman is said to be honest./ They say that the craftsman is honest.
Castra vallō fossāque muniuntur. The camp is fortified with a wall and a ditch.


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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 lesson, we’ll look at the perfect system of the passive indicative. Multa exempla dabuntur. (Many examples will be given.) Valēte et bonam fortūnam!