Simple Sentences

Now that you know the basic constructions of a noun and verb, you are able to construct simple sentences. Here, it will be shown how you can make simple sentences in Latin using what you know. This includes:

  • Forming Latin Sentences
  • Translating Latin Sentences

For the sake of simplicity, no genitive/possession will be used, and only the suggested words given on previous pages will be considered here.

Forming the Sentence

You have seen a few examples of Latin sentences in previous lessons, though those are a little more complex. The sentences you will be learning here will only consist of a subject and verb, something performing some action, perhaps on some thing. With this, you can compare how the Latin sentence looks with how the English sentence looks, and we can pick out similarities and differences.

Because Latin is an inflected language, the order of the words doesn't matter as much. Because of this, you will commonly see the verb of the sentence thrown on the end with the nouns in front of it. Observe the following sentence with its translation:

Sentence Translation
Puer calceos habet. The boy has shoes.

As you may notice, the word for boy is in front (as normal), but the direct object came (shoes) came before the verb. This doesn't matter, but sentences written here will follow the general format of [subject] [direct object] [verb].

So let us say that you wanted to say "The man gives wisdom." in Latin. How would you do that? First, you must identify the parts of the sentence. For now, a sentence will only have a subject, direct object, and verb. Underline each separately.

  • The man gives wisdom.

Now, decide what word goes best with each underlined part. For the subject, vir means "man", so we will use that. The verb is "gives", so we will use the Latin word dare for "to give". The direct object is "wisdom", so we will use the Latin word for wisdom, sapientia.

Now, we need to determine the ending for each word. Let us complete this in the normal Latin sentence order, [subject] [direct object] [verb]. The subject, vir, is singular since there is only one man. Furthermore, since it is the subject, it will be of the nominative case. Thus, we will use the nominative singular form of the word which is "vir". Write this down:

  • Vir _____ _____.

Now, we need to determine the ending for the direct object, sapientia. Since it is a direct object, we will be using an accusative ending. Next, we need to determine whether or not the word is singular or plural. The sentence isn't horribly specific, but since there is only one man giving the wisdom, we will make the word singular. Thus, we will use the singular accusative ending. But which declension are we talking about? Recall that the two forms of sapientia are sapientia and sapientiae. Thus with its genitive ending, we know that it is of the first declension, and we will use the ending -am. You can now add this to the sentence:

  • Vir sapientiam _____.

Now for the final part: the verb. For the verb ending, we need to determine the voice, mood, tense, number, and person of the verb. The voice is active, since the subject is the one doing the action, and the mood is indicative. The action is currently being done, so the tense is present. Thus, we already narrowed down the number of possible forms to six, and the verb form of "dare" will be one of the six Active Indicative Present forms that we have learned. To determine the person and number, consider the subject "the man". Since neither I or we are the subject, the person isn't first. Similarly, you aren't doing the action, so the person isn't second. That can only mean that the person is third. Finally, since there is only one man, the verb will be singular. Thus "dare", being a first conjugation verb, will use the ending -at. Add this to the sentence:

  • Vir sapientiam dat.

And behold the sentence is made! The Latin equivalent for "The man gives wisdom" is "Vir sapientiam dat." This is how you would translate simple English sentence to Latin.

Here is another example. Translate "We see the boys." to Latin.

We is the subject, see is the verb, and the boys is the direct object. In identifying which Latin word goes with which English word, we run into a problem. What is the Latin word for "we"? Recall however when we conjugating Latin verbs that some of the forms (specifically the first and second person forms) come with their own subjects: I, we, and you/you all1. Because of this, we will not worry about a Latin word specifically for the subject since it will be tied into the verb!

The verb videre will be used to represent "to see". But what form will we use? Since the verb in the sentence above is in the active indicative present, we only need to identify person. Since "we" is doing the action, the person is first. "We" is also plural, and thus the ending of -emus will be used.

Puer will be used to represent "the boys". Since "the boys" is the direct object, the word will be in the accusative case. Furthermore, boys is plural, so we will use the accusative plural ending, and thus recalling that puer is a second declension noun, the ending -os will be used.

And thus, piecing this all together, we get a small sentence of:

  • Pueros videmus.

Finally, let us translate this to Latin: "Jane is a girl."

Before we being translating this, something must be considered. In this, we are obviously using the verb esse, or to be. The subject is obviously "Jane". However, does this sentence have a direct object?

Consider what the role of the direct object is. The direct object receives the action. If you said, "The mother prepares the girl," then the girl is the direct object since she is receiving the preparing. However, in "Jane is a girl," the girl isn't receiving any action. Rather, "Jane" is being renamed to girl. The "Jane" is a "girl". Furthermore, let us say that I used the adjective to describe me: "I am happy." The "I" is being described as happy.

Names in Latin follow the normal declension rules depending in how the particular name ends. Names such as Marcus would be second declension. Names such as Amanda would be first declension. Other names like Jane would be third declension (to be discussed later). Names are detailed more in a later section.

