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Chapter 3: Verbs, Adjectives, Prepositions


I. Verb Forms, Present Indicative Active
II. Third Conjugation Verbs
III. Adjectives of the First and Second Declension
IV. Prepositions with the Accusative Case

I. Verb Forms, Present Indicative Active


We have already learned the third person singular and plural forms of the present indicative
active for the first, second and fourth conjugations. In learning the first two principal parts of
verbs, we noted also that the first principal part is the first person singular form. In this
chapter we will learn the remaining forms of the present indicative active, namely, the second
person forms and the first person plural.
Personal Endings
The regular personal endings for the present indicative active forms in Latin are:
Singular

Plural

1st

(= I)

-mus

(= we)

2nd

-s

(= you [sing.])

-tis

(= you [plur.])

3rd

-t

(= he/she/it)

-nt

(= they)

Note that, with the exception of the first person singular, all these endings begin with a
consonant. The stems that attach to these endings will therefore contain a vowel for phonetic
reasons, and that stem vowel is determined by the conjugation to which the verb belongs. As
we saw in ch. 2, this stem vowel can normally be found by dropping the re from the second
principal part (the present active infinitive) Thus, the basic stem vowels for the present
indicative active are:
1st conjugation: -a-

am-

2nd conjugation: -e-

vid-

4th conjugation: -i-

aud-

Theoretically, we should be able to attach the personal endings to these present active verb
stems in order to produce the correct form, and this is in fact usually the case. But there are
two exceptions, which we have already seen: As the first principal part shows, the stem
vowel a- of the first conjugation is dropped in the first person singular; the form for I love

is not ama-, but am-. The other exception occurs in the third person plural of the fourth
conjugation: there a u- is unexpectedly added to the stem in i-, so the form for they hear
is not audint, but audiunt. Aside from these exceptions, the formula of stem + endings works
for the rest of the paradigm.
Sing.

Plur

Sing

Plur

Sing

Plur

1st

am-*

am-mus

vide-

vid-mus

audi-

aud-mus

2nd

am-s

am-tis

vid-s

vid-tis

aud-s

aud-tis

3rd

ama-t

ama-nt

vide-t

vide-nt

audi-t

audi-unt*

*These two forms do not follow the strict rule of stem + ending.
Note on Second Person Forms
English has only one active form for the second person, you, which works as both singular and
plural (the old singular form thou has fallen from use, except in some religious or archaic
contexts). Many modern languages have separate forms for singular and plural you, and often
make a further distinction between a formal form (used with strangers and superiors) and a
familiar form (for friends and family); cf. Usted and Tu in Spanish. Latin does not make this
latter distinction; second person forms strictly refer to singular and plural numbers only.

II. Third Conjugation Verbs


The chart above indicates that, by and large, the first, second and fourth conjugations are quite
regular; the present stem is easily obtained from the second principal part (= the infinitive), and
the personal endings are added to this with only two exceptions.
The third conjugation, on the other hand, appears quite irregular, mostly because the stem vowel
is weak and does not appear in the present tense at all. The personal endings remain the same.
Like all regular verbs, a third conjugation verb can be recognized from its second principal part,
the present active infinitive. But here too one must be cautious: the infinitive form of the third
conjugation is ere, which looks very much like that of the second conjugation.
Examples: dc, dcere (lead), mitt, mittere (send), vinc, vincere (conquer)
But you will recall that the first e- of the infinitive ending in the second conjugation has a long
mark (technical term: macron) over it (-re). This distinguishes it from the third conjugation,
where the e- is short; this also affects the word accent, so the two infinitives actually sound very
different: DC-ere (3rd) vs. vi-D-re (2nd). The stem of dcere should be dce- (which does
appear later in another context), but in fact in the present indicative, the short e- of the stem is
either dropped (in 1st sing.), reduced to short i, or replaced by u- (in 3rd plur.). Here is the
paradigm:

Sing.

Plur.

1st

dc-

dci-mus

2nd

dci-s

dci-tis

3rd

dci-t

dcu-nt

The result looks something like the forms of the fourth declension; not just the i forms, but also
the u- in the third plural. But the i of the fourth declension truly belongs to the stem, and so
occurs everywhere, including the first person singular (audi vs. dc) and third plural (audiunt
vs. dcunt). There are subtler differences as well; the stronger - of the fourth declension
sounds different in the second person singular and the first and second plural, where it remains
long. This distinction is worth making, but for practical purposes (since the spelling is identical),
it should not cause you any great problems.
Comparison of Third and Fourth Conjugations, Present Indicative Active
3rd Conjugation: mitt, mittere (send)

4th Conjugation: veni, venre (come)

Sing.

Plur.

Sing.

Plur.

1st

mitt

mittimus

veni

venmus*

2nd

mittis

mittitis

vens*

ventis*

mittit

mittunt

venit

veniunt

*Forms with long -, different from 3rd Conjugation.


Despite the differences, it is easy to confuse third and fourth conjugation forms. In fact, we will
see a later chapter that there are some important third conjugation verbs which look even more
similar to the fourth than normal ones, so one might say that the boundary between these two
conjugations is often blurred. Refer to the principal parts when in doubt: the infinitive forms
re, -re, -ere and re clearly indicate the four conjugations.

III. ADJECTIVES of the First and Second Declension


Adjectives are descriptive words that describe (or modify) nouns: good, bad, tall, short, etc.
Latin adjectives are inflected like nouns, and agree with the nouns they modify with respect to
gender, number and case. There are two groups of Latin adjectives, one that follows the
patterns of the first and second declensions (as we saw, there is some connection between the
two), and the other that follows the pattern of the third declension (this will be introduced in a
later chapter).

