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Allo latin
Allo
latin

Salvē (Hello)! The following guide is intended to be an introductory gateway to the language of the Romans—Classical Latin. It was written to be inclusive of all skill levels. Consequently, it may be missing technical nuances that other upper level guides include. Citations are provided for many important sections, which are shown in the Bibliography at the bottom of the page. Happy conjugating!

Introduction

Latin is an inflected language, meaning that words like nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs have different endings. These different endings provide important information about the relationships between the words. The language is attributed to Indo-European origins, like Greek, Iranian, Slavic, and others.[1] Latin also gave birth to languages French, Italian, Spanish, and English (partially).[2]

Alphabet and pronunciation

The classical Latin alphabet contains twenty-three letters, as shown in the table below.[3] It is similar to English, except that the letters J and W are missing (U should be excluded, but will be used in this guide, as explained below the table).[4]

Classical Latin alphabet

A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T U* V X Y Z

* While V was used for both the u (vowel) and w sounds, the present guide will utilize U as an additional letter. The U letter will refer to the oo sound.

Vowels, consonants, and sounds

Vowels are pronounced in either short or long form. Long vowels have a straight arrow above them, called a macron "¯" (e.g., ā, ē, ī, ō). Long vowels are held twice as long as short ones.[5] If there is no macron, then it can be assumed that it is a short vowel. Sometimes, a half-circle line above a vowel may indicate that it is short (e.g., ă, ĕ, ĭ, ŏ, ŭ). Macrons are an important part of the Latin language. They should therefore be considered as part of the spelling of the word.

How to pronounce Latin vowels

  Long Short
ā as in father dās, cārā as in Dinah dat, casa
ē as in they , sēdēs as in pet et, sed
ī as in machine hīc, sīca as in pin hic, sicca
ō as in clover ōs, mōrēs as in orb, off os, mora
ū1 as in rude , sūmō as in put tum, sum
y Y is either long or short and sounds as if in the middle of "u" and "i." This sound does not occur in the English language.
1. The classical Latin alphabet had only twenty-three letters, and "u" was not a part of it. The letter "v" took its place in many cases. The Oxford Latin Dictionary uses the letter "u" in place of "v."

The rest of this section is not quite ready yet. Check back soon.

Parts of speech

Like English, Latin utilizes eight parts of speech.[6] The Oxford Latin Dictionary also classifies some words as particles, which are a special case that will not be covered extensively in this guide.

The eight Latin parts of speech

Name Description Example
Noun Person, place, or thing that usually acts as the subject or object of a verb. vir, man
Verb Describes the subject's activity (action), occurrence, or state of being. vincere, to conquer
Adjective Modifies a noun or pronoun by adding information about it. magnus, large
Adverb Modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. nōn, not
Preposition Positioned before a noun or pronoun (usually) to indicate a noun phrase. sine, without
Pronoun Used as a substitute for a noun, like a specific person, place, or thing. quid, what
Conjunction Word or phrase that joins together two elements (like nouns or clauses). , if
Interjection Exclamatory word or phrase that indicates emotion. О̄ , Oh!
Particle1 Unclassified (informal) part of speech. ergō, therefore
1. Particles are like the 'junk drawer' of Latin because they may belong to multiple categories. Particles may even be idioms or lack general use rules. The Oxford Latin Dictionary utilizes particles.

For English speakers, the Latin parts of speech should look and sound familiar.

Word order in Latin

Unlike English, word order in Latin is extremely flexible. For example, the English sentence the boy walks the dog follows the subject (boy), verb (walks), object (dog) format. Swapping the position of the subject and object would change the meaning of the sentence: the dog walks the boy. In English, the position of the word is therefore important for understanding its role in the sentence.

In Latin, however, the position of the word is more forgiving. This is true because the words have different endings, which provide the information necessary for determining whether it is the subject or object of the verb.

