Open main menu

Latin is a heavily inflected language with largely free word order. Nouns are inflected for number and case; pronouns and adjectives (including participles) are inflected for number, case, and gender; and verbs are inflected for person, number, tense, aspect, voice, and mood. The inflections are often changes in the ending of a word, but can be more complicated, especially with verbs.

Thus verbs can take any of over 100 different endings to express different meanings, for example regō "I rule", regor "I am ruled", regere "to rule", regī "to be ruled", rēxisset "he would have ruled", and so on. Regular verbs are classified into four different groups known as conjugations, according to whether the infinitive ends with -āre, -ēre, -ere, or -īre. There are also irregular verbs such as sum "I am".

There is no definite or indefinite article in Latin, so that rēx can mean "king", "a king", or "the king" according to context.

Nouns belong to one of three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). The gender of a noun is shown by the adjectives and pronouns that refer to it: e.g., hic vir "this man", haec mulier "this woman", hoc nōmen "this name". There are also two numbers: singular (mulier "woman") and plural (mulierēs "women").

As well as having gender and number, nouns have different endings according to their function in the sentence. These different endings are called cases. For example, masculine and feminine nouns have different forms depending on whether they are the subject or the object of the verb: rēx videt "the king sees", but rēgem videt "he sees the king". These two are called the nominative and accusative cases respectively of the word. (In neuter nouns the nominative and accusative cases are identical.) Nouns also have a genitive case, meaning "of" (rēgis "of the king"), a dative case, meaning "to" or "for" (rēgī "to/for the king"), and an ablative case, meaning "with" (rēge "with the king"). A sixth case, the vocative, is used for addressing. With most nouns it is identical with the nominative, e.g. ō rēx "o king!". A seventh case, the locative, has marginal use, and is mostly found with the names of towns and cities, e.g. Rōmae "in Rome".

Pronouns, adjectives and the numbers one to three also show case and number to agree with the noun they refer to. Thus haec tertia pars "this third part" changes to hanc tertiam partem when accusative.[1]

Nouns differ from one another in their case endings: for example, the genitive of puella "girl" is puellae "of the girl" but the genitive of servus "slave" is servī "of the slave". Nouns are therefore classified into five different groups called declensions according to the pattern of their endings. Those like puella with genitive -ae are said to belong to the 1st declension, while those like servus with genitive are 2nd declension, and so on.

Priscian, or the Grammar, marble cameo panel dated 1437–1439 from the bell tower of Florence, Italy, by Luca della Robbia. The scene is an allegory of grammar and, by implication, all of education. Note the opening door in the background and the unshod feet of the first pupil.

Latin word order is commonly subject–object–verb. However, other word orders are common. Different word orders can also be used to express subtle nuances, even in prose. (See Latin word order.)

In Latin an adjective can come either before or after a noun, e.g. vir bonus or bonus vir "a good man". Overall, the position before the noun is more frequent, although some kinds of adjectives, such as adjectives of nationality (vir Rōmānus "a Roman man") usually follow the noun. The adjective may also be separated from its noun by other words, especially in poetry. Prepositions, such as in ("in" or "into") or ex ("from" or "out of"), usually precede the noun, except sometimes in poetry.

Latin usually omits pronouns as the subject except for emphasis; so for example amās by itself means "you love" without the need to add the pronoun "you". (A language with this characteristic is known as a pro-drop language.) Latin also exhibits verb framing in which the path of motion is encoded into the verb rather than shown by a separate word or phrase. For example, the Latin verb exit (a compound of ex and it) means "he/she/it goes out".

Contents

VerbsEdit

TensesEdit

Latin verbs have six basic tenses. Three of these are based on the present stem (e.g. dūc-) and three on the perfect stem (e.g. dūx-). Each tense may be active or passive. These are known as the active voice and passive voice respectively.

The basic tenses are known as the indicative mood of the verb. In addition, there are four tenses in the subjunctive mood, which is used for indefinite statements and in certain types of subordinate clause.

Each tense has endings corresponding to six persons, known as 1st person singular, 2nd person singular, 3rd person singular, 1st person plural, 2nd person plural, and 3rd person plural. There are no respectful forms in Latin: the 2nd person singular is used even when addressing a person of high status.

Some verbs, such as sequor ("I follow"), have the passive endings but are active in meaning. These are known as deponent verbs.

