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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.
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 -ī are 2nd declension, and so on.
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 tū "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".
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.
|I lead, I am leading
you pl. lead
|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
|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
|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
|I was leading, used to lead
you were leading
he/she/it was leading
we were leading
you pl. were leading
they were leading
|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
|I led, I have led
you pl. led
|I was led, I have been led|
you were led
he was led
we were led
you pl. were led
they were led
|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
|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
|I had led
you had led
he/she/it had led
we had led
you pl. had led
they had led
|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
|I may lead, I would lead
you would lead
he/she/it would lead
we would lead
you pl. would lead
they would lead
|I may be led, I would be led|
you would be led
he/she/it would be led
we would be led
you pl. would be led
they would be led
|I might lead, should lead
you might lead
he/she/it might lead
we might lead
you pl. might lead
they might lead
|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
|I would have led, I led
you would have led
he/she/it would have led
we would have led
you pl. would lead
they would have led
|I would have been led, I was led|
you were led
he was led
we were led
you pl. were led
they were led
|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
|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
be led! (pl.)
|he must lead
they must lead
|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|
|Periphrastic perfect||ductūrus fuisse||to have been going to lead|
|(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|
|with a view to leading
|(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 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.
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'
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', nātiō 'nation'. Words in the 1st declension like puella ending in -a are usually feminine, with a few exceptions such as poēta 'poet', and also feminine are 3rd declension nouns ending in -tās and -tiō.
Masculine and feminine nouns, of whatever declension, always add -m to make the object singular (e.g. puellam, puerum, rēgem), and -s to make the object plural (puellās, puerōs, rēgēs).
- 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. bella 'wars', corpora 'bodies'; (2) subject and object are identical.
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.
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:
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 -ī.
There are also irregularities. For example, 3rd declension adjectives usually have ablative singular -ī 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 -ī like pronouns: tōtīus orbis 'of the whole world'.
Use of casesEdit
- 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
- Persuāsīt populō ut eā pecūniā classis aedificārētur (Nepos)
- '"He persuaded the people that a fleet should be built with the money (with that money)"
In New Latin the Greek definite article, ὁ, ἡ, τό (ho, hē, tó), may be used to indicate the grammatical case of an indeclinable noun. 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"), 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)
- "This man is not sane"
- Hic, putō, sānus erat (Martial)
- "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.
- 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.
|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|
|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.
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 -ē, -er, -ter, -tus, more rarely -ō, or -um. The adjective clārus, -a, -um, which means "bright", can be contrasted to the adverb clārē, which means "brightly". The adverbial ending -(i)ter is used to form adverbs from 3rd declension adjectives, for example celer "quick", celeriter "quickly".
The comparative form of an adverb is the same as the neuter nominative singular form of a comparative adjective and usually ends in -ius. Instead of the adjective clārior, which means "brighter", the adverb is clārius, which means "more brightly".
The superlative adverb has the same base as the superlative adjective and always ends in a long -ē. Instead of the adjective clārissimus, which mean "very bright" or "brightest", the adverb is clārissimē, which means "very brightly" or "most brightly".
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:
- extrā urbem = "outside the city"
- ad urbem = "to/near the city"
- per urbem = "through(out) the city"
- circum urbem = "around the city"
|ā, ab, abs||+ abl||from; down from; at, in, on, (of time) after, since (source of action or event) by, of|
|absque||+ abl||without (archaic, cf. sine and praeter)|
|ad||+ acc||towards, to, at|
|adversus, adversum||+ acc||towards, against (also an adverb)|
|ante||+ acc||before (also an adverb)|
|apud||+acc||at, by, near, among; chez; before, in the presence of, in the writings of, in view of|
|causā||+ gen||for the sake of (normally after its noun; simply the abl. of causa)|
|circum||+ acc||about, around, near;|
|circā||+ acc||around, near, about; regarding, concerning|
|circiter||+ acc||(of place and time) near, close, round about|
|cis||+ acc||on, to this, the near side of, short of; before|
|citrā||+ acc||on this side of (also an adverb)|
|clam||+ acc &
|without the knowledge of, unknown to (also an adverb). Its use in accusative is rare. Clanculum is a variant of this preposition.|
|contrā||+ acc||against, opposite to, contrary to, otherwise, in return to, back|
|cōram||+ abl||in person, face to face; publicly, openly|
|dē||+ abl||from, concerning, about;|
from, away from, down from, out of (in general to indicate the person or place from which any thing is taken, etc., with verbs of taking away, depriving, demanding, requesting, inquiring, buying; as capere, sumere, emere, quaerere, discere, trahere, etc., and their compounds.);
from, away from (to indicate the place from which someone or something departs or withdraws.)