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Conjugation, declension, and gender

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Verbs

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Basic mechanics

Endings of Latin verbs are inflected, and the ending of the verb is called its conjugation. The conjugation of the verb serves the purpose of expressing the five primary characteristics: voice, mood, tense, person, and number.[7]

Five characteristics of Latin verbs

Name Description Options
Voice Indicates whether the subject is doing or is the recipient of the action of the verb. Active
Passive
Mood Differentiates between declared statements, hypotheticals, or commands. Indicative
Subjunctive
Infinitive
Imperative
Tense Indicates whether an action was completed or is in progress. Present
Imperfect
Future
Perfect
Pluperfect
Future perfect
Person Indicates who is being addressed First (I)
Second (you)
Third (s/he, it)
Number Expresses the quantity (like I and we) Singular (sing.)
Plural (pl.)

There are other important characteristics of Latin verbs, such as whether it is finite, transitive, and irregular, among other considerations.

<table:four principal parts> + modal

The rest of this section is not quite ready yet. Check back soon.

First conjugation

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Second conjugation

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Third conjugation

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Fourth conjugation

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Irregular verbs

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Nouns

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Cases

Latin has six cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative, and vocative.[8] Although, the endings for the vocative case are the same as the nominative, so they do not need to be remembered. These endings dictate the role of the word in the sentence, and are important as it relates to people, places, and things (nouns and pronouns).

Latin cases

Case Description
Nominative
a/the
Subject of a finite verb, usually translated with the a or the prefix (e.g., the boy owns a dog.)
Genitive
of
Usually indicates possession, is after the noun it modifies, and translated as of (e.g., the boy's dog [dog of the boy] is a chihuahua.)
Dative
to/for
Usually indicates the noun indirectly affected by the action of the verb (indirect object), and translated as to/for (e.g., the boy bought food for the dog)
Accusative
a/the
The thing directly affected by the action of the verb (direct object), and usually translated with the a or the prefix (e.g., the boy owns a dog.)
Ablative
by/with/from/on/in
A complex catch-all case that modifies or limits the verb through various constructions and is loosely translated as by/with/from/in/on (e.g., the boy treated the chihuahua with love)
Vocative
O
Used for 'calling' a person or thing directly (or emphasis), and usually prefaced with O (e.g., O fortune, what a lucky dog!)

Listing all the endings for a noun, pronoun, or adjective means to list its declensions (or decline the word).

Declensions

While verbs must be conjugated, nouns and adjectives must be declined according to its common declension, or general word pattern.

First declension

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Second declension

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Third declension

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Pronouns

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Demonstratives

Demonstratives are pronouns and adjectives that "point" to "things." Hic, iste, and ille can be loosely translated as this/these and that/those. These demonstratives point to things that are near by (or far from) the speaker or person being addressed. These pronouns must be declined according to the case, number, and gender. When used alone, demonstratives function as pronouns and generally refer to a man, woman, or things.

[example of items]

Iste, which also means that, is used when expressing contempt. It has a pejorative context and is used for emphasis, usually against a person or one of their traits.

Declension table for hic, haec, hoc (this, these)

  Singular   Plural
  Masculine Feminine Neuter   Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative hic haec hoc   hae haec
Genitive huius huius huius   hōrum hārum hōrum
Dative huic huic huic   hīs hīs hīs
Accusative hunc hanc hoc   hōs hās haec
Ablative hōc hāc hōc   hīs hīs hīs

Declension table for ille, illa, illud (that, those)

  Singular   Plural
  Masculine Feminine Neuter   Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative ille illa illud   illī illae illa
Genitive illīus illīus illīus   illōrum illārum illōrum
Dative illī illī illī   illīs illīs illīs
Accusative illum illam illud   illōs illās illa
Ablative illō illā illō   illīs illīs illīs

Declension table for iste, ista, istud (that, those⁠—with contempt)

  Singular   Plural
  Masculine Feminine Neuter   Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative iste ista istud   istī istae ista
Genitive istīus istīus istīus   istōrum istārum istōrum
Dative istī istī istī   istīs istīs istīs
Accusative istum istam istud   istōs istās ista
Ablative istō istā istō   istīs istīs istīs

Demonstratives can modify nouns, and can thus function as adjectives. When they are placed before a noun, it generally means that its function is an adjective; however, it is important to rely on the context of the sentence in order to be sure.