INDICATIVE Active Passive
Present dūcō
dūcis
dūcit
dūcimus
dūcitis
dūcunt
I lead, I am leading
you lead
he/she/it leads
we lead
you pl. lead
they lead
dūcor
dūceris
dūcitur
dūcimur
dūciminī
dūcuntur
I am led, I am being led
you are led
he/she/it is led
we are led
you pl. are led
they are led
Future dūcam
dūcēs
dūcet
dūcēmus
dūcētis
dūcent
I will lead, I will be leading
you will lead
he/she/it will lead
we will lead
you pl. will lead
they will lead
dūcar
dūcēris
dūcētur
dūcēmur
dūcēminī
dūcentur
I will be led, I will be being led
you will be led
he/she/it will be led
we will be led
you pl. will be led
they will be led
Imperfect dūcēbam
dūcēbās
dūcēbat
dūcēbāmus
dūcēbātis
dūcēbant
I was leading, used to lead
you were leading
he/she/it was leading
we were leading
you pl. were leading
they were leading
dūcēbar
dūcēbāris/-re
dūcēbātur
dūcēbāmur
dūcēbāminī
dūcēbantur
I was being led, I used to be led
you were being led
he/she/it was being led
we were being led
you pl. were being led
they were being led
Perfect dūxī
dūxistī
dūxit
dūximus
dūxistis
dūxērunt/-ēre
I led, I have led
you led
he/she/it led
we led
you pl. led
they led
ductus sum
ductus es
ductus est
ductī sumus
ductī estis
ductī sunt
I was led, I have been led
you were led
he was led
we were led
you pl. were led
they were led
Future Perfect dūxerō
dūxerīs
dūxerit
dūxerīmus
dūxerītis
dūxerint
I will have led
you will have led
he/she/it will have led
we will have led
you pl. will have led
they will have led
ductus erō
ductus eris
ductus erit
ductī erimus
ductī eritis
ductī erunt
I will have been led
you will have been led
he will have been led
we will have been led
you pl. will have been led
they will have been led
Pluperfect dūxeram
dūxerās
dūxerat
dūxerāmus
dūxerātis
dūxerant
I had led
you had led
he/she/it had led
we had led
you pl. had led
they had led
ductus eram
ductus erās
ductus erat
ductī erāmus
ductī erātis
ductī erant
I had been led
you had been led
he had been led
we had been led
you pl. had been led
they had been led
SUBJUNCTIVE
Present dūcam
dūcās
dūcat
dūcāmus
dūcātis
dūcant
I may lead, I would lead
you may lead
he/she/it may lead
we may lead
you pl. may lead
they may lead
dūcar
dūcāris
dūcātur
dūcāmur
dūcāminī
dūcantur
I may be led, I would be led
you may be led
he/she/it may be led
we may be led
you pl. may be led
they may be led
Imperfect dūcerem
dūcerēs
dūceret
dūcerēmus
dūcerētis
dūcerent
I might lead, should lead
you might lead
he/she/it might lead
we might lead
you pl. might lead
they might lead
dūcerer
dūcerēris
dūcerētur
dūcerēmur
dūcerēminī
dūcerentur
I might be led
you might be led
he/she/it might be led
we might be led
you pl. might be led
they might be led
Perfect dūxerim
dūxerīs
dūxerit
dūxerīmus
dūxerītis
dūxerint
I led, I have led
you led
he/she/it led
we led
you pl. led
they led
ductus sim
ductus sīs
ductus sit
ductī sīmus
ductī sītis
ductī sint
I was led, have been led
you were led
he was led
we were led
you pl. were led
they were led
Pluperfect dūxissem
dūxissēs
dūxisset
dūxissēmus
dūxissētis
dūxissent
I would have led, I had led
you would have led
he/she/it would have led
we would have led
you pl. would have led
they would have led
ductus essem
ductus essēs
ductus esset
ductī essēmus
ductī essētis
ductī essent
I would have been led
you would have been led
he would have been led
we would have been led
you pl. would have been led
they would have been led
IMPERATIVE
Present dūc!
dūcite!
lead! (sg.)
lead! (pl.)
(dūcere!)
(dūciminī!)
be led!
be led! (pl.)
Future dūcitō!
dūcitōte!
lead! (sg.)
lead! (pl.)
3rd person dūcitō
dūcuntō
he must lead
they must lead
INFINITIVES
Present dūcere to lead dūcī to be led
Future ductūrus esse to be going to lead ductum īrī to be going to be led
Perfect dūxisse to have led ductus esse to have been led
PARTICIPLES
Present dūcēns
dūcentēs
(while) leading (sg.)
(while) leading (pl.)
Future ductūrus/a/um going to lead
Perfect ductus/a/um having been led
GERUNDIVE dūcendus/a/um (necessary) to be led
GERUND ad dūcendum
dūcendī
dūcendō
with a view to leading
of leading
by leading
SUPINE ductum (it)
(facile) ductū
(he goes) in order to lead
(easy) to lead

