INTRODUCTION So, you want to learn Latin? Then this guide is for you! Below you will find several topics which the community believes every beginner should know before entering the vast Latin universe. Each topic has been explained to its fullest extent to ensure that you, the learner, have a firm grasp of the basics. Well, are you ready to embark on your quest to learn Latin? Continue reading! HISTORY Before diving into the matrix of the language, a brief history lesson is in order. Below are a few quick facts about the Latin language. Latin is what many of us call a "dead language". This means that the language does not adapt to the environment in which it is used; there are only so many available words. For example, you could not say "I clicked on that JPEG with my laser mouse,"; Latin simply does not permit it. Latin is part of the Italic group of languages, which is itself part of the Indo-European. It appeared in the Latium; the oldest Latin inscriptions we have date back to around the 6th century BC. At first, it was simply a local dialect surrounded by other languages (often very closely related ones, Italic ones), and then progressively spread throughout Italy and later through Europe as the Romans conquered those territories by fire and sword. The oldest literary Latin dates from the 3rd century BC, the oldest authors known being Livius Andronicus (280/260 - 200 BC), Gnaeus Naevius (270 - 201 BC), Plautus (c. 254 – 184 BC), Ennius (c. 239 BC – c. 169 BC), Cato the Elder (234 BC – 149 BC), and Terence (195/185–159 BC). As the Romans were establishing administration in Latin and sending colonies to settle in the conquered countries, Latin progressively consumed the various native languages of the people conquered; though local varieties (or variants) of Latin were probably influenced to some extent by the later languages (loan words, and even possibly some inflections). The kind of Latin we know best is the standardized literary Latin, which was probably closest to that spoken by the high classes in Rome, but there were many kinds of local Latin which could differ slightly from each other in grammar (inflections) and vocabulary, though it still remained the same language on the whole. After the fall of the empire, as there was no longer a central administration and the ancient Roman provinces had essentially stopped communicating with each other, the Latin of different regions started evolving on its own, eventually splitting into several distinct and non mutually intelligible languages, known today as the Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Romanian, and a few smaller ones). After this, though it was no longer the native language of any nation, Latin remained the language of scholarship, science, law and religion in all of Europe for many centuries. Almost all scientific or religious works were written in it, as well as many legal documents. Courses in the universities were given in Latin. It probably wouldn't be considered an exaggeration to say that it was a second language to essentially all of the educated. As for its religious use, it is still to this day, in theory, the official language of the Catholic Church; though most masses, which had previously been in Latin, have been made in the vernaculars since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). THE CASE SYSTEM Latin has five declensions, collections of nouns and adjectives with various endings which identify the grammatical functions the words have in a sentence. There are seven grammatical cases which a noun or adjective can assume, which are: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Ablative, Vocative, and Locative. Below are the functions of the seven cases. NOMINATIVE: The nominative case is used to identify a word as the subject of a sentence or phrase. A subject is the "doer" of the verb. For example, in the sentence Vir filium amat ("The man loves his son"), who is loving his son? The man is loving his son, so the word for "man", vir, is the subject. GENITIVE: The genitive has a few different uses, the most common of them being to indicate possession. A word in the genitive case is usually translated as "of X". The genitive is often either placed immediately before or after the object which X possesses, but it is not uncommon for a genitive to be separated from its noun. For example, in equus reginae (the horse of the queen), reginae, "queen", is in the genitive case; she is the owner of the horse. Another common usage of the genitive is