Personal

First and second person personal pronouns

First and second person pronouns ego/nōs and tū/vōs translate roughly to I/we and you/you (all), respectively. All personal pronouns must be declined according to the number and case.

Declension table for ego/nōs and tū/vōs (I/we and you/you all)

  First Person   Second Person
  Singular Plural   Singular Plural
Nominative ego nōs   vōs
Genitive meī nostrum (nostrī)   tuī vestrum (vestrī)
Dative mihi nōbīs   tibi vōbīs
Accusative nōs   vōs
Ablative nōbīs   vōbīs

Third person personal pronouns

The third person pronouns is, ea, id translate roughly to he, she, it (or this thing). Like nouns, they must be declined according to the gender, number, and case.

Declension table for is, ea, id (he, she, it)

  Singular   Plural
  Masculine Feminine Neuter   Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative is ea id   eī (iī) eae ea
Genitive eius eius eius   eōrum eārum eōrum
Dative   eīs eīs eīs
Accusative eum eam id   eōs eās ea
Ablative   eīs eīs eīs

While the examples below showcase the use of personal pronouns, it is important to consider that they are not always necessary. In Latin, personal pronouns are primarily used for emphasis.

Examples of personal pronouns

Ego tibi (vōbīs) librōs dabō. I shall give the books to you.
Ego eī (eīs) librōs dabō. I shall give the books to him or her (to them).
Tū mē (nōs) nōn capiēs. You will not capture me (us).
Eī id ad nōs mittent. They will send it (this thing) to us.
Vōs eōs (eās, ea) nōn capiētis. You will not seize them (those men/women/things).
Eae ea ad mittent. They will send them (those things) to you.
View more

Finally, it should be noted that first and second personal pronouns are not usually used to indicate possession. Possessive adjectives (which sound similar) should be used instead. Third person personal pronouns were, however, commonly used for possession.

Relative

Relative pronouns are common words that introduce a relative (or subordinate) clause into a sentence. quī, quae, and quod may be loosely translated as who, which, and that in English. These words introduce a subordinate clause that refers back to a noun or pronoun, known as the antecedent. The subordinate clause functions like an adjective in that it provides information about the antecedent.

Rules for using relative pronouns

Since relative pronouns refer back to the antecedent, both of these parts must agree in gender and number. However, the case of the relative pronoun depends on the information contained in the clause.

Declension table for quī, quae, quod (who, which, that)

  Singular   Plural
  Masculine Feminine Neuter   Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative quī quae quod   quī quae quae
Genitive cuius cuius cuius   quōrum quārum quōrum
Dative cui cui cui   quibus quibus quibus
Accusative quem quam quod   quōs quās quae
Ablative quō quā quō   quibus quibus quibus

When reading Latin sentences, it is important to bracket "[ ]" the relative clauses if a relative pronoun is identified. From there, the gender and number of the relative must be determined by the antecedent. The case is determined by its use within the relative clause.

See the following examples:

Examples of relative pronouns

Dīligō puellam quae ex Italiā vēnit. I admire the girl who came from Italy.
Homō dē quō dīcēbās est amīcus cārus. The man about whom you were speaking is a dear friend.
Puella cui librum dat est fortūnāta. The girl to whom he is giving the book is fortunate.
Puer cuius patrem iuvābāmus est fortis. The boy whose father we used to help is brave.
Vītam meam committam eīs virīs quōrum virtūtēs laudābās. I shall entrust my life to those men whose virtues you were praising.
Timeō idem perīculum quod timētis. I fear the same danger which you fear.
View more

Reflexive

Reflexive pronouns are usually in the predicate of a sentence and refer (relfect) back to the subject. They differ from personal pronouns in this regard and must be carefully read.

Reflexive pronouns do not include a nominative case because while they reflect back to the subject, they cannot be the subject (in most cases, but there are exceptions). First and second person reflexive pronouns may be roughly translated as words like myself, yourself, and so on. The third person reflexive pronoun is a little different in its form and has the same forms in the singular as the plural.

Declension table for reflexive pronouns

  First Person   Second Person   Third Person
  Singular Plural   Singular Plural   Singular Plural
Nominative    
Genitive meī nostrī   tuī vestrī   suī suī
Dative mihi nōbīs   tibi vōbīs   sibi sibi
Accusative nōs   vōs  
Ablative nōbīs   vōbīs  

Before reviewing the following examples, note how the translation of a reflexive pronoun is indicated with the -self or -selves suffix.

