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Chapter 1

1. Conjugation. In Latin the word "conjugation" means two things: (1) the act of joining a personal ending to a verb stem, and (2) a category of verb, classed by the vowel on the end of the stem (a, long e, short e, i; see below, #7). For lack of a better term, I call the "classifying" vowel on the end of the stem, the "thematic" vowel (a term borrowed from Greek).

2. Grammatical Terms. Know the following terms: MOOD, TENSE, VOICE, PERSON and NUMBER (see Wheelock, page 1, note 1). Here is an outline of grammar terms, including terms for verbs, nouns and adjectives, which should be printed, cut out and pasted inside the front cover of your text.


Indicative (Fact)
Subjunctive (Uncertainty)
Imperative (Command)
Infinitive ("to...")*

Active (subject acts)
Passive (subject is acted upon)

*though the infinitive is not strictly speaking a mood, it is exclusive of other moods; thus, I include it here.

Present (is, are, am, do)
Imperfect (was, were, used to)
Future (will, going to, about to)
Perfect (has, have, did)
Pluperfect (had)
Future Perfect (will have)

First (I, we)
Second (you, y'all)
Third (he/she/it, they)

Singular (I, you, he/she/it)
Plural (we, you, they)
Nominative: subject
Genitive: possession
Dative: reference; IO
Accusative: object (DO)
Ablative: obj. of prep.; various uses (p. 102)
Vocative: direct address

Click here for a printable version of this handout.

3. The Elements of a Latin Verb. Latin verbs in the present tense consist of the VERB BASE (which connotes meaning) + THEMATIC VOWEL (which signals the verb's conjugation) + PERSONAL ENDING (which indicates the person and number of the subject).

4. Personal Endings.

1. Personal endings are attached only to finite verbs ("[with] endings"), as opposed to infinitives ("[with] no endings"). Finite verbs serve as the main verbs of sentences and clauses. Latin verb endings denote person (first/second/third) and number (singular/plural).

2. The Latin personal endings (active) which are attached to verb forms are, as follows:

-o/-m* "I" -mus "we"
-s "you" -tis "you (pl.), y'all"
-t "he, she, it" -nt "they"

*originally, a nasalized vowel which can appear as either vowel (o) or a consonant (m).

5. Infinitives. The Latin present active infinitive ends in -re, which corresponds to English "to . . ." + a verb, e.g. to do, to act, to make.

6. Imperatives. The Latin present active imperative singular has no ending (only base + thematic vowel); the imperative plural ends in -te; e.g. ama "love!" (singular), amate "love!" (plural). Imperatives denote commands ("Run!," "Jump!," "Come!"). The second person is implied ("You there, jump!") but not stated explicitly in either language. If asked "What mood and why?" in reference to an imperative form, a student should answer "Direct Command." Please note that the imperative is a mood, exclusive of the other moods in Latin (indicative, subjunctive, infinitive*).

7. Conjugations. The conjugations (categories of Latin verbs) represent groups of verb stems ending in different thematic vowels, in alphabetical order: a, long e, short e, i. The first conjugation is characterized by -a- as thematic vowel, and second conjugation by -e-. Note that in the first person singular (present) of the first conjugation, the thematic vowel -a- contracts into the personal ending -o and disappears (*-ao > -o), whereas in second conjugation the first person singular does not contract (-eo). A Latin verb belongs to one and only one conjugation.

8. Translating the Present Tense. There are several possible English translations of the Latin present tense. Whereas Latin has only the simple present tense form (habeo = "I have"), English has not only the simple present but also the continual or in-process form ("I am having") and the affirmative form ("I do have") which is used primarily with negations ("I do not have"). Please note that for the moment the only form of the continual which applies here is the one which employs the -ing verb form (the active participle): "I am coming," "they are going." Simple, continual and affirmative translations are all acceptable—at times, different contexts call for each—in translating Latin present-tense verb forms into English.

9. Subject-Verb Agreement. In Latin just as in English, a plural subject requires a plural verb form: "we give," "they have," "y'all are." Likewise, a singular subject requires a singular verb form: "he gives," "she has," "it is."

10. Expression of the Subject. Because personal endings carry a sense of person and number which delimits the subject, Latin verbs do not necessarily have to state the subject, unlike English verbs which do not carry as much information. That is, "have" in English could pertain to "I have" or "you have" or "we have" or "y'all have" or "they have." Thus, English must state the subject explicitly. Conversely, Latin habemus means only "we have," and so there is no need to state "we" since -mus betokens "we." Thus, Latin does not as a habit state a pronoun subject (I/you/he/she/it/we/they). If the subject is not a pronoun, then the subject is expressed in Latin: laudant ("they praise"), but Romani laudant ("The Romans praise").

11. Handout. Click here for a printable version of the handout for Chapter 1.


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