In the above table, the lines above the vowels (called macrons) indicate that the vowel in question is long.

It can be seen that the three perfect tenses use a different stem (dūx- instead of dūc-). The perfect stem for any particular verb cannot always be predicted and usually has to be looked up in a dictionary.

A distinction between perfective aspect (I did) and imperfective aspect (I was doing) is found only in the past in Latin. In the present or future, the same tenses have both aspectual meanings.

Unlike in Ancient Greek or modern English, there is no distinction between perfect (I have done) and simple past (I did). The same tense, known in Latin grammar as the perfect tense, has both meanings.

The participles ductus and ductūrus change for different genders. Thus ductus est = 'he was led', but ducta est 'she was led', ductum est = 'it was led'.

The passive imperative is almost never used except in deponent verbs, e.g. sequere mē! 'follow me!'

Regular verbsEdit

Regular verbs are divided into four groups, called conjugations.

First conjugation verbs have -ās in the 2nd person singular, and the infinitive ends in -āre:

  • amō, amās, amat 'I love, you love, he/she loves'
infinitive: amāre 'to love'

Second conjugation verbs have -ēs in the 2nd person singular, and the infinitive ends in -ēre (with long ē):

  • videō, vidēs, videt 'I see, you see, he/she sees'
infinitive: vidēre 'to see'

Third conjugation verbs have -is in the 2nd person singular, and the infinitive ends in -ere (with short e):

  • dūcō, dūcis, dūcit 'I lead, you lead, he/she leads'
infinitive: dūcere to lead'
  • capiō, capis, capit 'I capture, you capture, he/she captures'
infinitive: capere 'to capture'

Fourth conjugation verbs have -īs in the 2nd person singular, and the infinitive ends in -īre:

  • audiō, audīs, audit 'I hear, you hear, he/she hears'
infinitive: audīre 'to hear'

Further details of these conjugations are given in the article Latin conjugation.

Irregular verbsEdit

Although most verbs in Latin go like one of the above, there are also some irregular verbs, of which the most important are the following:

  • sum, es, est 'I am, you are, he/she/it is'
infinitive: esse 'to be'
  • possum, potes, potest 'I am able, you are able, he/she is able'
infinitive: posse 'to be able'
  • eō, īs, it 'I go, you go, he/she goes'
infinitive: īre 'to go'
  • volō, vīs, vult 'I want, you want, he/she wants'
infinitive: velle 'to want'
  • ferō, fers, fert 'I bring, you bring, he/she/it brings'
infinitive: ferre 'to bring'

NounsEdit

GenderEdit

Nouns are divided into three genders, known as masculine, feminine, and neuter. The difference is shown in the pronouns and adjectives that refer to them, for example:

  • ipse rēx = the king himself (masculine)
  • ipsa puella = the girl herself (feminine)
  • ipsum bellum = the war itself (neuter)

To a certain extent, the genders follow the meanings of the words (for example, winds are masculine, tree-names feminine):

  • Masculine nouns include all those referring to males, such as dominus 'master', puer 'boy', deus 'god', but also some inanimate objects such as hortus 'garden', exercitus 'army', mōs 'custom'. Words in the second declension ending in -us or -er are usually masculine.
  • Feminine nouns include all those referring to females, such as puella 'girl', mulier 'woman', dea 'goddess', but also inanimate or abstract nouns such as arbor 'tree', urbs 'city', hūmānitās 'kindness'. Words in the 1st declension like puella are usually feminine, with a few exceptions such as poēta 'poet'.
  • Neuter nouns (apart from scortum 'a whore') all refer to things, such as nōmen 'name', corpus 'body', bellum 'war', venēnum 'poison'. Neuter nouns differ from masculine and feminine in two ways: (1) the plural ends in -a, e.g. corpora 'bodies'; (2) subject and object are identical.
Masculine and feminine nouns, of whatever declension, always add -m to make the object singular, and -s to make the object plural.