called the partitive genitive, where the noun assuming the genitive case does not necessarily posses the noun preceding or following it, as in numerus puellarum - a number of girls, or copia cibi - an abundance of food DATIVE: The dative also has multifarious uses, the most common of which is functioning as the indirect object. In this instance, the noun in the dative case is on the receiving end of the verb of either giving, telling, or showing; examples of all three are below. Giving: Marcus pecuniam amico dat - Mark gives money to his friend Telling: Davidus victoriam populo nuntiat - David announces the victory to the people. Showing: Iulia cibos suis ostendit - Julia shows the food to her family. ACCUSATIVE: The accusative case is frequently used to serve as the direct object in a sentence, the object to which the action is done. How does this differ from the dative case, though, as both are used when on the receiving end? The answer is simple: The indirect object is merely the recipient of the direct object (I.e. It answers the question "to/for whom?") Let's examine this difference in context. Consider the following sentence. Puer pilam iacit - the boy throws the ball. Here, pilam is the direct object, because it is in the accusative. What happens when we make pilam dative? Then it becomes Puer pilae iacit, which is ungrammatical, because iacere is a transitive verb (it must have a direct object). Additionally, if we replace the noun pila with its English interrogative equivalent, for the accusative we get "The boy throws what?", which is perfectly valid, but for the dative we get "The boy throws to/for whom", which is not perfectly valid, if we assume "to/for whom" is an indirect object and not a prepositional phrase. ABLATIVE: The ablative case is most often used where we would use a prepositional phrase in English, and is used to provide additional information to enhance a sentence. Such information includes, but is not limited to, indicating the origin of something, a means by which something is done, the time at which something is done, location of an event, and the cause for which something happens. In the beginning stages of Latin, though, learners are often first exposed to the Ablative of Means ("By what means"). When translating a phrase in the Ablative of Means into Latin, there is no prepositional equivalent, as is the case with expressing time, cause, and manner. For example, consider the English sentence "I write with a pen." In Latin, the sentence is Stilo scribo; the preposition "with" does not translate with a separate word in Latin; the ablative alone conveys the meaning. VOCATIVE: This is the "calling" case; it is used when a speaker wants to "call" someone. The suffix of a word in the vocative case is precisely the same as the nominative case, unless the word is second declension and ends in either -us or -ius. In those particular cases, the vocative suffixes are -e and -i, respectively. Here are some examples of the usage of the vocative. Marce, discede hinc! - Mark, get out of here! Pater, quaeso me audi! - Dad, please listen to me! Aelia, illumne puerum novisti? - Aelia, do you know that boy? Caesar, te scribere iubeo! - Caesar, I am ordering you to write! Vocabulary: Discēde: Literally “depart”, second person present imperative of discēdere, “to depart”, third conjugation (principal parts: discēdō, discēdere, discessī, discessum) Hinc: adverb, in this context it means“from this place”/”from here” Quaesō: Literally “I beseech”, first person singular present indicative of quaesere, “to pray/beseech”, third conjugation (principal parts: quaesō, quaesere, quaesīvī, quaesītum) Mē: accusative case of the personal pronoun ego (“I”) Audī: “Listen to/hear”, second person present imperative of audīre, “to listen/hear”, fourth conjugation (principal parts: audiō, audīre, audīvī, audītum) Illum: “that”, masculine accusative singular of the demonstrative pronoun ille, illa, illud (declines irregularly) -ne: Enclitic conjunction; signifies that the sentence is a closed-ended question (i.e. only the answers “yes” or “no” are valid) Puerum: “boy”, masculine accusative singular of puer, second declension (genitive puerī) Nōvistī: “(You) know”, second person perfect singular indicative of noscere “to learn/become acquainted with”, in the perfect tense translated as “to know”, third conjugation (principal parts: noscō, noscere, nōvī, nōtum) Te: accusative case of the personal pronoun tu (“you”) scrībere: “to write”, present active infinitive of