"Latina lingua mortua est, mortua quam maxime. Prima necavit Romanos et nunc necat me."
— Famous adage of embattled Latin students. translation
A popular ancient language considered dead because nobody is born with it it as a native language. Latin was the language of Ancient Rome
, the Catholic Church, government, law, trade, taxonomy, and John Cleese
. It was the source language for the entire Romance Language family, its children being Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Romanian, and around 25 rarer languagesnote
. It also inserted its influence into many other languages, even those outside of its immediate family, most notably English (which is a West Germanic language, therefore closely related to Dutch and German), but acquired a dose of Latin thanks to the medieval conquest by the Normans who brought with them the Latin-influenced French, and this Latin influence to the English vocabulary has been augmented in extremis
through the education and utility of Latin in the Renaissance and Enlightenment as the language of Science, Intellectualism, Law, et cetera
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Archaic Latin was in fact extant in Italy for centuries before Rome was even founded. However, written Latin did not begin in proper until the the 200s B.C. Before then, there was some written Latin, but mostly it was for official purposes such as religious rites or laws.
During the medieval period, the lower vernacular forms of Latin mutated away from the base language and became the Romance languages. Latin was still used by the church, intellectuals, governments, nobility, and businesses. It was also a language of international communication, although thanks to linguistic drift and differences in pronunciation, this did not always work.
The Church, possessing the only sort of even rudimentary educational system, used Latin for everything. However, over time the Church Latin came to differ greatly from the Classical Latin. Church Latin dropped much of the subjunctive mood, allowed purpose and result infinitives, introduced the soft c and g sounds and the v sound, removed much of the more esoteric grammar, and corrupted much of the vocabulary. The result was a language that differs significantly from Classical Latin, known as Ecclesiastical Latin, the kind most used in modern Ominous Latin Chanting
because it did sound more familiar and less awkward (e.g., Classical Latin always pronounced V as U or W, "vita" would have been "wita" and "Veni Vidi Vici" would have been Weni Widi Wiki", see Latin Pronunciation Guide
During the Renaissance and early modern period, Latin was used as the origin of a lot of scientific and legal jargon, and Classical Latin was celebrated and taught to those of power, intellect and money. Thus the association that Smart People Know Latin
. This trend halted in the United States in the period following World War II
. Now, unfortunately, the language is in decline. In public schools, there are both increasingly fewer Latin teachers and ever fewer people who want to take Latin. And of those, the attrition rates are growing ever higher; a notable exception is Italy, where Latin is a compulsory subject in the vast majority of high schools (such as the Liceo Classico, Liceo Scientifico and Liceo Linguistico), and as a result many Italian students are familiar with the language. Elsewhere, Latin still survives in places that do classical education, like Saint John's College, as well as in established private schools for the gentry, which are the only places where Ancient Greek survives.
Latin nouns are actually rather similar to Russian nouns in that their role in the sentence and other implied meanings are centred around utility of affixes and mutation of the word itself, an "inflected" language (most English use of affixes such as ab-, inter-, trans-, super-, sub-, re-, -ion, and such are borrowed from Latin as a result). The grammatical structures are Noun-Adjective and Subject-Object-Verb preferably, so if one would say "wise Human" and "knowledge is power" in Latin, it would be Homo sapiens
and scientia potentia est
respectively. Although this does not have to be the situation perpetually, since the grammar order is more dependent on inflection, suffix and implied role than word order. For example, femina togam texuit
, "the woman wove a toga," which is the preferred word order, could be expressed as texuit togam femina
or togam texuit femina
. In each word the suffix: -a, -am and -uit, and not the position in the sentence, marks the word's grammatical function.
Nouns are grouped by declension, which are similar patterns of how nouns behave when the endings are applied. There are, strictly speaking, only five declensions, but assuming that you consider the 3rd io, and both the neuters to be their own declensions, then the number becomes eight. For the sake of simplicity, we'll limit it to five.
