(1) Spot the PATTERN in its simplest form (as in mathematics).
(2) From the pattern identify the STEM and the ENDING (for convenience below we often separate these by a
(3) Learn examples that conform to the pattern (regular).
(4) Learn examples that deviate from the pattern (irregular).
5 Patterns or "declensions".
Identify by the ending of the genitive singular (from dictionary):
(1) -ae (2) -i (3) -is (4) -ûs (5) -ei
Wnat precedes this is called the STEM from which we decline the rest of the noun according to the pattern.
2 Basic patterns related to noun declensions.
(1) 1st/2nd declension.
has endings like 2nd declension nouns in -us or -er
has endings like 1st declension nouns in -a
has endings like 2nd declension nouns in -um Eg:
good [K 71]
(2) 3rd declension.
Decline like masculine, feminine and neuter nouns of the 3rd declension (exception: ablative often
ends in -i). Masculine and feminine are often identical. Eg:
huge [K 74]
4 Patterns or "conjugations". Identify by present infinitive, the second of its principle parts (column (B) below).
This gives the present stem; perfect stem from perfect indicative ((C) below).
Conjugations (1) and (2):
Conjugations (3) and (4):
As conjugations (1) and (2)
IMPERATIVE MOOD, ACTIVE
Present stem + te:
Irregular 3rd conjugation singular imperatives
- bear, bring
- do, make
Noli (s) or nolite (pl) followed by present infinitive ((B) above)
Noli regere: Do not rule
Present, future simple and imperfect tenses - start with the active form and then substitute so that
-o or -m becomes
-or or -r
(but regeris not regiris
in present for 3rd
For instance "He shall be ruled" is reg-etur.
Perfect, future perfect, pluperfect passive are formed from a combination of perfect participle passive (see
imperfect tense of sum, respectively as
Present Participle Active
Present stem + (e)ns
Meaning: loving etc
These decline like a 3rd Declension adjective with stem ending nt-, like ingens, (gen ingent-is)
Future Participle Active
Stem from supine ((D) above), dropping the -um)
Ending -urus declines as 1st/2nd declension adjective
Meaning: about to love etc
Perfect Participle Passive
Stem from supine ((D) above, dropping the -um)
Ending -us declines as 1st/2nd declension adjective
Meaning: having been loved, etc
It is also combined in the nominative (all genders), with parts of sum to generate compound passive forms. For
instance in the perfect passive indicative
"They (f. pl) have been loved" is amat-ae sunt
(literally, "They are having been loved").
Present Infinitive Active
As (B) above.
Perfect Infinitive Active
From (C) above: add -isse to perfect stem:
Meaning: to have loved etc
Future Infinitive Active
Future participle active + esse:
moniturus esse etc
Meaning: to be about to love etc
Present Infinitive Passive
As present infinitive active, final e replaced by i:
Meaning: to be loved etc
Perfect Infinitive Passive
Perfect participle passive + esse:
Meaning: to have been loved (literally, to be having been loved) etc
Future Infinitive Passive [K 120-123]
Supine + iri:
monitum iri etc
Meaning: to be about to be loved etc
Present Subjunctive Active
Present stem + -am, -as, -at, -amus, -atis, -ant
eg reg-am, reg-as, reg-at etc.
Exception 1st conj am-em, am-es, am-et, am-emus, am-etis, am-ent.
Present subjunctive is often translated "may" or "let".
Imperfect Subjunctive Active
Present infinitive active + -m, -s, -t, -mus, -tis, -nt
eg regere-m, regere-s, regere-t etc
Imperfect subjunctive is often translated "might", "were to" or "would".
Perfect Subjunctive Active
As future perfect indicative but 1st sing ends -erim.
Pluperfect Subjunctive Active
Perfect infinitive active + -m, -s, -t, -mus, -tis, -nt
eg rexisse-m, rexisse-s, rexisse-t ...
Pluperfect subjunctive is often translated "would have".
Present and Imperfect Subjunctives Passive
As the active forms, making the usual substitutions (-m becomes -r etc) to get the passive.
Perfect Subjunctive Passive
Perfect participle passive + present subjunctive of sum:
amatus sim, sis, sit; amati simus, sitis, sint
Pluperfect Subjunctive Passive
Perfect participle passive + imperfect subjunctive of sum:
amatus essem, essês, esset; amati essêmus, essêtis, essent.
GERUND AND GERUNDIVE
The gerund is a neuter active verbal noun meaning "the act of" doing. It is formed by adding -(e)ndum to the
present stem and declines like a 2nd declension neuter noun. Thus
ama-ndum, monê-ndum, reg-endum, audi-endum
The gerundive is an adjective, passive in meaning, as "fit to be" or, "ought to be" done. It is formed like the
gerund but with the endings of a 1st/2nd declension adjective ama-nd-us, -a, -um etc. So audiendus means "fit
to be heard" or "ought to be heard" [K 120-123]
he, she, it
he, she, it
he, she, it
that (often pejorative)
the same (declines like is, ea, id)
who, which (relative), or
who?, what? (interrogative)
(some or an-)other
one or the other (of two)
Pronouns broadly follow the pattern of 1st/2nd declension adjectives. But
genitives singular often end -ius
datives singular often end -i.