Examples of reflexive pronouns

laudāvistī. You praised yourself.
Nōs laudāvimus nōs. We praised ourselves.
Ego mihi litterās scrīpsī. I wrote a letter to myself.
Cicerō laudāvit. Cicero praised himself.
Rōmānī laudāvērunt. The Romans praised themselves.
Puella servāvit. The girl saved herself.
View more

Intensive

The intensive pronoun ipse, ipsa, ipsum (myself, yourself, himself) is used for extra emphasis of an existing noun or pronoun. It may be located in either the subject or the predicate of a sentence. It can also mean the very or the actual. The following examples show this emphasis in action.

Examples of intensive pronouns

Cicerō ipse mē laudāvit. Cicero himself praised me.
Cicerō mē ipsum laudāvit. Cicero praised me myself (i.e., actually praised me)
Ipse amīcum eius laudāvī. I myself praised his friend.
Fīlia vōbīs ipsīs litterās scrīpsit. Your daughter wrote a letter to you yourselves.
Cicerō litterās ipsās Caesaris vīdit. Cicero saw Caesar’s letter itself (i.e., Caesar’s actual letter).
View more

Adjectives

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Conjunctions

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Constructions

Generally speaking, a construction is a collection of units that make up a whole.[9] For example, in English the construction of a sentence (or single clause) is [Subject] + [Verb] + [Object]. This example, like other constructions, follows rules with regard to its formation (usually). However, constructions do not have to be sentences. They may be phrases or single words. In Latin, there are many constructions that form phrases used for a specific purpose. It is important to take into account that certain constructions may appear odd (in a Latin sentence) or be literally translated in a bizarre fashion. A few notable constructions are listed.

Ablatives

In Latin, words in the ablative case can be used in various useful constructions. These forms may be said to act as idioms and can "shortcut" the number of words used to express an idea. It is important to distinguish between ablative use cases that require (or do not require) a preposition (like ex, away from). Because ablatives are used commonly, it is beneficial to recognize them.

It may be helpful to note that each ablative phrase answers some sort of direct question, as shown below.

Commonly used ablative constructions

Name Summary and example
Accompaniment
cum + abl.
Describes with whom something was done.
Cum amīcō id scrīpsit. (He wrote it with his friend.)
Manner
cum + abl.
Describes how (the manner in which) something was done.
Cum cūrā id scrīpsit. (He wrote it with care.)
Manner (adj.)
No prep.
Describes how something was done when an adjective is used.
Magnā cūrā id scrīpsit. (He wrote it with great care.)
Place where
in + abl.
Describes where something was done.
In urbe id scrīpsit. (He wrote it in the city.)
Place from which
prep. + abl.
Describes what place something originated from.
Ex urbe id mīsit. (He sent it from the city.)
Separation
prep. + abl.
Describes physical separation between two locations
Ab urbe eōs prohibuit. (He kept them from the city.)
Separation
No prep.
Describes abstract separation between two states (e.g., ideas or feelings).
Metū eōs līberāvit. (He freed them from fear.)
Personal agent
ab + abl.
Describes by whom (a person) something was done.
Ab amīcō id scrīptum est. (It was written by his friend.)
Cardinal numerals
ex/dē + abl.
Describes how manyi (from a group) did something.
Trēs ex nāvibus discessērunt. (Three of the ships departed.)
Means or instrument
No prep.
Describes by what means or instrument (not person) something was done.
Suā manū id scrīpsit. (He wrote it with his own hand.)
Time when/within
No prep.
Describes when or within what time something was done.
Eō tempore id scrīpsit. (He wrote it at that time.)

Ablatives of means/instrument[10]

The ablative of means/instrument indicates that something was accomplished by means of whatever the object is. For example, you may encounter a word like stilō (pencil) in the ablative case. This may be roughly translated as with a pencil or by means of a pencil, such as when writing something.