Esse is one of the few verbs with this property of renaming. Most verbs discussed will not have this property. Whenever something is being renamed, then that word renaming the subject retains the case of the subject.

In other words, both Jane and the girl will be in the nominative case.

Knowing this, we can begin translating the sentence. "Jane" has no Latin word equivalent, but recall that Latin doesn't have a "J" in its alphabet. That "J" must then be converted to "I". Since our verb is third person and singular, we will use "est". Finally, since "girl" is singular and nominative, we will use "puella". The full sentence is therefore:

  • Iane puella est.

Translating Latin Sentences

So now you have a general understanding on how Latin sentences are formed from English. But what if I asked you to translate "Puer puellam vexat" to English?

Really, you simply tackle the sentence the same way: Identify your parts, find the English equivalents, and reorder the words. First, let us underline each part of the sentence. You can determine what part each word plays based on its ending and sentence position. For now, this will be easy, though it gets a little tougher with the addition of prepositional phrases. Thus, it is best to train now to spot phrases in Latin that serve a specific purpose for those future pains.

Puer is the only word in the nominative case. Thus, it is its own part. Puellam is accusative, so it is a different part. Finally, vexat is the only verb in the sentence, so it will be underlined individually. Here is what we have so far:

  • Puer puellam vexat.

So, let's begin with the first word, "puer". In English, puer translates to "boy". To determine the role of "boy" in the sentence, we need to consider two things: 1) the noun's case/number and 2) the noun's position in the sentence. For now, position isn't important, but you will need to remember the fact for later. This noun, "puer", matches the nominative singular ending. Thus, "boy" is the subject and singular.

Now look at the next word, puellam. Puella translates as "girl" in English. Now determine the noun's role in the sentence by its ending. Puella is a feminine noun, so it will either end in (so far) -a, -ae, -am, or -as. Since it ends in -am, we immediately know that it is accusative and singular. Being accusative, the girl is the direct object.

Notice that noting has really been written down yet. Rather, we are remembering what each part of the sentence does so we can write it all out at once in its full understanding.

Now on to the verb. Vexare translates as "to annoy" in English. Vexare, from its -are ending, is a first conjugation verb. So, so far, we know it will end in either -o, -as, -at, -amus, -atis, or -ant. It ends in -at, so it has the third person singular ending. Furthermore, we know it is present, active, and indicative by this ending. Thus, we know that (something) is annoying (something).

Now that we know what each part does, order the words in an order that makes sense. The subject typically comes first. Since the direct object receives the action, it usually comes after the verb. Thus, we get this as the final sentence:

  • The boy annoys the girl.

Now translate "Femina est."

Immediately, we notice the "est", and thus we know we are using the Latin "to be" verb. Therefore, we should be careful since the accusative form might not be used here. Sure enough, it isn't. When we see the only other word in the sentence, "femina", it is in the nominative singular form.

Now, here we come to a couple of predicaments. The first is what does the "femina" serve as in the sentence? Is it being renamed or is it the new name of a renamed thing? Recall how verbs work in Latin. Verbs have a build in "subject" to them. If I were to simply say, "Amo," then you would know that I am saying, "I love," since that is how that particular form of amare translates. If I said, "Amat," then you know I mean, "He/She/It loves." But if I say, "Max amat," then you know that Max serves in place of the pronoun "He/She/It".

So, we can easily read the sentence as, "The woman is." But, that sentence, though grammatically correct, doesn't sound entirely right. So, let us say then that "woman" is the new name of a renamed object, and the renamed object is the built in pronoun that comes with the verb.

Thus, we get "He/She/It is a woman." Uh oh, now which pronoun do we use? This is where it is important to introduce the idea of common sense. Many times, translation will reach some crossroad where you simply have to instinctively make a decision based on what makes the most sense. Of course, these "crossroads" I speak of are generally tougher than the one presented before you now.

Obviously, we will use, "She is a woman," since the woman is feminine along with "she", and the two genders agree with each other.

Finally have fun translating "Somnia caela habent."

The first thing we notice is that two of the nouns have the same ending, however our verb isn't esse. What?! How can we determine the role of these nouns if they have the same ending?

The first noun means dream, and the other means sky. Both nouns are in the neuter gender. From what we know about neuter nouns, their nominative and accusative plural forms have the same ending2. Since the sentence doesn't use esse, one of the nouns must be the subject and the other a direct object (for now). The question is, which is which? This is a first instance where word order will help. Somnia comes before caela, so it is safe to assume that it is the subject. In this case, we can now put words in their proper order:

  • The dreams have skies.

These sentences represent the absolute basic. Once adjectives and adverbs are added, it can get a little more complicated.

Here are sample sentences to play with:

Sentence Translation
Puer puellam amat. The boy loves the girl.
Femina somnia habet. The woman has dreams.
Calceos videmus. We see the shoes.
Amicus es. You are a friend.
Jones has a girlfriend. Iones amicam habet.
Wisdom warns the family. Sapientia familiam monet.
We are men. Viri sumus.
Fate annoys the boy. Fatum puerum vexat.
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