Latin Verbs I

The verbs of Latin are probably the most convoluted things in the language mostly due to the vast number of forms that each verb could take depending on how it is being used. Here, the basic ideas of verbs will be discussed.

  • Verb Endings and Conditions
  • Verb Conjugations
  • The Four Verb Forms
  • Active Indicative Present
    • First Conjugation
    • Second Conjugation
  • Esse

The Verb Endings

Verbs are the most diverse words in all of Latin with some verbs having over 100 different forms that each are interpreted a different way. You can see a completed chart for the word amare.

In each of the sentences, the underlined word means the same thing, but it is of a different form:

Latin Sentence English Equivalent
Eam amo. I love her.
Ea me amat. She loves me.
Eam amabo. I will love her.
Ea me amaverit. She will have loved me.
Eam volo amare. I want to love her.
Ea ab me amatur. She is loved by me.

All these forms come from the many different ways a verb can be used. For a verb, it can be categorized as any combination of these:

  • Voice
  • Mood
  • Tense
  • Number
  • Person

An in addition to these forms, there are also some imperative, infinitive, participle, gerund, and supine forms. However, there is no need to fear because these forms will be learned a few at a time.

Conjugations

When in nouns we talked of declensions, in verbs we talk of conjugations. Yes, that is right: there are several types of verbs that take on different endings based on its conjugation. These conjugations are actually quite similar to one another, but nonetheless they conjugate differently. There are five conjugations (or you could say six if you count the third as two conjugations). Each is unique in how it conjugates.

Conjugation Description Word Examples
First The first conjugation of verbs centers around the letter "a". This conjugation is unique in that all four of its primary verb forms (discussed a little later) are predictable, unlike in the other conjugations. Amare, Dare, Cenare
Second The second conjugation is much like the first, and it uses many similar endings with the first conjugation. The only primary difference between the second and first conjugations is that the second centers around "e". Monere, Habere, Videre
Third The third conjugation is the most common one. This conjugation is different from the first and second conjugations, but it is similar to the fourth. It also doesn't center around a particular letter, but it does focus on "e" and "i". Agere, Gerere, Legere
Third -io This is actually grouped with the third conjugation, but these do conjugate slightly differently. This particular group of verbs is kind of like a cross between the third conjugation and fourth conjugation. Capere, Cupere, Perficere
Fourth The fourth conjugation is much like the third -io group except that it deals with the "i" more. Audire, Venire, Dormire
Irregular The irregular conjugation verbs in some prospects in forming a verb form will not conjugate like the other four conjugations. Although there are not many of these verbs, their forms are best memorized since their patterns are more unpredictable. Esse, Ire, Velle

Because of these conjugations, we can make rules on how verbs are formed.

Four Verb Forms

In the noun section previous to this, we found that in a typical dictionary entry, two of the noun forms are given. For verbs, four are given, and all four are necessary. A typical verb entry might appear like this:

  • amo, amare, amavi, amatus

Using these four forms, one can determine the conjugation of the verb and conjugate it entirely based on the ending rules. Each form represents a specific part of the verb. The first form is the active indicative present singular first1 form of the verb. In other words, the amo part above represents the verb form for "I love". A sentence with simply "Amo" would therefore mean "I love". The second form is the active present infinitive and is the form primarily seen in this dictionary's entries. The amare part above would mean "to love". The third form is the active indicative perfect singular first form of the verb. The amavi part would thus translate as "I loved". The final form is the perfect passive participle.

It is important to know all four forms of the verb in order to use it correctly in Latin sentences.

Using just the first two forms, one can determine the conjugation of the verb and thus what endings it will contain. Here is how you can tell:

  1. First, look at the last three letters of the second form.
    • If they are -are, then the verb is of the first conjugation.
    • If they are -ire, then the verb is of the fourth conjugation (except for Ire).
    • If they are -ere, you will need to proceed to step 2.
    • If they are none of those, the verb is irregular.
  2. If in the first step you came across -ere, then look at the last two letters of the first form.
    • If they are -eo, then the verb is of the second conjugation.
    • If they are -io, then the verb is of the third -io conjugation.
    • If they are some letter other than "e" or "i" followed by an "o", then the verb is of the third conjugation.

For instance determine the conjugations of the words Tacere, Orare, Posse, Dicere, Iacere, and Custodire.