Examples of ablative of means

Litterās stilō scrīpsit. He wrote the letter with a pencil.
Cīvēs pecūniā vīcit. He conquered the citizens with/by money.
Suīs labōribus urbem cōnservāvit. By his own labors he saved the city.
Id meīs oculīs vīdī. I saw it with my own eyes.
View more

Ablatives of a personal agent[11]

Like the ablative of means (above), the ablative can be used when the "means" is a person.

The rest of this section is not quite ready yet. Check back soon.

Ablatives of accompaniment and manner[12]

The rest of this section is not quite ready yet. Check back soon.

Examples of ablatives of accompaniment/manner

Cum amīcīs vēnērunt. They came with friends.
Cum celeritāte vēnērunt. They came with speed.
Id cum virtūte fēcit. He did it with courage.
Id cum eīs fēcit. He did it with them.
View more

Ablative of place from which[13]

The ablative of place from which is another construction which is intended for motion from one place to another. It generally must be employed with a preposition like ab (away from), (down from), or ex (away from).

The rest of this section is not quite ready yet. Check back soon.

Ablative of separation[14]

The ablative of separation, like the previous construction, involves separation. However, the ablative of separation does not include motion, and is generally used without a preposition. It is usually coupled with separation from abstract concepts such as money, resources, or freedom. The examples below illustrate the use of this construction.

The rest of this section is not quite ready yet. Check back soon.

1.
Wheelock, Wheelock's Latin, xxx.
2.
Ibid. English is also significantly influenced by Germanic.
3.
Gildersleeve and Lodge, Latin Grammar, 1.
4.
Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, 1.
5.
Wheelock, Wheelock's Latin, xli.
6.
Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, 11.
7.
Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, 72-77
8.
Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, 6.
9.
Crystal, 2008, 107.
10.
Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, 254.
11.
Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, 253.
12.
Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, 258.
13.
Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, 268.
14.
Allen and Greenough, New Latin Grammar, 249.

Important note: This page is subject to frequent changes during the Alpha/Beta phases of Allo. Learn more

References and citation

Cite this page

CMS Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.)

Notes

Allo Contributors, "Latin Grammar Guide," Allo Latin Dictionary, last modified November 10, 2023, accessed April 17, 2024, http://ancientlanguages.org/latin/grammar.

Bibliography

Allo Contributors. "Latin Grammar Guide." Allo Latin Dictionary. Last modified November 10, 2023. Accessed April 17, 2024. http://ancientlanguages.org/latin/grammar.

Notes

Bibliography

Allen, Joseph H. Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges: Founded on Comparative Grammar. Edited by James B. Greenough, George L. Kittredge, Albert A. Howard, and Benjamin L. D'Ooge. Boston, MA: Ginn & Company, 1903.

Crystal, David. A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 6th ed. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

Delatte, Louis, Suzanne Govaerts, Joseph Denooz, and Etienne Evrard. Dictionnaire fréquentiel et index inverse de la langue latine [Frequency Dictionary and Inverse Index of the Latin Language]. Liège, Belgium: Laboratoire d'analyse statistique des langues anciennes de l'Université de Liège (L.A.S.L.A.), 1981.

Diederich, Paul B. The Frequency of Latin Words and Their Endings. PhD diss., Columbia University, 1939.

Francese, Christopher. "Latin Core Vocabulary." Dickinson College Commentaries. Last modified 2014. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/latin-vocabulary-list.

Gildersleeve, Basil L., and Gonzales Lodge. Gildersleeve's Latin Grammar: Third Edition, Revised, and Enlarged. 3rd ed. London, England: Macmillan and Co., 1903.

Glare, Peter G.W. Oxford Latin Dictionary. Vols. 1-8. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1982.

Krüger, Bernd. "Latin Conjugation Tables." Cactus2000. Accessed May 5, 2023. https://latin.cactus2000.de/index.en.php.

Pierson, Nick. "Sound of Text." Accessed October 26, 2019. https://soundoftext.com.

Wheelock, Frederick M. Wheelock's Latin. 6th ed. Revised by Richard A. LaFleur. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.

Wiktionary Contributors. "Victionarium." Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Updated March 18, 2019. https://la.wiktionary.org/wiki/Victionarium:Pagina_prima.