scribere, third conjugation (principal parts: scrībō, scrībere, scripsī, scriptum) Iubeō: “(I) order”, first person present active indicative of iubere (“to order”), second conjugation (principal parts: iubeō, iubēre iūsī, iussum) LOCATIVE: Some words also have a seventh case called the locative. As its name suggests, it serves to indicate a location, the place where someone or something is or where something happens. Nouns that have this case are mainly names of towns and of small islands, as well as a very few common nouns, notably domus, (fem. irregular declension: "home"), humus (fem. second declension: "earth", "ground"), and rus (neut. third declension: “countryside”). Examples: Romae sum = I am in/at Rome. Pompeiis habitabat = He/she lived (dwelled) in Pompeii. Praeneste ardentes lapides caelo ceciderunt = In Praeneste, burning stones fell from the sky. Marcus domi* mansit = Marcus stayed at home. Homo a latrone percussus humi iacebat = The man hit by the bandit was lying on the ground. *The noun domus is declined irregularly, using a mix of suffixes from the second and the fourth declensions. The locative, as you can see above, is domi; It looks exactly like the second declension locative suffix. Vocabulary: Sum: "I am", first person singular present indicative of esse, "to be" (irregular verb, principal parts: sum, esse, fuī). Habitābat: "he/she/it was living/used to live/lived", third person singular imperfect indicative of habitāre, "to live", not in the sense of being alive but of dwelling in, inhabiting a place, first conjugation (principal parts: habitō, habitāre, habitāvī, habitātum). Ardentēs: "burning", nominative masculine plural of the adjective ardens, "burning", which is originally the present participle of the verb ardēre, "to burn", in the sense of being oneself burning, not of setting something on fire, second conjugation (principal parts: ardeō, ardēre, arsī). Lapidēs: "stones", nominative plural of lapis, masculine noun, third declension (genitive lapidis). Caelō: "from the sky", ablative (here indicating "separation from" on its own; we could also have a preposition meaning "from" like de or ex) singular of caelum, neuter noun, second declension (genitive caelī). Cecidērunt: "(they) fell", third person plural perfect indicative of cadere, "to fall", third conjugation (principal parts: cadō, cadere, cecidī, cāsum). Mansit: "(he/she/it) stayed/remained", third person singular perfect indicative of manēre, "to stay/remain", second conjugation (principal parts: maneō, manēre, mansī, mansum). Homō: "man/person/human being", nominative singular, masculine noun, third declension (genitive hominis). Ā/ab: literally "(away) from", here in this context "by" - an explanation will be provided later concerning this mechanism. Latrōne: ablative singular of latrō, "bandit/brigand/robber", masculine noun, third declension (genitive latrōnis) . Percussus: "(having been) hit/struck", nominative masculine singular of the perfect passive participle of percutere, "to hit/strike", third conjugation (principal parts: percutiō, percutere, percussī, percussum). Iacēbat: "(he/she/it) was lying/used to lie/lay", third person singular imperfect indicative of iacēre, "to lie/be in a recumbent position", second conjugation (principal parts: iaceō, iacēre, iacuī, iacitum). For singular first and second declension nouns that have a locative, it is identical to the genitive singular. E.g. Roma and humus: # Case Singular1 Nominative Rōma2 Vocative Rōma3 Accusative Rōmam4 Genitive Rōmae5 Dative Rōmae6 Ablative Rōmā7 Locative Rōmae # Case Singular1 Nominative humus2 Vocative hume*3 Accusative humum4 Genitive humī5 Dative humō6 Ablative humō7 Locative humī *It is uncertain whether a vocative of humus, -i is attested, but in theory, this form would be the vocative. For singular third declension nouns, it is identical to the dative or ablative singular. E.g. Carthago: # Case Singular1 Nominative Carthāgō2 Vocative Carthāgō3 Accusative Carthāginem4 Genitive Carthāginis5 Dative Carthāginī6 Ablative Carthāgine7 Locative Carthāgine/ī For plural nouns, whether first, second or third declension, the locative is identical to the dative/ablative plural. E.g. Athenae: # Case Singular1 Nominative Athēnae2 Vocative Athēnae3 Accusative Athēnās4 Genitive Athēnārum5 Dative Athēnīs6 Ablative Athēnīs7 Locative Athēnīs Most common nouns, however, do not have a locative. For these nouns, location is usually expressed by the preposition in + ablative (e.g. "In the field" = In agro), or