Latiné loqui disce sine molestiá!
Learn to speak Latin with ease! ¡Aprende a hablar latín sin esfuerzo!
Apprenez à parler latin sans peine! Impara a parlare latino senza sforzo! Lernen Sie latein zu sprechen ohne Mühe!
The conjugation (present indicative)
All Latin verbs are classified into five groups known as conjugations. These are called the príma, secunda, tertia, mixta and quárta, where the mixta is just a combination of the tertia and the quárta.
Latin verbs are traditionally listed in dictionaries by their 1st person singular present indicative active form, which ends in –ó in the príma (amó), –eó in the secunda (habeó), –ó in the tertia (mittó), –ió in the mixta (capió), and –ió in the quárta (audió). This creates a double ambiguity, between the prima and the tertia on the one hand, both marked by a naked –ó ending, and between the mixta and quárta on the other, both marked by an –ió ending. It is therefore less ambiguous to refer to Latin verbs by their infinitive active, which ends in –áre in the príma (amáre), –ére in the secunda (habére), –ere in the tertia (mittere), –ere also in the mixta (capere), and –íre in the quárta (audíre), as this —if, of course, we duly mark the quantity of the vowels both in writing and, certainly, in speaking, as is essential— presents only one ambiguity between the tertia and the mixta, which we will readily solve by marking out mixta verbs with the abbreviation m (for mixta).
By removing the infinitive endings –áre, –ére, –ere, –íre from verbs, we obtain the so called stem (am–, hab–, mitt–, cap–, aud–) from which we will build up many other forms.
Irregular verbs: An exception to the remarks above is the verb to be and its derivatives which have a conjugation all for themselves. The 1st person singular present indicative form is sum, and the infinitive is esse. The only other irregular active infinitives in the Latin language appear in the verbs ferre, velle, nólle and málle, and their derivatives, all belonging to the third conjugation; and in the first conjugation dare, which has a short a.
Having assimilated the above information, you should now be in a possition to identify the conjugation any verb belongs to if their infinitive active is given, as in the following exercise. Guess the conjugation of each verb and then roll your cursor on it and wait to check your answer or check all at once from the link below:
In Latin, just as in English, most verbs can appear in either of two voices: one is the active (to love) and the other is the passive (to be loved). In English, the passive voice is marked by the use of the verb to be and the past participle of the verb in question (here loved, from the verb to love). In Latin, passive forms are just marked by a different set of endings from the active ones. We have seen that active infinitives (to love, to have, to send, to take, to hear) end all in –re in Latin. Passive infinitives (to be loved, to be had, to be sent, to be taken, to be heard) just change this into –rí, except that the tertia and mixta, instead of the expected –erí have just –í.
The only exception to the remarks above is the verb facere (m), and a few of its derivatives, which have a passive infinitive fierí.
Having assimilated the above information, you should now be in a possition to build up the passive infinitive of any verb if the infinitive active is given, as in the following exercise. Roll your cursor on each word and wait to check your answer or check all at once from the link below:
The Latin present tense is equivalent in meaning to the English present tense, except that English has two forms, the simple present (I love) and the present continuous (I am loving), whereas Latin conveys both these ideas by the same present form (amó). The English so called present perfect (I have loved) is considered a past tense in Latin and need not be dealt with here.
Latin, just like English, has two voices for every tense, as we explained above, and so also in the present tense we have the active (I love or I am loving) and the passive (I am loved or I am being loved). As we also explained for the infinitive, in Latin the passive is marked not by the use of the verb to be plus the participle, but by a set of endings different from the active (amó is I love or I am loving, whereas I am loved or I am being loved is amor).
English also needs the presence of a subject, often in the form of a personal pronoun, to indicate the grammatical person of the verb (I love, you love, we love, they love), except that it also marks the third person singular by an –s ending (he/she/it loves). Latin marks all the persons of a verb through different endings, and so the subject doesn’t need to be further specified except for emphasis. Every person has its distinctive ending, and once again they are different for the active and for the passive voice. Latin personal endings, for all verbs, irrespective of the conjugation they belong to, and in most tenses, are as follows:
1 Only to be (sum) and its derivatives have –m in the present.
Having assimilated the above information, you should now be in a possition to identify (with only some slight ambiguity if the ending is –s, and remembering that the less frequent alternative for the 2nd person singular passive forms in –re ends up looking exactly the same as the active infinitives!) the person and number, and the voice, of any present tense form (and in fact of any Latin verbal forms in all but a few tenses), as in the following exercise. Roll your cursor on each word and wait to check your answer or check all at once from the link below:
The personal endings that we have just seen above, and which appear at the end of most verbal forms, give us the information about person, number and voice, as we have learnt, but don’t tell us anything about tense or mood. We can thus now be able to identify that dúcimus, dúcémus, dúcámus, dúcébámus or dúcerémus, are all 1st person plural active forms; but, even if we are told that dúcere means to lead, we still don’t know whether those forms represent we lead or we will lead or we may lead or we used to lead or we might lead, which are all 1st person plural active. The information that in English is conveyed by auxiliaries like will or may or used to or might or also by the absence of auxiliaries, as in we lead, is condensed in Latin into the few sounds that appear, or are absent, between the stem of the verb, which carries the semantic meaning (dúc– to lead), and the personal endings we are now able to identify (–mus 1st person plural active).
These intervening sounds that carry the essential information about tense and mood vary according to the conjugation the verb belongs to. So, for instance, an intervening é can indicate present indicative in a verb belonging to the second conjugation (timémus we fear, from timére), but present subjunctive in a verb belonging to the first (amémus we may love, from amáre), and even future in a verb belonging to the third (dúcémus we will lead, from dúcere). This is why knowing the meaning of a Latin verb is not enough, we also need to know its conjugation. Fortunately, the conjugation of a verb is obvious enough from its infinitive, as seen above, and this is the form we will memorise.
We are only going to concentrate on one tense here, the present indicative, which is the one you are expected to know before entering the course. The sounds that identify the tense and mood of a verbal form as being present indicative are as follows for each conjugation:
If we also learn that a short i in Latin is regularly transformed into a short e when it occurs before an r, we immediately realise that these vowels are in fact the same as characterise the infinitives themselves in the different conjugations:
By attaching the personal endings that we learnt to identify in section II to the different stems we can extract from the infinitives, through the intervening vowels that we have seen to correspond to each conjugation, we will obtain the present indicative forms. We only need to remember four things:
1. The intervening vowel disappears in the 1st person singular of the first and third conjugations, and in the 3rd person plural of the third.
2. A vowel u appears before the nt in the 3rd person plural of the third, mixta and fourth conjugations.
3. A long vowel becomes short before another vowel, before the group nt, or before a final –t.
4. A short i becomes short e before an r, as seen in the infinitives.
The present indicative tense (as well as the infinitive) for all conjugations, active and passive, is therefore as follows:
All of the previous explanations were meant to help you make sense of the information contained in the last box; in fact, the only thing you really need to do is memorise the 5 paradigms (14 forms each) that are given.
Having assimilated the above information, you should now be in a position to conjugate any regular verb in the present tense 1, active and passive, in Latin, given their infinitive, as in the following exercise. Fill in the forms in the relevant boxes, and click on check all to check your answers:
1 Only 10 verbs are irregular in the present indicative: velle, nólle and málle; ferre and its derivatives and ésse (edere); íre and quíre and their derivatives; dare; and orírí (the present indicative follows the mixta conjugation) and fierí (the present follows the quárta conjugation active) and their derivatives.