Dē denotes the going out, departure, removal, or separating of an object from any fixed point (it occupies a middle place between ab (“away from”) which denotes a mere external departure, and ex (“out of”) which signifies from the interior of a thing. Hence verbs compounded with dē are constructed not only with dē, but quite as frequently with ab and ex; and, on the other hand, those compounded with ab and ex often have the terminus a quo indicated by dē.
|ergā||+ acc||(literally, of locality, ante-Classical and post-classical only, rare) over against, opposite to;|
(in post-Augustean authors, especially in Tacitus, in general of every kind of mental relation to a person or thing) to, towards, in respect to, with regard to, concerning, about;
(Medieval Latin) from;
(Medieval Latin) applying to, addressing (oneself) to
|ex, ē||+ abl||out of, from|
|extrā||+ acc||outside of, beyond|
|fīne, fīnī||+ gen||up to (ablative of fīnis)|
|grātiā||+ gen||for the sake of|
|in||+ acc||into, to; about; according to; against|
|+ dat||within, while in (time)|
|+ abl||in, at, on, from (space)|
|inter||+ acc||between, among; during, while|
|intrā||+ acc||within, inside; during; in less than|
|iūxtā||+ acc||nearly; near, close to, just as|
|ob||+ acc||in the direction of, to, towards; on account of, according to, because of, due to, for (the purpose of); against; facing|
|palam||+ abl||without concealment, openly, publicly, undisguisedly, plainly, unambiguously|
|penes||+ acc||Under one's government or command; In one's disposal or custody; At, with, about, concerning|
|per||+ acc||through, by means of; during|
|pōne||+ acc||behind; in the rear of|
|post||+ acc||behind (of space); afterwards, after (of time)|
|prae||+ abl||before, in front of, because of|
|praeter||+ acc||besides, except; beyond; more than|
|prō||+ abl||for, on behalf of; before; in front, instead of; about; according to; as, like; as befitting|
|procul||+ abl||far, at a distance|
|prope||+ acc||near, nearby, (figuratively) towards, about (in time)|
|propter||+ acc||near, close to, hard by; because of, on account of, for; (rare) through, by means of|
|secundum||+ acc||next, along, according to|
|sub||+ acc||under, up to, up under, close to (of a motion); until, before, up to, about|
|+ abl||under, beneath; behind; at the feet of; within, during; about, around (time)|
|subter||+ acc||directly below an area that is under another; underneath, (figuratively) below inferior|
|+ abl||underneath, (figuratively) below inferior|
|super||+ acc||(of place) above, on the top of, upon beyond; (of measure) above, beyond, over, in addition to|
|+ abl||concerning, regarding, about|
|suprā||+ acc||(of place) above, on the top, on the upper side; (of time) before, previously, formerly; (of number or measure) more, beyond, over (NOTE: When pertaining to time it especially refers to any thing previously said or written.)|
|tenus||+ gen &
|(with genitive and ablative) right up to, as far as, just as far as;|
(with ablative, of a process) up to (a given stage of);
(with genitive and ablative, of limitation) to the maximum extent of, within;
(in Ecclesiastical Latin) Lengthwise, along
|trāns||+ acc||across, beyond|
|+ acc||towards (thought to be an adverb only)|
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 -ī 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 98 is nōnāgintā octō and 99 is nōnāgintā novem rather than *duodēcentum and *ūndēcentum respectively.
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").
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). 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.
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 Mārcus 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:
- Mārcus ferit Cornēliam: Marcus hits Cornelia. (subject–verb–object)
- Mārcus Cornēliam ferit: Marcus Cornelia hits. (subject–object–verb)
- Cornēlia dedit Mārcō dōnum: Cornelia has given Marcus a gift. (subject–verb–indirect object–direct object)
- Cornēlia Mārcō dōnum dedit: Cornelia (to) Marcus a gift has given. (subject–indirect object–direct object–verb)
- Cicero, Off. 3.11
- Nepos, Them. 2.2
- Gildersleeve & Lodge (1895), p. 192.
- Plautus, Am. 402
- Martial, 11.28
- Andrew M. Devine, Laurence D. Stephens, Latin Word Order. Structured Meaning and Information. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, page 79.
- 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.
- Bennett, Charles Edwin (1895). Latin Grammar. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
- New Latin Grammar by Charles E. Bennet (free ebook) (1895, 3rd edition 1918)
- Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges (1903) (public domain book)
- Online version of Gildersleeve & Lodge's Latin Grammar (full version, 1903)
- Gildersleeve's Latin Grammar: School Edition (1905) (Google book)
- "Textkit.com" Website containing links to useful resources for learners of Latin.
- Ablative Absolute from Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar
- Ablative Absolute by William Harris
- Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid from Notre Dame.
- A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language; with Perpetual Exercises in Speaking and Writing: For the Use of Schools, Colleges, and Private Learners, by George J. Adler
- Corpus Grammaticorum Latinorum: complete texts and full bibliography
- Legible Latin A multi-platform interface for Whitaker's Words dictionary (free).
- A Digital Dictionary A Latin Dictionary that will work as the default dictionary on a Kindle reading device.