The noun endings in each declension indicate number, person, gender, and case, as well as imply other pronouns. The number indicates whether a noun is singular or plural. Person refers to first, second, or third person, meaning is it about something the speaker does, something you do, or something somebody else does. Gender is normally by far the easiest thing to tell from the outset. It is often tied to declension, but not quite.
Latin has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Any noun in any declension could be masculine or feminine, but that is often tied to declension. Neuter nouns occur only in the second, third, and fourth declensions. The most obvious rule for telling genders apart is that the endings for feminine nouns often include a's and the endings for masculine nouns often include u's. Neuter nouns are a bit harder to spot and normally need to just be memorized (especially as the accusative and nominative have the same endings).
Latin has seven noun cases, and each one has its own version for singular and plural and for different declensions. The cases are nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative, vocative, and locative. Nominative is easy enough, being for sentence subjects. Accusative is for direct objects and for non-SIDSPACE prepositions. Genitive is used for possessive. Dative means to or for something and works with indirect objects and with prepositions. Ablative is used generally to express motion away from something, and also mostly for dealing with a set of prepositions called SIDSPACE; without a preposition it generally means 'by', 'with', or 'from'. Vocative is for calling things by name. Locative is for referring to places without motion being implied. (The locative case is used for cities, towns, and small islands, and the words domus (home), humus (ground) and rus (countryside).)
The prepositions called SIDSPACE stands for Sub/super (below/above), In (in/inside/into), De (about/of), Sine (without), Per (through), Ad/ab/a (towards/away/by), Cum (with, pronounced "koom" not that "cum"), Ex/e (outside/out/out of). Some of these prepositions, such as in, ad, and ex, have different meanings when used with accusative and ablative cases. In accusative, in means into, e means out of (ex is not used in accusative), and there are different semantic differences. In general, accusative tends to be more literal in its meaning. Note that Latin lacks articles entirely, so there are no words like of, a, the, or it. These are all implied.
Many nouns have rather predictable gender. Most first declension nouns are feminine, except those referring to (at the time) male occupations like farmer or sailor. Most second declension nouns are masculine or neuter. The third declension has a mix of all three genders, and is the hardest to predict. Some endings indicate a likely gender, but others must simply be memorized. Fourth declension nouns are mostly masculine with some neuter and a couple feminine. Fifth are mostly feminine with a couple masculine. Note that gender of Latin nouns often does make some sense in advance instead of being totally random. Also, as a hint, thanks to adjective noun agreement, all nouns and adjectives must match in gender, number, and case.
Most nouns can be either singular or plural and have an equal number of cases for each. Only a few are exclusively singular or plural. The common number of cases taught and regularly encountered is 5 for singular and 5 for plural. However, there are actually 7 cases, but often certain cases sound very similar to one another. This gives most nouns, depending on how you count, between 8 and 14 variants.
First declension tends to contain mostly feminine nouns. Its endings almost all contain the letter However, some words in it are masculine. These are referred to as PAIN words.
They include Poeta (poet), Agricola (tenant), Insula (Island), Nauta (Sailor), and many others. First declension lacks a neuter variation.
Here's how the conjugation goes:
- Word: puella (girl)
- Nominative: puella (girl)
- Vocative: puella (As in the name is Puella - or 'O puella')
- Accusative: puellam (girl as direct object)
- Genitive: puellae (of the girl)
- Dative: puellae (to or for the girl)
- Ablative: puellā (by, with, or from the girl)
- Nominative: puellae (girls)
- Vocative: puellae (girls as a name)
- Accusative: puellās (girls as direct object)
- Genitive: puellārum (of the girls)
- Dative: puellīs (to or for the girls)
- Ablative: puellīs (by, with, or from the girls)
Second declension tends to contain mostly masculine nouns. Its endings almost all contain the letter u, followed by a consonant. However, some words in it are feminine, although the are very rare and outnumbered by the neuter nouns it contains. Neuter nouns have the same nominative and accusative and vocative and locative forms in the singular. In neuter, the plural nominative, accusative, vocative, and locative all use the root word with "a" as the ending. This holds true for all neuter words in all declensions. Do be aware that times, the word stem will change between singular and plural.