Case endingsEdit

Nouns in Latin have two numbers, singular and plural. But they also have a series of different endings, called cases of the noun, which have different functions or meanings.

The order in which these cases are given in grammar books differs in different countries. In Britain and some other countries the order nominative, vocative, accusative is used as in the table below. In the United States in books such as Gildersleeve and Lodge (1895) the traditional order is used, with the genitive case in the second place and ablative last. In the popularly used Wheelock's Latin (1956, 7th edition 2011) and Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar (1903), however, the vocative is placed at the end. If Gildersleeve and Lodge's order is preferred, click on the word "GL" in the seventh column in the table below; for Wheelock's and Allen and Greenough's order click on "Wh":

Name of case sing. meaning plur. meaning Use Br GL Wh
Nominative rēx a king, the king rēgēs kings, the kings Subject 1 1 1
Vocative rēx o king! rēgēs o kings! Addressing 2 5 6
Accusative rēgem a king, the king (object) rēgēs kings, the kings (object) Object, goal 3 4 4
Genitive rēgis of the king, of a king rēgum of kings, of the kings of 4 2 2
Dative rēgī to the king rēgibus to kings, to the kings to, for 5 3 3
Ablative rēge with the king rēgibus with the kings with, by, from, in 6 6 5

Some nouns, such as the names of cities and small islands, and the word domus 'home', have a seventh case called the locative, for example Rōmae 'in Rome' or domī 'at home'. But most nouns do not have this case.

One of the difficulties of Latin grammar is that the same endings, e.g. -ēs and -ibus, are used for more than one case. Since the function of a word in Latin is shown by ending rather than word order, in theory rēgēs dūcunt could mean either 'the kings lead' or 'they lead the kings'. In practice, however, such ambiguities are rare.

DeclensionsEdit

Another difficulty of Latin is that different nouns have different sets of endings. For example, the case endings of puella 'girl', dominus 'master', bellum 'war', and corpus 'body' are as follows:

Case girl master war body Br GL Wh
Nominative puella puellae dominus dominī bellum bella corpus corpora 1 1 1
Vocative puella puellae domine dominī bellum bella corpus corpora 2 5 6
Accusative puellam puellās dominum dominōs bellum bella corpus corpora 3 4 4
Genitive puellae puellārum dominī dominōrum bellī bellōrum corporis corporum 4 2 2
Dative puellae puellīs dominō dominīs bellō bellīs corporī corporibus 5 3 3
Ablative puellā puellīs dominō dominīs bellō bellīs corpore corporibus 6 6 5

The various sets of endings are known as declensions. Nouns like puella are said to be 1st declension, those like dominus or bellum are 2nd declension, while those like rēx and corpus are 3rd declension. Most nouns belong to one of these three declensions, but there are also some others like manus 'hand' (4th declension) and diēs 'day' (5th declension). Pronouns have their own declensions, often with genitive singular -īus and dative .

There are also irregularities. For example, 3rd declension adjectives usually have ablative singular instead of -e: ingentī clāmōre 'with a huge shout'. Some 2nd declension adjectives, such as sōlus 'alone' or tōtus 'the whole of', have genitive singular -īus dative like pronouns: tōtīus orbis 'of the whole world'.

Use of casesEdit

The nominative case is used for the subject of an active or a passive verb, or the complement of a copula verb such as est 'is':

  • respondit rēx = the king replied
  • occīsus est rēx = the king was killed
  • rēx erat Aenēās nōbīs = our king was Aeneas / Aeneas was our king
  • rēx factus est = he was made king / he became king

The vocative case is used when addressing someone:

  • iubēsne mē, rēx, foedus ferīre? = do you order me, king, to strike a treaty?