Pronouns beginning ali- mean "some ..."
eg aliquis, someone; aliquot, some number.
Pronouns beginning t- often translate "so" or "such"
eg tam, so; tot, so many
tantus, so great; talis, of such a kind, such
Pronouns beginning qu- often translate by an English "wh-" or "how". Eg:
qui and quis: who, which, what (above)
quam: how, as; quot: how many
quantus: how great; qualis: of what kind
Pronouns ending -cumque denote -ever, -soever: Eg:
quicumque: whoever, whatever
Parallelisms are common : tam...quam; tot...quot; alter...alter etc [K 335]
Indirect statement (reported speech) (Substantival/noun)
In classical Latin this is normally done by
subject in the accusative
verb in the infinitive
"that" omitted, eg
Scio eum bonum esse - I know that he is good
(Literally, I know him to be good)
In Church Latin this may be done by quia / quod (that) with the indicative.
Consecutive clauses (Adverbial)
Anticipated by some form of "so" in the main clause
(eg ita, tam, sic, or tot "so many", tantus "so great")
Then ut (that, with the subjunctive) (negative, ut non)
Final clauses (Adverbial)
Ut (so that / in order to, with a subjunctive)
Ne (so that not, in order not, like ut)
(Note: ut on its own or with an indicative usually means "as", like sicut "just as")
Causal clauses (Adverbial)
quia / quod (because, with the indicative or subjunctive)
Cum (since, with the subjunctive)
Temporal clauses (Adverbial)
cum (when, with indicative or (in the past) subjunctive)
antequam (before) } both normally with the indicative
postquam (after) }
Conditional clauses (Adverbial)
Si (if, with indicative or subjunctive)
Nisi (if not / unless, like si)
Concessive clauses (Adverbial)
Etsi, etiamsi, tametsi (even if, with indic. or subj.)
Quamquam (although, with the indicative)
Quamvis, licet (although, with the subjunctive)
Relative clauses (Adjectival)
Qui, quae, quod (who / which, with an indicative)
The ablative absolute takes the form of two ablatives in succession. One is a noun or pronoun, the other is
usually a participle. Attempt a translation along the lines of
"When the is / was / had been "
and then rephrase into smoother English when you have understood it. Eg
When Caesar is about to come, ie
Caesar being on his way
Most commonly the participle is
PRESENT (in which case ACTIVE) or
PERFECT (in which case PASSIVE):
caenantibus omnibus : when all were eating
his auditis : when these things had been heard
Conjunctions regularly encountered include
: but, however (2nd word)
: but, moreover (2nd word)
: for (2nd word)
} : therefore (usually 2nd word)
: also (2nd word)
RULES FOR UNSEENS
(1) Read the passage twice over to try and identify the context.
Apply the following suggestions for each sentence:
(2) Identify the separate main and subordinate clauses. Subordinate clauses are often but not always
enclosed in commas.
(3) Try bracketing off subordinate clauses and other units as you find them so as to clarify the
Apply the following suggestions for each clause, starting with the main clause:
(4) Find the verb. This is often but not always the last word in the clause.
(5) Parse the verb : identify voice (active / passive), number (singular / plural), person (1st / 2nd / 3rd),
mood (indicative / subjunctive / imperative / infinitive etc)
(6) Identify its subject (a noun or pronoun in the nominative case, or built into the verb?)
(7) Identify the object if any in the accusative or perhaps dative case (indirect objects)
(8) Look for any ablative absolutes (active / passive)
(9) Look for parallel structuring: [K 179] Eg:
aut ... aut
: either ... or
vel ... vel
: either ... or
sive ... sive
: whether ... or
nec ... nec (or, neque ... neque) : neither ... nor
tam ... quam
: so ... as (etc see PRONOUNS above)
When you find words you do not know:
(10) Mentally put "something" until you can make a sensible guess.
(11) With compound verb stems (simple verb name preceded by a preposition eg re-, con-, pre-, ad-,
in-, ab-, per-), try first translating the simple stem on its own. Then see what flavour is added by the
proposition (eg per- often suggests "completely"). Eg
convocare: vocare means to call; convocare, to call together.
abicere: iacere means to throw; abicere, to throw away.
pervenire: venire means to come; pervenire, to arrive at.
(This doesn't work for invenio which means to find, not come in! - English "invention")
(12) Look for English derivatives. These often come from the supine eg frango, I break, has supine
fractum, from which we get "fracture".
Written to accompany Church Latin for Beginners - An Elementary Course of Exercises in Ecclesiastical Latin
by J. E. Lowe, M.A. (London: Burnes Oates & Washbourne Ltd, 1930).
References "[K nnn]" are to sections in Kennedy's Revised Latin Primer (London: Longman, 1962).