Here's how the conjugation goes:
- Word: discipulus (student)
- Nominative: discipulus (student)
- Vocative: discipule (used to address a student)
- Accusative: discipulum (student as a direct object)
- Genitive: discipulī (of the student)
- Dative: discipulō (to or for the student)
- Ablative: discipulō (by, with, or from the student)
- Nominative: discipulī (students)
- Vocative: discipulī (used to address students)
- Accusative: discipulōs (students as direct object)
- Genitive: discipulōrum (of the students)
- Dative: discipulīs (for the students)
- Ablative: discipulīs (by, with, or from the students)
- Word: scortum (prostitute)
- Nominative: scortum (prostitute)
- Vocative: scortum (prostitute, name)
- Accusative: scortum (prostitute as direct object)
- Genitive: scortī (of the prostitute)
- Dative: scortō (to or for the prostitute)
- Ablative: scortō (by, with, or from the prostitute)
- Nominative: scorta (prostitutes)
- Vocative: scorta (prostitutes, name)
- Accusative: scorta (prostitutes direct object)
- Genitive: scortōrum (of the prostitutes)
- Dative: scortīs (to or for the prostitutes)
- Ablative: scortīs (by, with, or from the prostitutes)
Third declension has both masculine/feminine and neuter forms. Third declension also has the infamous "I-stem words",
- Word: urbs (Fem) (city)
- Nominative: urbs (city)
- Vocative: urbs (city, as if it were a person's name)
- Accusative: urbem (city as direct object)
- Genitive: urbis (of the city)
- Dative: urbī (to or for the city)
- Ablative: urbe (by, with, or from the city)
- Nominative: urbēs (cities)
- Vocative: urbēs (cities, like a name)
- Accusative: urbēs (cities as direct object)
- Genitive: urbium (of the cities)
- Dative: urbibus (for the cities)
- Ablative: urbibus (by, with, or from the cities)
- Word: mare (sea)
- Nominative: mare (sea)
- Vocative: mare (sea, name)
- Accusative: mare (sea as direct object)
- Genitive: maris (of the sea)
- Dative: marī (to or for the sea)
- Ablative: marī (by, with, or from the sea)
- Nominative: maria (seas)
- Vocative: maria (seas, name)
- Accusative: maria (seas as direct object)
- Genitive: marium (of the seas)
- Dative: maribus (to or for the seas)
- Ablative: maribus (by, with, or from the seas)
Fourth declension also has both masculine/feminine and neuter forms.
- Word: gradus(Masc) (step)
- Nominative: gradus (step)
- Vocative: gradus (step, as if it were a person's name)
- Accusative: gradum (step as direct object)
- Genitive: gradūs (of the step)
- Dative: graduī (to or for the step)
- Ablative: gradū (by, with, or from the step)
- Nominative: graduus (steps)
- Vocative: gradūus (steps, like a name)
- Accusative: gradūs (steps as direct object)
- Genitive: graduum (of the steps)
- Dative: gradibus (for the steps)
- Ablative: gradibus (by, with, or from the steps)
- Word: cornū (horn)
- Nominative: cornū (horn)
- Vocative: cornū (horn, name)
- Accusative: cornū (horn as direct object)
- Genitive: cornūs (of the horn)
- Dative: cornū (to or for the horn)
- Ablative: cornū (by, with, or from the horn)
- Nominative: cornua (horns)
- Vocative: cornua (horns, name)
- Accusative: cornua (horns as direct object)
- Genitive: cornuum (of the horns)
- Dative: cornibus (to or for the horns)
- Ablative: cornibus (by, with, or from the horns)
Fifth declension is almost exclusively Feminine, although certain words like dies
(day) can be used with any gender of adjective.