  • Tacere ends in -ere, so we need to know the first form. Its first form is Taceo, and since that ends in -eo, it is a second conjugation verb.
  • Orare ends in -are, so it is a first conjugation verb.
  • Posse ends in -sse which doesn't match our three primary patterns. It is therefore irregular.
  • Dicere ends in -ere, so we need to know its first form. The first form is Dico, and since that ends in -co (as opposed to -eo or -io), it is a third conjugation verb.
  • Iacere ends in -ere, so we need to know its first form. The first form is Iacio, and since that ends in -io, it is a third -io conjugation verb.
  • Custodire ends in -ire, so it is a fourth conjugation verb.

The Active Indicative Present

It is now time to reveal the most basic of the Latin verb forms: The Active Indicative Present of first and second conjugation verbs. Of the entire verb chart possible, you will only be learning these first six forms:

Active
Indicative
Present
Singular 1
2
3
Plural 1
2
3

The active indicative present include actions that are happening now by a subject. For instance, "I love" is active indicative present. All of the following phrases have the verb as active indicative present:

  • I am warning my brother.
  • You are walking.
  • Janet doesn't love Jake.
  • The boys are annoying the girls.

First, we will be learning of the first conjugation verbs, and we will concentrate on the action, "I love". Consider the four primary forms of the verb for love: amo, amare, amavi, amatus. Recall that the first form is the Active Indicative Present Singular First form. Thus, we have the first form for "I love":

Active
Indicative
Present
Singular 1 Amo
2
3
Plural 1
2
3

But how do we find the other forms? First, we need to identify the stem. When declining nouns, we added endings to a certain stem to determine the form of the word. The same thing applies to Latin except there may be many stems. For this set, the stem will come from that first form of the set: Amo. Simply, subtract the -o and you have the stem. The stem for the Active Indicative Present of Amare is Am-.

Now all you have to do is add the right endings. If you wanted to translate "You love" to English, you would as -as to the stem thus forming "Amas". Here are the endings with their proper English translations:

Active Indicative Present
Singular 1 First Form I love
2 -as You love
3 -at He/She/It loves
Plural 1 -amus We love
2 -atis You (all) love
3 -ant They love

This first stem that comes from the first form will from now on be known as 1s. So to form the Active Indicative Present Plural Third form of a first conjugation verb, you would use 1s+ant.

The second conjugation is very similar to the first except it has that "e" instead of "a". Here are the endings you would use as well as the proper English translations if you were using Habere:

Active Indicative Present
Singular 1 First Form I have
2 -es You have
3 -et He/She/It has
Plural 1 -emus We have
2 -etis You (all) have
3 -ent They have

So if you wanted the Active Indicative Present Singular Third form of Habere, you would use 1s+et and end up with "habet".

What form would you use for the following sentences?

Sentence Verb Answer
I am walking. Ambulare Ambulo
The mother warns the boys. Monere Monet
The boys annoy their sisters. Vexare Vexant
Are you afraid of me? Timere Times
We do not beg. Orare Oramus
You all have ill manners! Habere Habetis

If you haven't noticed, there are some common endings found for both conjugations thus far. Both singular firsts end in -o for one, and both singular seconds end in -s. In fact, they each have their own common ending shown below:

Singular 1 -o/-m
2 -s
3 -t
Plural 1 -mus
2 -tis
3 -nt

This pattern will be found for practically all of the verb forms under the Active Indicative section, so you will want to remember these endings.

Esse

There is one single verb that will be the most important verb you will ever learn, and it is irregular. This word is Esse, and it means "To be".

This word is used practically everywhere. Any time you say, "I am happy", you are using this verb. In Latin, the verb is irregular meaning that it doesn't form an easy to remember pattern like the other conjugations, but this shouldn't surprise us. In English, the verb "be" is also irregular forming in odd ways. Consider our present forms of "to be":

Active Indicative Present
Singular 1 I am
2 You are
3 He/She/It is
Plural 1 We are
2 You (all) are
3 They are

There are already three nearly unrelated forms in English, where as you saw above, regular verbs don't have as convoluted of forms. Latin isn't too different, however the endings still follow the common pattern discovered above. At least it isn't horribly irregular.

Here is the conjugation for Esse in the Active Indicative Present:

Active Indicative Present
Singular 1 Sum I am
2 Es You are
3 Est He/She/It is
Plural 1 Sumus We are
2 Estis You (all) are
3 Sunt They are

This verb is important to remember and will be used extensively.


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