The accusative case is used for the object of a sentence:

  • rēgem petiērunt = they begged for a king

It can also be used with a place name to refer to the destination:

  • Rōmam profectus est = he set out for Rome

The accusative is also used after various prepositions (especially those that imply motion towards):

  • senātus ad rēgem lēgātōs mīsit = the Senate sent ambassadors to the king
  • cōnsul in urbem rediit = the consul returned to the city

Another use of the accusative is to give a length of time or distance:

  • rēgnāvit annōs quīnque = he reigned for five years
  • quīnque pedēs longus = five foot tall

The genitive case means of:

  • rēgis fīlia = the king's daughter, daughter of the king

The dative case means to or for:

  • rēgī nūntiātum est = it was announced to the king
  • pāruit rēgī = he was obedient to (i.e. obeyed) the king
  • pecūniam rēgī crēdidit = he entrusted the money to the king

The ablative case can mean with, especially when the noun it refers to is a thing rather than a person:

  • rēgibus exāctīs = with the kings driven out, i.e. after the kings were driven out
  • gladiō sē transfīgit = he stabbed himself with a sword

It is also frequently used with prepositions, especially those meaning 'from', 'with', 'in', or 'by':

  • ūnus ē rēgibus = one from (i.e. one of) the kings
  • cum rēgibus = with the kings
  • ā rēgibus = by the kings, from the kings
  • prō rēge = for/on behalf of the king

Another use is in expressions of time and place (except those that give the length of time or distance):

  • eō tempore = at that time
  • hōc locō = at this place
  • paucīs diēbus = in a few days

The ablative can also mean 'from', especially with place names:

  • Rōmā profectus est = he set out from Rome
  • locō ille mōtus est = he was dislodged from his position

The locative is a rare case used only with names of cities, small islands, and one or two other words such as domus 'home'. It means 'at' or 'in':

  • cōnsul alter Rōmae mānsit = one of the two consuls remained in Rome
  • multōs annōs nostrae domī vīxit = he lived at our house for many years

Agreement of adjectives and pronounsEdit

Any adjective that describes or refers to a noun must be in the same case as the noun, as well as the same number and gender. Thus in the phrase below, where rēx is in the vocative case, bonus must be in the vocative also:

  • ō bone rēx = o good king

Pronouns also must agree in gender, case, and number with the nouns they refer to, as in the following, where hic is masculine agreeing with amor, but haec is feminine, agreeing with patria:

  • hic amor, haec patria est = this is my love, this my country

Articles, determiners and personal pronounsEdit

There is no indefinite article or definite article (the, a, an). Sometimes the weak determiner is, ea, id (English that, this) can serve for the definite article:

Persuāsīt populō ut eā pecuniā classis aedificārētur (Nepos)[2]
'"He persuaded the people that a fleet should be built with the money (with that money)"

Latin also has demonstratives, such as hic, haec, hoc (masculine, feminine and neuter proximal, corresponding to English this or this one near me), ille, illa, illud (distal, English that), iste, ista, istud (medial, "that one of yours"),[3] and is, ea, id ("weak" demonstrative, he, she, it).

These words, like all Latin third person pronouns can be used either as adjectives or as pronouns:

Hic homō sānus nōn est (Plautus)[4]
"This man is not sane"
Hic, putō, sānus erat (Martial)[5]
"This (man), I think, was sane"

Personal pronouns also exist, for first and second person, in both singular and plural: ego, nos (I, we) in the first, tu, vos (you, you all) in the second. A pronoun is rarely used for the subject of a verb, the function being served by the inflection of the verb.

Degrees of comparisonEdit

Adjectives exist, like in English, with positive, comparative and superlative forms. Superlative adjectives are declined according to the first and second declension noun paradigm, but comparative adjectives are declined according to the third declension noun paradigm.

When used in sentences, there are three ways to handle the declension of the thing to which the comparison is made:

  • With quam (Latin for "than") it matches the word with which it is being compared.
  • If comparing a part to the whole, the partitive genitive is used.
  • Use the ablative of degree of difference.

Examples:

  • Cornēlia est fortis puella: Cornelia is a brave girl.
  • Cornēlia est fortior puella quam Flāvia: Cornelia is a braver girl than Flavia. (Here quam is used, Flavia is in the nominative to match Cornelia)
  • Cornēlia est fortior Flāviā: Cornelia is braver than Flavia. (Here Flavia is in the ablative.)
  • Cornēlia est fortior puellārum: Cornelia is the braver of the girls (Comparison to the group, so the genitive.)
  • Cornēlia est fortior puella: Cornelia is a rather brave girl.
  • Cornēlia est fortissima puella omnium/inter omnēs/ex omnibus: Cornelia is the bravest girl of all.
Regular adjectives
POSITIVE COMPARATIVE SUPERLATIVE
[exter, -a, -um] exterior, -ius extrēmus, -a, -um
longus, -a, um longior, -ius longissimus, -a, -um
brevis, -e brevior, -ius brevissimus, -a, -um
pulcher, -chra, -chrum pulchrior, -ius pulcherrimus, -a, -um
[superus, -a, -um] superior, -ius suprēmus, -a, -um
Irregular adjectives
POSITIVE COMPARATIVE SUPERLATIVE
bonus, -a, -um melior, -ius optimus, -a, -um
magnus, -a, -um māior, -ius maximus, -a, -um
malus, -a, -um pēior, -ius pessimus, -a, -um
multus, -a, -um plūs; pl. plūres, plūra plūrimus, -a, -um
parvus, -a, -um minor, -us minimus, -a, -um