- Word: res(Fem) (thing)
- Nominative: rēs (thing)
- Vocative: rēs (thing, as if it were a person's name)
- Accusative: rem (thing as direct object)
- Genitive: reī (of the thing)
- Dative: reī (to or for the thing)
- Ablative: rē (by, with, or from the thing)
- Nominative: rēs (things)
- Vocative: rēs (things, like a name)
- Accusative: rēs (things as direct object)
- Genitive: rērum (of the thingsc
- Dative: rēbus (for the things)
- Ablative: rēbus (by, with, or from the things)
Latin verbs are different from nouns in that they do not take declensions. However, verbs get conjugated- a lot.
Verbs are much more complicated than nouns.
Verb conjugation is absolutely everything when it comes to determining the meaning and target of a verb. Conjugation refers to the different endings that can be thrown onto verbs. They determine tense, number, person, voice, and mood. There are either 4 or 5 verb conjugations depending on whom you askExplanation
. There are then 6 tenses
, 2 numbers, 3 persons, 2 voices, and 2 moods. These do not stack together, so you have to learn use different variants for each different combination of tense, number, person, voice, and mood. For a typical verb, this is going to come out to a total of approximately 120 variants before parts, infinitives, absolutes, gerunds, and gerundives.
A verb's conjugation can be determined by looking at its principle parts. Most verb have 4 principle parts. The first principle part is the most basic form of the word (first person singular present active indicative). The second principle part is the word in its present active infinitive form. The third principle part is the form of the word for when it is first person singular perfect active indicative. The fourth principle part is the perfect passive participle, with its masculine singular ending.
First conjugation verb stems end in "-a".
- Example: Necō, necāre, necāvī, necātus (to kill)
- First Principle Part: Necō (I kill)
- Second Principle Part: Necāre (To kill)
- Third Principle Part: Necāvī (I killed/ I have killed)
- Fourth Principle Part: Necātus (Having been killed)
Second conjugation verb stems end in "-e". Their future tenses are formed differently from third conjugation, and may be distinguished in their standard dictionary entries from third conjugation by either the presence of an "e" before the "-o" in the first principle part or by a macron over the "e" in its second principle part (ē).
- Example: Habēo, habēre, habuī, habitus (Have)
- First Principle Part: Habēo (I have)
- Second Principle Part: Habēre (To have)
- Third Principle Part: Habuī (I had)
- Fourth Principle Part: Habitus (Having been had)
Third conjugation verb stems end in "-e". Their future tenses are formed differently from second conjugation, and may be distinguished in their standard dictionary entries from second conjugation by the lack of an "e" before the "-o" in the first principle part or by the lack of a macron over the "e" in its second principle part.
- Crēdō, crēdere, crēdidī, crēditus (to believe)
- First Principle Part: Crēdō (I believe)
- Second Principle Part: Crēdere (To believe)
- Third Principle Part: Crēdidī (I believed)
- Fourth Principle Part: Crēditus (Having been believed).
Third -iō is interesting in that its present active infinitive is like that of a normal third conjugation verb, but, as its name implies, its first principle part features an -iō ending like fourth conjugation. Its conjugated forms look very similar to fourth conjugation.
- Faciō, facere, fēcī, factus (to make)
- First Principle Part: Faciō (I make)
- Second Principle Part: Facere (to make)
- Third Principle part: fēcī (I made/have made)
- Fourth Principle Part: factus (having been made)
Fourth conjugation verb stems end in "-i".
- Pūniō, pūnīre, pūnīvī, pūnītus (to punish)
- pūniō (I punish)
- pūnīre (to punish)
- pūnīvī (I punished/have punished)
- pūnītus (having been punished)
Latin has six tenses: present, future, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect. The present and future tenses are exactly what they look like, and the tenses with 'perfect' in them deal with things in the past. The present, future, and imperfect are built off the first principal part and the perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect are built off the third principal part.
For any action currently happening or going on right now.
- In all conjugations: built by adding the number/person endings (-o/-m, -s, -t, -mus, -tis, -nt) to the stem of the first principal part.
- First Conjugation: neco, necas, necat, necamus, necatis, necant
- Second Conjugation: habeo, habes, habet, habemus, habetis, habent
- Third Conjugation: ago, agis, agit, agimus, agitis, agunt
- Fourth Conjugation: audio, audis, audit, audimus, auditis, audiunt
For any action that will happen in the future. Confusingly, the third of the future looks like the present of the second conjugation. This is something you have to look out for, as it can easily trip you up.