sometimes (primarily in poetry) by the ablative alone. NOTE: Nouns that have a locative also have another peculiarity: when a motion "towards", "into", or "from", "out of" them is expressed, in general, no preposition is used but only the case that would have followed the preposition. To explain: "Marcus goes (in)to the forest" = Marcus it in silvam, but "Marcus goes (in)to Rome" = Marcus Romam it, notin Romam. "Marcus comes from (out of) the forest" = Marcus e silva venit, but "Marcus comes from (out of) Rome" = Marcus Roma venit, not e Roma. Below are completed first and second declension tables. The respective suffixes have been bolded. You will notice that some suffixes are identical to each other, even though they correspond to differing cases. For this reason, you can’t instantly assume that a word is in a certain case because it bears a specific suffix; information on determining cases of words in sentences to follow in the next section. 1st declension feminine (puella:"girl") # Case Singular Plural1 Nominative puella puellae2 Vocative puella puellae3 Accusative puellam puellās4 Genitive puellae puellārum5 Dative puellae puellīs6 Ablative puellā puellīs 2nd declension masculine (Marcus: "Marcus") # Case Singular1 Nominative Marcus2 Vocative Marce3 Accusative Marcum4 Genitive Marcī5 Dative Marcō6 Ablative Marcō 2nd declension masculine (gladius: "sword") # Case Singular Plural1 Nominative gladius gladiī2 Vocative gladī gladiī3 Accusative gladium gladiōs4 Genitive gladiī gladiōrum5 Dative gladiō gladiīs6 Ablative gladiō gladiīs 2nd declension masculine (puer: "boy") # Case Singular Plural1 Nominative puer puerī2 Vocative puer puerī3 Accusative puerum puerōs4 Genitive puerī puerōrum5 Dative puerō puerīs6 Ablative puerō puerīs 2nd declension masculine (ager: "field") # Case Singular Plural1 Nominative ager agrī2 Vocative ager agrī3 Accusative agrum agrōs4 Genitive agrī agrōrum5 Dative agrō agrīs6 Ablative agrō agrīs 2nd declension neuter (saxum: "rock") # Case Singular Plural1 Nominative saxum saxa2 Vocative saxum saxa3 Accusative saxum saxa4 Genitive saxī saxōrum5 Dative saxō saxīs6 Ablative saxō saxīs GENDER: Nouns and adjectives in Latin also have another attribute: gender. There are three grammatical genders: Masculine, feminine, and neuter. These genders also serve as a means of categorization, and dictate the forms which modifying verbal adjectives--including verbal adjectives--must assume. Nouns and adjectives are always accompanied by their grammatical gender in a dictionary. Occasionally, the gender is abbreviated when written; only the first letter is present. Id est, the letter m represents “masculine”, f represents “feminine”, and n “neuter”. SENTENCE STRUCTURE AND BASIC GRAMMAR One of the many interesting aspects of the Latin language is that word order is relatively lenient; sentences can be written in innumerable ways, and this is primarily due to the case system. To demonstrate this innumerability, let's examine a few Latin sentences. Don't be surprised if you see words with which you are unfamiliar; that is the purpose of a dictionary. Sentence 1:Puer cibum videt - the boy sees the food. Variation 1: Cibum puer videt - the boy sees the food. Variation 2: Videt cibum puer - the boy sees the food. Variation 3: … What is the subject? Direct object? Verb? As you can see, you cannot simply assume that the first word of the sentence is the subject, as is typically the case in English; you must examine the cases and conjugations of the nouns and verbs. In this particular sentence, puer is the subject. Why is this the case (no pun intended)? Puer is in the nominative case, which denotes its function as the subject. The verb also plays a role in the identification of puer as the subject, but we'll cover that shortly. What is the direct object? Ask: “What does the boy see?” “The boy sees the food.” This is one indicator that cibum is the direct object. In addition, as mentioned in the previous section, the accusative case is used when words function as direct objects. In this sentence, cibum is in the accusative case, denoted by the -um suffix. The verb must then be the only word remaining unanalyzed: videt. It was mentioned previously that videt helped to identify the role of puer in the sentence. Unlike the noun and direct object, videt has no case, because it is a verb. Videt is conjugated in the third person present singular active indicative form. What form is puer assuming? Nominative singular, and as it is a third person subject, the