In the fifth class of the Latin from Scratch course, we’ll start the study of the other fundamental part of every language: verbal morphology. We don’t need all of the information right away, but most of the concepts we’re about to study will keep appearing through the whole course.
I explain everything in the following video ():
The Latin verbal system
The Latin conjugation is reasonably different from the English one (not so much, though), but quite similar to the Spanish one. Latin verbs have voice (active and passive), mood (indicative, subjunctive and imperative), tense (present indicate and subjunctive; imperfect past indicative and subjunctive; perfect past indicative and subjunctive; pluperfect indicative and subjunctive; future indicative and imperative; perfect future indicative), person (first, second and third) and number (singular and plural).
In turn, there are non-personal (non-finite) forms: participles, infinitives, gerund, gerundive and supine. We’ll learn that many of them don’t even exist in English, and some do exist but are not used as much or in the same way.
The statement of Latin verbs
In the same way as with nouns, we also have the statement of verbs, which informs us about the conjugation of the verbs and their different stems. Latin verbs have three stems: present stem (infectum), perfect stem (perfectum) and supine stem.
According to the English-speaking tradition, the statement of verbs is made up of the following four forms:
- 1st person singular present indicative (active)
- present infinitive (active)
- 1st person singular perfect indicative (active)
- supine (or perfect passive participle, etc.)
According to this, the statement of the verb amo ‘to love’ is the following: amo, amare, amavi, amatum (or amatus [sum]).
The five Latin conjugations
In order to know the conjugation a verb belongs to, we have to look at the infinitive in the statement.
There are four conjugations (plus an extra one):
1st conjugation: -āre
- amo, amare, amavi, amatum
- laudo, laudare, laudavi, laudatum
2nd conjugation: -ēre
- moneo, monere, monui, monitum
- deleo, delere, delevi, deletum
3rd conjugation: -ĕre
- duco, ducere, duxi, ductum
- mitto, mittere, misi, missum
mixed conjugation: -ĕre, but the 1st person singular present indicative ends in -io
- capio, capere, cepi, captum
- facio, facere, feci, factum
4th conjugation: -īre
- audio, audire, audivi, auditum
- venio, venire, veni, ventum
The verbal stems
There are three verbal stems. They are essential to conjugate and recognize the tenses and moods. In order to get a verbal stem, we need to do the following.
We remove the ending ‑o from the 1st form of the statement:
However, in the 1st conjugation, after removing the ending, we have to add an a:
o→ am → ama
We remove the ending ‑i from the 3rd form of the statement:
- amavi → amav
- duxi → dux
There are four types of perfect stems:
- -u- stem, either vocalic (habui, etc.) or consonantic (amavi, etc.)
- Sigmatic, frequent in the 3rd conjugation, often with some phonetic changes: dixi (< *dicsi); misi (< *missi < *mitsi)
- Simple or strong, with no special mark, except for the root itself; most of the times the root is exactly the same in the present and in the perfect stem, either with the same vowel length (bĭbo, bĭbi), or with different length (ĕmo, ēmi); sometimes there’s also a change of the vowel (făcio, fēci)
- Reduplicated, with the first consonant of the root duplicated at the beginning, plus a vowel, usually e (do, dedi), but not always (mordeo, momordi)
We can’t know beforehand what type of perfect stem corresponds to a verb, no matter whether we look at its present stem or its conjugation. That’s why we have to learn the whole statement for each verb, since all the three stems are included.
We remove the ending ‑um from the 4th form of the statement:
- amatum → amat
- ductum → duct
The active personal endings
All of the verbs in the active voice (except for the indicative perfect past) use the following personal endings:
- 1st person singular: -ō / -m
- 2nd person singular: -s
- 3rd person singular: -t
- 1st person plural: -mus
- 2nd person plural: -tis
- 3rd person plural: -nt
Now we’re prepared to learn the present tense!