- In the first and second conjugations: built by adding -bi- to the end of the stem of the first principal part and then adding the number/person endings to it.
- in the third and fourth conjugations: built by adding -e- to the end of the stem of the first principal part and then adding the number/person endings to it.
- First Conjugation: necabo, necabis, necabit, necabimus, necabitis, necabunt
- Second Conjugation: habebo, habebis, habebit, habebimus, habebitis, habebunt
- Third Conjugation: agam, ages, aget, agemus, agetis, agent
- Fourth Conjugation: audiam, audies, audiet, audiemus, audietis, audient
For any action that happening recent in the past and is carrying on into the present.
- In all conjugations: built by adding -ba- to the end of the stem of the first principal part and then adding the number/person endings to it.
- First Conjugation: necabam, necabas, necabat, necabamus, necabatis, dabant
- Second Conjugation: habebam, habebas, habebat, habebamus, habebatis, habebant
- Third Conjugation: agebam, agebas, agebat, agebamus, agebatis, agebant
- Fourth Conjugation: audiebam, audiebas, audiebat, audiebamus, audiebatis, audiebant
For any action that happened in the past. The generic past tense.
- In all conjugations: built by adding the number/person endings (modified in the second person and first singular) to the stem of the third principal part. Except in the third plural, where its built by appending the third plural future active indicative of esse.
- First Conjugation: necavi, necavisti, necavit, necavimus, necavitis, necaverunt
- Second Conjugation: habui, habuisti, habuit, habuimus, habuistis, habuerunt
- Third Conjugation: egi, egisti, egit, egimus, egistis, egerunt
- Fourth Conjugation: audivi, audivisti, audivit, audivimus, audivistis, audiverunt
For any action that happens even further in the past than the past tense. If, for instance, in a sentence there were an action that happened in the past ('I went to the store...') an action that happened before it ('...after I had grabbed my wallet.') would be in the pluperfect.
Future Perfect Tense
- In all conjugations: built by adding the imperfect form of esse with the correct number and person to the stem of the third principal part.
- First Conjugation: necaveram, necaveras, necaverat, necaveramus, necaveratis, necaverant
- Second Conjugation: habueram, habueras, habuerat, habueramus, habueratis, habuerant
- Third Conjugation: egeram, egeras, egerat, egeramus, egeratis, egerant
- Fourth Conjugation: audiveram, audiveras, audiverat, audiveramus, audiveratis, audiverat
For any action that will have happened in the past in the future. Confusing, right? Generally translated in to English as 'X shall have Y-ed' (e.g., 'You shall have read this.').
- In all conjugations: built by adding the future of form of esse with the correct number and person to the stem of the third principal part. Except in the third plural, where 'erunt' is turned into 'erint' so that is doesn't look like the third plural of the perfect.
- First Conjugation: necavero, necaveris, necaverit, necaverimus, necaveritis, necaverint
- Second Conjugation: habuero, habueris, habuerit, habuerimus, habueritis, habuerint
- Third Conjugation: egero, egeris, egerit, egerimus, egeritis, egerint
- Fourth Conjugation: audivero, audiveris, audiverit, audiverimus, audiveritis, audiverint
Latin has two voices, active and passive. In active voice, the subject is the one performing the action; in passive, they are the one receiving the action. In Tenses using the present Stem, active verb endings (-o/-m, -s, -t, -mus, -tis, -nt) are simply replaced with their passive counterparts (-r, -ris, -tur, -mur, -mini, -ntur).note
In tenses using the perfect stem, the passive forms are formed with the fourth principle part followed the verb "to be" (present for perfect tense, imperfect for pluperfect, and future for future perfect). The English translations of the tenses are the same as the active, but with "being" or "been" being added, i.e. is being, will be, was being, has been, had been, will have been.