forms of the noun and the verb match, and thus puer is the subject of videt! Sentence 2: Materiae agricolas onerant - The materials burden the farmers. Variation 1: Agricolas materiae onerant - The materials burden the farmers. Variation 2: Onerant agricolas materiae - The materials burden the farmers. Variation 3: ... Firstly, it is worth mentioning that the translations of all three variations of this sentence might be ambiguous because, if we return to our first declension chart, the -ae suffix also serves as the genitive singular in addition to the nominative plural. However, were materiae in the genitive case, all three sentences would mean "They burden the farmers of the material", which doesn't make much sense. Hence, it is safe to conclude that Materiae is our subject with a nominative plural suffix. What is the direct object? The direct object is agricolas, because it is in the accusative case. Onerant is thus the verb, and it helps to identify materiae because it and materiae are both plurally conjugated and declined, respectively, and in the third person. VERBS Like nouns and adjectives, verbs also assume many different forms, depending primarily on the manner in which they are used and the subject of the sentence. Instead of declensions, there are four conjugations for verbs. For brevity's sake, we'll only cover verbs of the first and second conjugations. The forms of Latin verbs are more various than those in English, as they vary with mood, tense, person, their function in a given sentence, etc. They may seem frightening at first, but soon you will begin to recognize a consistent pattern throughout the four conjugations. Before we begin conjugating verbs, however, there are a few facets of verbs which often cause many beginners to falter and sometimes produce ungrammatical Latin: 1) Transitivity: There are transitive verbs, and there are intransitive verbs. Transitive verbs are those which take a direct object, otherwise known as a noun (or noun phrase) in the accusative case, whereas intransitive verbs do not. A quick tip from Ignis Umbra: 2) Passive voice vs. Active Voice: In colloquial speech, we generally use the active voice. "I drove my car to the store. I purchased food for my dog. I watched him chase his tail around the yard." These sentences are all in the active voice; the subject is explicitly stated, so we know who is doing the action. What would these sentences look like in the passive? "The car was driven to the store (by me). Food was purchased for my dog (by me). He was watched (by me) as he chased his tail around the yard." These sentences are all in the passive voice; the agent (i.e. the person/thing doing the action which the subject of the passive verb undergoes) is indirectly stated—we don't know immediately what the agent is. In Latin, when translating a sentence in the passive voice, special endings must be affixed to verbs. To express the subject of the active sentence in the passive, the Ablative of Agent is used. This type of ablative, when the agent is perceived as animate (e.g. people), uses the preposition a(b), which is also used to express Ablative of Place from Which. When the agent is perceived as inanimate - in which case it can sometimes be seen as an instrumental as well - the ablative alone is used. For example, consider a sentence seen previously: Vir filium amat - the man loves his son. In this sentence, Vir is the grammatical subject, and filium is the grammatical direct object. What if we wanted to say "The son is loved by the man"? Firstly, "son" is now the grammatical subject, so filium must become nominative, filius. Secondly, the passive third person present singular ending must be affixed to the verb, amat, hence it becomes amatur. Finally, "man" is now the agent, so it must be in the ablative, and the preposition a(b) (“by”, when used to indicate agent): a viro. Here is how the completed sentence looks: Filius a viro amatur - The son is loved by the man. Principal Parts What is a principal part? A principal part is a "base" verb form which must be memorized to conjugate any verb. Many verbs in Latin have four principal parts. Others have three, and some even have two. Each principal part corresponds to a different function the verb can undertake. The four principal parts are: 1) First person present active indicative ("I give") 2) Infinitive ("to give") 3) First person perfect active indicative ("I gave") 4) Past participle, sometimes referred to as a verbal adjective ("having been given"); The