Detailed information and declension tables can be found at Latin declension.

AdverbsEdit

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs by indicating time, place or manner. Latin adverbs are indeclinable and invariable. Like adjectives, adverbs have positive, comparative and superlative forms.

The positive form of an adverb can be formed from an adjective by appending an adverbial suffix to the base, typically -e, -er, -iter, -itus, more rarely -o, or -um. The adjective clārus, -a, -um, which means bright, can be contrasted to the adverb clārē, which means brightly.

The comparative form of an adverb, formed from third declension adjectives, is very simple: it is the same as the neuter nominative singular form of a comparative adjective and usually ends in -ius. Instead of the adjective clārior, which mean brighter, the adverb is clārius, which means more brightly.

The superlative adverb is also very simple: it has the same base as the superlative adjective and always ends in a long -e. Instead of the adjective clārissimus, which mean brightest, the adverb is clārissimē, which means most brightly.

PrepositionsEdit

A prepositional phrase in Latin is made up of a preposition followed by (except for a few postpositives) a noun phrase in an oblique case (ablative, accusative and rarely genitive). The preposition determines the case that is used, with some prepositions allowing different cases depending on the meaning. For example, Latin in takes the accusative case when it indicates motion (English into) and the ablative case when it indicates position (English on or inside):

  • in urbem = "into the city" (accusative)
  • in urbe = "in the city" (ablative)

Other prepositions take one case only. For example, all those that mean "from", "by", or "with" take the ablative:

  • ex urbe = "out of the city"
  • ab urbe = "(away) from the city"
  • cum Caesare = "with Caesar"

Other prepositions take only the accusative:

  • extra urbem = "outside the city"
  • ad urbem = "to/near the city"
  • per urbem = "through(out) the city"
  • circum urbem = "around the city"

Numerals and numbersEdit

Only the first three numbers have masculine, feminine and neuter forms fully declined as if they were normal adjectives.

  • ūnus, ūna, ūnum (1)
  • duo, duae, duo (2)
  • trēs, trēs, tria (3)

ūnus (one) has mostly first- and second-declension endings, but -īus is the normal genitive singular and the normal dative singular ending (all three genders). duo (two) has an irregular declension. On the other hand, trēs, tria (three) is a regular third-declension adjective with the stem tr-.

The numbers quattuor (four) through decem (ten) are not declined:

  • quattuor (4)
  • quīnque (5)
  • sex (6)
  • septem (7)
  • octō (8)
  • novem (9)
  • decem (10)

The "tens" numbers are also not declined:

  • vīgintī (20)
  • trīgintā (30)
  • quadrāgintā (40)
  • quīnquāgintā (50)
  • sexāgintā (60)
  • septuāgintā (70)
  • octōgintā (80)
  • nōnāgintā (90)

The numbers 11 to 17 are formed by affixation of the corresponding digit to the base -decim, hence ūndecim, duodecim, tredecim, quattuordecim, quīndecim, sēdecim, septendecim. The numbers 18 and 19 are formed by subtracting 2 and 1, respectively, from 20: duodēvīgintī and ūndēvīgintī. For the numbers 21 to 27, the digits either follow or are added to 20 by the conjunction et: vīgintī ūnus or ūnus et vīgintī, vīgintī duo or duo et vīgintī etc. The numbers 28 and 29 are again formed by subtraction: duodētrīgintā and ūndētrīgintā. Each group of ten numerals through 100 follows the patterns of the 20s but 99 is nōnāgintā novem rather than *ūndēcentum.