- Present Passive:
- First Conjugation: necor, necaris, necatur, necamur, necamini, necantur
- Second Conjugation: habeor, haberis, habetur, habemur, habemini, habentur
- Third Conjugation: agor, ageris, agitur, agimur, agimini, aguntur
- Fourth Conjugation: audior, audiris, auditur, audimur, audimini, audiuntur
- Future Passive:
- First Conjugation: necabor, necaberis, necabitur, necabimur, necabimini, necabuntur
- Second Conjugation: habebor, habeberis, habebitur, habebimur, habebimini, habebuntur
- Third Conjugation: agar, ageris, agetur, agemur, agemini, agentur
- Fourth Conjugation: audiar, audieris, audietur, audiemur, audiemini, audientur
- Imperfect Passive:
- First Conjugation: necabar, necabaris, necabatur, necabamur, necabamini, necabantur
- Second Conjugation: habebar, habebaris, habebatur, habebamur, habebamini, habebantur
- Third Conjugation: agebar, agebaris, agebatur, agebamur, agebamini, agebantur
- Fourth Conjugation: audiebar, audiebaris, audiebatur, audiebamur, audiebamini, audiebantur
- Perfect Passive:
- First Conjugation: necatus sum, necatus es, necatus est, necati sumus, necati estis, necati sunt
- Second Conjugation: habitus sum, habitus es, habitus est, habiti sumus, habiti estis, habiti sunt
- Third Conjugation: actus sum, actus es, actus est, acti sumus, acti estis, acti sunt
- Fourth Conjugation: auditus sum, auditus es, auditus est, auditi sumus, auditi estis, auditi sunt
- Pluperfect Passive:
- First Conjugation: necatus eram, necatus eras, necatus erat, necati eramus, necati eratis, necati erant
- Second Conjugation: habitus eram, habitus eras, habitus erat, habiti eramus, habiti eratis, habiti erant
- Third Conjugation: actus eram, actus eras, actus erat, acti eramus, acti eratis, acti erant
- Fourth Conjugation: auditus eram, auditus eras, auditus erat, auditi eramus, auditi eratis, auditi erant
- Future Perfect Passive:
- First Conjugation: necatus ero, necatus eris, necatus erit, necati erimus, necati eritis, necati erunt
- Second Conjugation: habitus ero, habitus eris, habitus erit, habiti erimus, habiti eritis, habiti erunt
- Third Conjugation: actus ero, actus eris, actus erit, acti erimus, acti eritis, acti erunt
- Fourth Conjugation: auditus ero, auditus eris, auditus erit, auditi erimus, auditi eritis, auditi erunt
Some verbs are known as deponent verbs. While these verbs appear Passive, they are translated as if they were active. Since the fourth principle part is used for the passive forms of the perfect stem tenses, deponent verbs only have three principle parts. Also of note are semi-deponent verbs, such as audeo ("to dare"), which use active forms in the present stem tenses and passive forms in the perfect stem tenses.
- Examples of deponent verbs:
- First Conjugation: miror, mirari, miratus sum
- Second Conjugation: liceor, liceri, licitus sum
- Third Conjugation: loquor, loqui, locutus sum
- Fourth Conjugation: molior, moliri, molitus sum
Latin has two Voices (Active and Passive), four Moods (Indicative, Subjunctive, Imperative, and Infinitive — though the Infinitive is technically
the "locative case of an abstract noun, expressing the action of a verb", but let's call it a Mood for [relative] simplicity), and six Tenses, divided between the Present System, which implies continued action (this comprises the Present, Imperfect, and Future Tenses) and the Perfect System, for completed actions (this comprises the Perfect, Pluperfect, and Future Perfect Tenses). The Indicative Mood has all six Tenses; the Subjunctive Mood has four (it lacks the Future and Future Perfect); the Imperative Mood has only two, the Present and Future; and the Infinitive Mood has three Tenses: Present, Perfect, and Future. Latin has three Persons: First, Second, and Third; and two Numbers: Singular and Plural.
This page is a work in progress. Please help to expand it, especially the woefully incomplete Verbs section.