fourth principal part is more often the accusative supine (which is identical in form to the neuter singular nom./voc./acc. of the past participle and is used to express purpose after verbs of motion; e.g. dormitum eo = "I'm going to sleep"). Here is an example of a dictionary entry for the verb donare - to give: dono, donare, donavi, donatum. A quick note: since the forms of the principal parts of the first conjugation are expected to be known, this entry would be more commonly found: dono, -are, -avi, -atum. Below is the conjugation table for the first conjugation verb amo, amare, amavi, amatum in the present active indicative. Person Singular PluralFirst person amō amāmusSecond person amās amātisThird person amat amant As you can see, the form amo in the first person singular slot corresponds precisely to the first principal part. The remaining forms are the result of removing the suffix -re from the infinitive, amare, and attaching the respective endings, which are in bold. Let's move on to the second conjugation. The present active infinitive of second conjugation verbs is -ēre. Below is the conjugation table for the second conjugation verb habeo, habēre, habui, habitum ("to have") in the present active indicative. Person Singular PluralFirst person habeō habēmusSecond person habēs habētisThird person habet habent As seen, the suffixes are precisely the same of those of the first conjugation, and the procedure for conjugating is the same. This is true throughout all four conjugations. To assess your understanding of verbs thus far, on your own, try to fill in the following blanks with the appropriate verb form in the present tense. The infinitive of the verb you are to use is in parentheses. To correctly conjugate the verb, examine the number of the subject, the word in the nominative case, and select the verb form whose number is the same. The answers are located below, but don't cheat! Good luck! 1) Puer cibum ___ (habere) 2) Puellae silvas ____ (amare) 3) Nos* patriam _____ (amare) *Nos = we - first person plural 4) Tyranni arma ____ (habere) 1) habet 2) amant 3) amamus 4) habent Check your answers. Did you get them all correct? If so, fantastic! If not, study the conjugation and declension tables. Try to determine why the correct answer is the correct answer. If you cannot, simply remember that the number of the subject must match the number of the verb. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS This short guide was collaboratively created by Ignis Umbra, Pacis puella, Imber Ranae, and Aurifex, all of whom are esteemed Latinists devoted to ensuring that you, the learner, successfully obtain the necessary material to begin reading and composing Latin by yourself. It is not expected that you understood everything in this guide the first time reading it. Latin is a difficult and complicated subject for many, but perseverance and dedication are your two best friends. You don’t have to study for hours at a time to ensure that you grasp the material, but you must be willing to put forth at least ten minutes a day to engage yourself in the Latin language, whether this be by reviewing conjugation tables, translating sentences, or learning new vocabulary. If you do so, you will discover that the language is significantly easier to understand and manipulate. Suggestion: Once you believe you have developed a sufficient vocabulary, try composing your own Latin. One of the most effective methods to improve your knowledge and comfortability with any language is to actually use it. Fortunately, LatinD has a subforum in which you can practice your writing skills at any time, which can be found here. Conversation is not restricted to any one subject, so write whatever you’d like! Suggestion: Have a dictionary close at hand when engaging yourself in the Latin language. This includes both reading and writing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with looking up a word with which you are unfamiliar. In fact, a dictionary is a fantastic tool to extend your vocabulary. However, most dictionaries will only provide the nominative and genitive singular forms of nouns, the nominative masculine, feminine, and neuter forms of adjectives, and the four principal parts of verbs. If you have questions pertaining to any of the content contained in this guide, we ask that you please do not post in this thread. Simply create a new forum topic under the corresponding category of your query, and one of our many members will gladly assist you. Valete!