Compounds ending in 1 2 and 3 are the only ones to decline:

I saw 20 blackbirds = vīgintī merulās vīdī
I saw 22 blackbirds = vīgintī duās merulās vīdī (where duās changes to agree with merulās)

The "hundreds" numbers are the following:

  • centum (indeclinable)
  • ducentī, -ae, -a (200)
  • trecentī, -ae, -a (300)
  • quadringentī, -ae, -a (400)
  • quīngentī, -ae, -a (500)
  • sēscentī, -ae, -a (600)
  • septingentī, -ae, -a (700)
  • octingentī, -ae, -a (800)
  • nōngentī, -ae, -a (900)

However, 1000 is mille, an indeclinable adjective, but multiples such as duo mīlia (2000) have mīlia as a neuter plural substantive followed by a partitive genitive:

I saw a thousand lions = mīlle leōnēs vīdī
I saw three thousand lions = tria mīlia leōnum vīdī

Ordinal numbers are all adjectives with regular first- and second-declension endings. Most are built off of the stems of cardinal numbers (for example, trīcēsimus, -a, -um (30th) from trīgintā (30), sēscentēsimus, -a, -um nōnus, -a, -um (609th) for sēscentī novem (609). However, "first" is prīmus, -a, -um, and "second" is secundus, -a, -um (literally "following" the first; sequi means "to follow").

Word orderEdit

Latin allows a very flexible word order because of its inflectional syntax. Ordinary prose tended to follow the pattern of subject, direct object, indirect object, adverbial words or phrases, verb (with the proviso that when noun and verb make a compound, as impetum facio 'I attack / make an attack' the noun is generally placed close to the verb).[6] Any extra but subordinate verb, such as an infinitive, is placed before the main verb. Adjectives and participles usually directly follow nouns unless they are adjectives of beauty, size, quantity, goodness, or truth, in which case they usually precede the noun being modified. However, departures from these rules are frequent.

Relative clauses are commonly placed after the antecedent that the relative pronoun describes. Since grammatical function in a sentence is based not on word order but on inflection, the usual word order in Latin was often abandoned with no detriment to understanding but with various changes in emphasis.

While these patterns of word order were the most frequent in Classical Latin prose, they were frequently varied. The strongest surviving evidence suggests that the word order of colloquial Latin was mostly Subject-Object-Verb. That can be found in some very conservative Romance languages, such as Sardinian and Sicilian in which the verb is still often placed at the end of the sentence (see Vulgar Latin). On the other hand, subject-verb-object word order was probably also common in ancient Latin conversation, as it is prominent in the Romance languages, which evolved from Latin.[7]

In poetry, however, word order was often changed for the sake of the meter for which vowel quantity (short vowels vs. long vowels and diphthongs) and consonant clusters, not rhyme and word stress, governed the patterns. One must bear in mind that poets in the Roman world wrote primarily for the ear, not the eye; many premiered their work in recitation for an audience. Hence, variations in word order served a rhetorical as well as a metrical purpose; they certainly did not prevent understanding.

In Virgil's Eclogues, for example, he writes, Omnia vincit amor, et nōs cēdāmus amōrī!: Love conquers all, let us too yield to love!. The words omnia (all), amor (love) and amōrī (to love) are thrown into relief by their unusual position in their respective phrases.

The ending of the common Roman name Marcus is different in each of the following pairs of examples because of its grammatical usage in each pair. The ordering in the second sentence of each pair would be correct in Latin and clearly understood, whereas in English it is awkward, at best, and meaningless, at worst:

  • Marcus ferit Cornēliam: Marcus hits Cornelia. (subject–verb–object)
  • Marcus Cornēliam ferit: Marcus Cornelia hits. (subject–object–verb)
  • Cornēlia dedit Marcō dōnum: Cornelia has given Marcus a gift. (subject–verb–indirect object–direct object)
  • Cornēlia Marcō dōnum dedit: Cornelia (to) Marcus a gift has given. (subject–indirect object–direct object–verb)

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Cicero, Off. 3.11
  2. ^ Nepos, Them. 2.2
  3. ^ Gildersleeve & Lodge (1895), p. 192.
  4. ^ Plautus, Am. 402
  5. ^ Martial, 11.28
  6. ^ Andrew M. Devine, Laurence D. Stephens, Latin Word Order. Structured Meaning and Information. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, page 79.
  7. ^ Devine, Andrew M.; Stephens, Laurence D. (2006). Latin word order: structured meaning and information. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 3–5. Word order is what gets the reader of Latin from disjoint sentences to coherent and incrementally interpretable text.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit