Verbs are 'doing words', i.e. they convey the action from the subject to the object. The subject is the person or thing doing the action (put in Latin into the nominative case), and the object is the person or thing which receives or suffers the action (put in Latin into the accusative case. Verbs go between the subject and the object to show what the subject does to the object, e.g. the babe kisses the boy (where the 'suffering' is probably quite enjoyable!), or to show what the subject is, e.g. the babe is sexy.
Verb tables in Latin follow regular patterns, called conjugations. A conjugation is made up of six different forms, whose endings are changed to indicate various pieces of information about the verb, such as tense, person, mood, voice, etc. Changing the endings in this way is called inflecting the verb.
You will need to be familiar with the following terms:Number: a verb can be singular, if it shows action being performed by just one person or thing, e.g. he shouts, or plural, if it shows action being performed by two or more people or things, e.g. they shout.Person: verbs can be either first, second or third person, depending on the relation between who is performing the action and who is talking about it.First Person: a verb is said to be first person if it refers to action performed by the subject (the person or persons doing the action), e.g. I shout, which is first person singular, or we shout, which is first person plural.Second Person: a verb is said to be second person if it refers to action performed by someone or something which the subject is addressing, e.g. you (sing.) shout, which is second person singular, or you (pl.) shout, which is second person plural. Note that while the English 'you' is used for both singular and plural second person forms, the verb endings in Latin are quite different, e.g. clamas, you (sing.) shout, and clamatis, you (pl.) shout.Third Person: a verb is said to be third person if it refers to action performed by a person or thing which is not present when someone else is speaking about what they are doing, e.g. he shouts, which is third person singular, or they shout, which is third person plural.
Singular Plural First Person (the person speaking) I we Second Person (the person spoken to) you you Third Person (the person or thing spoken about) he, she, it theyBecause Latin is an inflected language, i.e. it relies on the ending on the words rather than on word order to convey the sense, it usually omits the personal pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) which are so necessary in English. Instead, it uses person endings to show the person and number of the subject. The most common person endings in the present system are these:
Singular Plural First Person (the person speaking) -o (or -m) = I -mus = we Second Person (the person spoken to) -s = you -tis = you Third Person (the person or thing spoken about) -t = he, she, it -nt = theyTense: verbs can refer to different times. There are six tenses in Latin:Present: a verb in the present tense represents an act which is taking place now (at the same time as the person speaking), e.g. he shouts, he is shouting, he does shout. Note that whereas English has three ways of expressing the present tense, there is only one form in Latin, i.e. clamat.Future: a verb in the future tense represents an act which will occur at some point in the future, e.g. he will shout, he is going to shout. Sometimes in English we use 'shall' to denote the future. [Technically, 'shall' should be reserved for first person futures, e.g. I shall shout, we shall shout, and 'will' should be used for second and third person futures, e.g. you will shout, they will shout. However, this distinction is mostly obsolete in English.] Note that whereas English has different ways of expressing the future tense, there is only one form in Latin, i.e. clamabit.Imperfect: a verb in the imperfect tense represents a repeated, frequentitive or continuous act in the past, e.g. he was shouting, he used to shout, he would shout. Note that whereas English has three ways of expressing the imperfect tense, there is only one form in Latin, i.e. clamabat.Perfect: a verb in the perfect tense represents a single, completed act in the past, e.g. he shouted, he has shouted, he did shout. Note that whereas English has three ways of expressing the perfect tense, there is only one form in Latin, i.e. clamavit.Pluperfect: a verb in the pluperfect tense represents an act in the past which has been completed before something else occurred, e.g. he had shouted (before something else occurred).Future Perfect: a verb in the future perfect tense represents an act which will be completed before something else will occur, e.g. he will have shouted (before something else will occur). In Latin, the future perfect tense is used more often than in English, because the logical time relationship between the two actions must be expressed exactly; English has become more relaxed, and often it is sufficient to translate a future perfect tense by a simple present or perfect, e.g. 'when I shall have packed my bags, I shall go to the airport' becomes 'when I have packed my bags, I shall go to the airport.Present, future and imperfect verbs belong to the present system, while perfect, pluperfect and future perfect verbs belong to the perfect system. This is important, because tenses in the present system are formed from the present stem, while tenses in the perfect system are formed from the perfect stem.Voice: a verb is said to be either active voice or passive voice.Active: a verb is said to be active if it represents the subject doing the action to the object, e.g. the babe kisses the boy.Passive: a verb is said to be passive if it represents the subject receiving the action from the object, e.g. the boy is kissed by the babe. In a passive sentence, there will be no direct object (accusative case). Instead, there is often an agent (the person actually doing the action, 'the babe' in this example), which is expressed in Latin by a / ab with the abative case for a person (ablative of the agent), e.g. he was killed by a knight, or just by the simple ablative case for a thing (ablative of the instrument), e.g. he was killed by a steamroller.There is a group of verbs in Latin called deponent verbs. These have passive endings, but are translated as if they were active.Mood: a verb is said to be either indicative mood, subjunctive mood or imperative mood.Indicative: a verb is said to be indicative if it represents a definite fact, statement or question, e.g. the babe kissed the boy; the boy is blushing. In Latin, the verb in the main clause will usually be indicative.Subjunctive: a verb is said to be subjunctive if it represents a possible notion or idea which is only hypothetical (i.e. it hasn't actually happened), e.g. if the babe were to kiss the boy, he would blush (where she hasn't actually kissed him yet, be we can imagine the idea). In Latin, the subjunctive mood is often used for verbs in subordinate clauses.Imperatives: a verb is said to be an imperative if it represents a command or order, e.g. eat your dinner! don't forget my birthday!
When we describe a verb fully, a process called parsing, we have to give no fewer than five pieces of information, i.e. the number, person, tense, voice and mood. For example, a verb form like amavissent is parsed as third person, plural, pluperfect, active subjunctive of the verb amo, amare meaning to love.
|The Four Conjugations.|
Verbs in Latin are divided into four families, called conjugations. The verbs in each conjugation follow regular patterns, which means that rather than learning up all the different tenses, voices and moods of every verb, we can just learn the rules for each conjugation and apply these to individual verbs.
As well as the verbs which fall into the regular patterns of the four conjugations, there are also irregular verbs. Irregular verbs are often formed just as one would expect, but they have some weird and bizzare forms too, which must be learned separetely.
|THERE ARE FOUR CONJUGATIONS OF VERBS IN LATIN.|
In order to determine which conjugation a verb belongs to, we look at its principal parts. Most verbs have four principal parts, from which we can form all its various forms, although some have less. The principal parts of the four conjugations can be seen in the five following verbs:
The first principal part (amo), is always the first person singular form of the present (indicative active) tense, meaning in this case, I love.The second principal part (amare), is called the infinitive. The infinitive form of any verb means 'to ... [something]', e.g., to fly, to dance, to sing, to kill, etc. The infinitive is most often used with other verbs, e.g. we love to eat ice-cream, they want to go to the bank. The second principal part is used to form the tenses of the present system, that is, the present, imperfect and imperfect tenses, as well as the imperatives, the present participle and the present passive infinitive, the gerundive and the forms of the gerund.
THE INFINITIVE IN ENGLISH OR LATIN MEANS 'TO ... [SOMETHING]', e.g. TO LOVE, TO RULE.
The third principal part (amavi), is always the first person singular form of the perfect (indicative active) tense, meaning in this case, I have loved. This principal part is important because it gives us the perfect stem, from which we form the active tenses of the perfect system, that is, the perfect, pluperfect and future perfect tenses, as well as the perfect active infinitive.The fourth principal part (amatum), is called the supine, and has the rather strange meaning of having been ... [somethinged], in this case 'having been loved'. The supine allows us to form the past participle, from which we form the passive tenses of the perfect system, as well as the future participle, the future infinitives, and the perfect passive infinitive.
It is easy to tell which conjugation a verb comes from by looking at the principal parts. three stems which are used to form all the tenses, moods, voices, etc.
All first conjugation verbs have an infinitive ending in -are, like amo amare. This occurs in no other conjugation. Note too that almost all first conjugation verbs follow the regular pattern of -o, -are, -avi, -atum in their four principal parts; indeed, they are usually abbreviated in this form in dictionaries.All second conjugation verbs have an infinitive ending in -ere. However, so do verbs of the third and third-io conjugations. To distinguish these three types of verbs, look at both the infinitive and the first principal part. If the infinitive ends in -ere, then the verb must be either second or third conjugation. It can't be first, for the infinitive ends in -are, nor can it be fourth, for the infinitive ends in -ire. To see whether it is second conjugation or either of the thirds, look at the first principal part. If it ends in -eo -ere it must be second, like moneo monere. No thirds end in -eo in the first principal part, but all seconds do, without exception. If it ends in just -o -ere, it must be third, like rego regere. If it ends in -io -ere, it must be third-io, like capio capere. Note that many second conjugation verbs follow the regular pattern of -eo, -ere, -ui, -itum in their four principal parts. It is difficult to establish a pattern for third and third-io conjugation verbs, because all the weird, strange, bizzare verbs which don't really follow any pattern are thrown together into the third conjugation. For this reason, I often refer to the third conjugation as 'the rubbish conjugation', because that is where all the trashy, difficult verbs are put! While the patterns for first, second and fourth conjugation verbs is fairly regular, you simply have to learn the principal parts of third conjugation verbs, both to be able to recognize the verb in all tenses, and to be able to translate the verb from English into Latin.All fourth conjugation verbs have an infinitive ending in -ire, like audio audire. This occurs in no other conjugation. Be careful to distinguish the third-io conjugation from the fourth conjugation: for both the first principal part ends in -io, but the infinitive of third-io verbs ends in -ere, while all fourths have an infinitive ending in -ire. Note that almost all fourth conjugation verbs follow the regular pattern of -io, -ire, -ivi, -itum in their four principal parts; indeed, they are usually abbreviated in this form in dictionaries.
|I||-o||-are||-avi||-atum||infinitive ends in -are|
|II||-eo||-ere||-ui||-itum||infinitive ends in -ere, but first principal part ends in -eo|
|III||-o||-ere||-||-||infinitive ends in -ere, but first principal part ends in -o|
|III-io||-io||-ere||-||-||infinitive ends in -ere, but first principal part ends in -io|
|IV||-io||-ire||-ivi||-itum||infinitive ends in -ire|
|The Verb Stems.|
The principal parts of any verb give us the three stems which are used to form all the tenses, moods, voices, etc.
The present stem is found by removing the -re from the end of the infinitive or second principal part, e.g. amare gives ama-.
TO FIND THE PRESENT STEM, TAKE THE INFINITIVE AND CHOP OFF THE -RE.
The perfect stem is found by removing the final -i from the end of the perfect indicative active form or third principal part, e.g. amavi gives amav-.
TO FIND THE PERFECT STEM, TAKE THE THIRD PRINCIPAL PART AND CHOP OFF THE -I.
The supine stem is found by removing the -um from the end of the supine or fourth principal part, e.g. amatum gives amat-.
TO FIND THE SUPINE STEM, TAKE THE SUPINE AND CHOP OFF THE -UM.
|Analysing a Latin Verb Form.|
We already know that verb tables in English and Latin follow regular patterns, called conjugations. A conjugation is made up of six different forms, which indicate various numbers and persons. A number can be either singular or plural, depending on whether we are talking about just one person, or several people. A person can be first ('I' in the singular, and 'we' in the plural), second ('you' in the singular, and 'you' in the plural), or third ('he, she, it' in the singular, and 'they' in the plural).
In an English conjugation, the six forms of the verb are laid out as follows:
|First Person:||I live|
|Second Person:||you live|
|Third Person:||he, she, it lives|
|First Person:||we live|
|Second Person:||you live|
|Third Person:||they live|
At the top of the table is written the infinitive. The infinitive in English or Latin means 'to ... [something]', e.g., to fly, to dance, to sing, to kill, etc.
Every verb form in English begins with a pronoun, that is, 'I', 'you' (singular), 'he', 'she', 'it', 'we', 'you' (plural) or 'they'. You will notice also that all the forms of the verb are the same, except for the third person singular, 'lives'. This is how most conjugations are formed in English, e.g. I kick, you kick, but he, she, it kicks, etc. In Latin, pronouns such as 'I', 'you', 'he', 'they', etc. are not usually used. Instead, a special code to show who is doing the action of the verb is attached to the end, and is called a person ending. For this reason, all six forms for Latin verbs have different endings.
In a Latin conjugation, the six forms of the verb are laid out as follows:
|habito, habitare, habitavi, habitatum to live|
|First Person:||habito||I live|
|Second Person:||habitas||you (s.) live|
|Third Person:||habitat||he, she, it lives|
|First Person:||habitamus||we live|
|Second Person:||habitatis||you (pl.) live|
|Third Person:||habitant||they live|
At the top of the table are the four principal parts. The first is the first person singular form habito, meaning 'I live', and the second is the infinitive habitare, meaning 'to live'. Latin verbs ending in -are in the infinitive belong to the first conjugation.
Each verb form is made up of the stem of the verb ('habit-) and a person ending. The stem stays constant throughout the table (except for the first form, where the 'a' drops out before the 'o'. Note that all the person endings of the verb are different (unlike in English, where all but one of the verb forms were the same). You need to memorize these verb endings, so that you can work out the subject and the tense of Latin verbs.
|FIRST CONJUGATION VERBS ARE RECOGNIZED BY THE INFINITIVE ENDING IN -ARE.|
It is worth noting that the present tense expresses an action which is going on at the time mentioned. In English, we have three ways of expressing the present tense, e.g., 'the wizard lives in the tower, is living in the tower, does live in the tower'.
In Latin there is only the one form to express all these shades of meaning, e.g., 'habitat' means 'he lives', 'he is living', and 'he does live'.
|How to Form a Verb in Latin.|
To form a verb correctly in Latin, you need to know the number and person that you are talking about, the stem of the verb, and the person ending.
To find the number and person that you need, substitute one of the personal pronouns ('I', 'you', 'he', 'she', 'it', 'we', 'you', 'they') for the subject of the verb. For example, in the sentence 'The wizard lives in the tower', 'the wizard' can be replaced by 'he', i.e., 'he lives in the tower'. (If we use the pronoun 'they', i.e., 'they lives in the tower', the sentence doesn't make sense, because we are using a plural pronoun instead of a singular.) Once we know that the pronoun is 'he', we know the number and person that we need to use, i.e., third person singular (refer back to the table above).
Next, we need to find the stem of the verb. In Latin, the present stem of verbs ending in -are in the infinitive, such as habitare, is found by taking the infinitive (habitare), and removing the -re from the end, leaving habita-. Likewise, the stem of the verb clamare (to shout) is clama-.
|FIND THE PRESENT STEM BY CHOPPING -RE OFF THE END OF THE INFINITIVE.|
Once we know the stem, we can attach the correct person ending. Using the table of 'habitare' above, we know that the third person singular ending for a verb ending in -are is -t. So, if we attach -t to the stem habita-, we get the form habitat.
|The wizard lives in the tower.||Magus in turre habitat.|
In the sentence, 'I and my daughter look at the moon', if we replace the subject of the verb, I and my daughter, with a personal pronoun, we would choose the first person plural form, 'we', i.e., 'I and my daughter, we look at the moon'. ('He' would be impossible, because there is more than one person involved, i.e., there is a plural subject, and 'they' changes the sense of the original, because 'I' requires the first person.)
Once we know that we need the first person plural form of the verb, we need to find the present stem. The verb 'to look at' in Latin is 'specto, spectare', a regular first conjugation verb. To find the present stem, simply chop off the final -re from the infinitive, leaving specta-.
All we need to do now is to add the correct person ending. Looking at the table of habitare above, the first person plural ending is -mus. Attaching this to the stem of the verb, we get spectamus.
|I and my daughter look at the moon.||Ego et mea filia lunam spectamus.|
|A VERB FORM IS A COMBINATION OF A STEM AND A PERSON ENDING.|
|Return to Main Index||Go to Part II|