The declension of adjectives basically follows that of nouns, so there are no new forms to learn
yet. Adjectives are traditionally declined in the order masculine, feminine and neuter, which in
the first and second declensions typically take the inflected forms of us, -a, -um attached to an
adjective root, such as bon- (good) or mal- (bad). To present all the forms we know so far is to
present a review of the first and second declensional endings:
Example: bonus, bona, bonum*
*As vocabulary words, adjectives are typically learned by memorizing the masculine, feminine
and neuter nominative singular forms, as in the example above. For simplicitys sake, perfectly
regular forms are abbreviated in the feminine and neuter, e.g.: bonus, -a, -um.
Singular
Masculine

Plural

Feminine

Neuter

Masculine

Feminine

Neuter

Nom. bon-us

bon-a

bon-um

bon-

bon-ae

bon-a

Gen.

bon-

bon-ae

bon-

bon-rum

bon-arum

bon-rum

Acc.

bon-um

bon-am

bon-um

bon-s

bon-s

bon-a

Adjectives normally are added to nouns, so the exact form of the adjective depends on the noun
it modifies; the rule is that Latin adjectives agree with the nouns they modify with respect to
gender, number, and case. This is relatively easy when the noun and the adjective happen to
belong to the same declension, since the endings will look the same:
Singular

Plural

Nom: bonus amicus

bon amic

Gen.: bon amic

bonrum amicrum

Acc.: bonum amicum

bons amics

But what if the first and second declension adjective modifies a third declension noun? Both
words stay in their native declensions; the endings will match in the abstract, but look quite
different:
Nom: bonus rx

bon rgs

Gen.: bon rgis

bonrum rgum

Acc.: bonum rgem

bons rgs

Or, in the feminine:

Nom: bona lx

bonae lgs

Gen.: bonae lgis

bonarum lgum

Acc.: bonam lgem

bonas lgs

Or, in the neuter:


Nom: bonum corpus

bona corpora

Gen.: bon corporis

bonrum corporum

Acc.: bonum corpus

bona corpora

A Variation: -ER Adjectives of the First and Second Declensions


We saw that there were a small number of second declension masculine nouns that ended in er
instead of us. We also saw that in some of these, the e- drops out after the nominative singular
(e.g., liber, libr, m. book). In fact there is also a group of first and second declension adjectives
that follows this pattern. The only real issue is with the masculine nominative singular, since the
true stem (with or without the e-) shows up in all other forms of the masculine, feminine and
neuter. Thus the strategy of memorizing the nominative singular forms of the masculine,
feminine and neuter will suffice to work with these adjectives; if the e- is retained in the
feminine nominative singular, it is retained throughout; if it is absent in the feminine nominative
singular, it does not reappear.
Contrast: miser, misera, miserum (wretched, unhappy) with pulcher, pulchra, pulchrum (pretty,
handsome):
Singular
Masculine

Plural

Feminine

Neuter

Masculine

Feminine

Neuter

Nom. miser

miser-a

miser-um

miser-

miser-ae

miser-a

Gen.

miser-

miser-ae

miser-

miser-rum

miser-rum

miser-rum

Acc.

miser-um

miser-am

miser-um

miser-s

miser-s

miser-a

Singular
Masculine

Plural

Feminine

Neuter

Masculine

Feminine

Neuter

Nom. pulcher

pulchr-a

pulchr -um

pulchr-

pulchr-ae

pulchr -a

Gen.

pulchr -

pulchr -ae

pulchr-

pulchr-rum pulchr-rum pulchrrum

Acc.

pulchr -um

pulchr -am

pulchr-um

pulchr-s

pulchr-s

pulchr-a

As this variation causes a problem only in the masculine, nominative singular, there is not much
difficulty with the er types of first and second declension adjectives; the main thing is to
recognize the stem, which only appears clearly in the feminine nominative singular form that
you have memorized as part of the vocabulary entry.

Adjectives as Substantives
Sometimes adjectives can be used without nouns to indicate a class of persons or things, or some
abstract concept. English can do this by adding the definite article the to an adjective:
Fortune favors the brave. (i.e., brave people)
I see the good in her. (i.e., goodness)
Latin can do this even more easily, since the form of the adjective includes gender: bonus can
also mean a good man, bona a good woman, bonum a good thing; plural: boni good men,
bonae good women, bona good things, goods. This is known as the substantival use of
adjectives, since the adjective functions as a sort of substantive, basically another word for
noun. Be alert for adjectives that seem to have no nouns to agree with, and then adjust your
translation accordingly.
Mal bons terrent. The bad frighten the good.
(Bad men/people* frighten good men/people).
Rmn veniunt.

The Romans are coming.

*The masculine gender is the default for generalizing statements. Thus women are included in
the generic bon (good men/people). Feminine gender is exclusive: bonae means good
women, and does not include men.

IV. PREPOSITIONS
Prepositions are short (one or two syllable) words that indicate location, direction or relation
(e.g., in, on, to, into, for, by, etc.). As the name implies, a preposition (pre-position) is usually
placed in front of the word it governs (in the room, on the table, at noon, etc.). In Latin,
prepositions are associated with certain cases (usually one case, sometimes two; if two, there is a
distinction in meaning). We often say that a preposition takes a particular case, although that is
not entirely accurate.* The two cases most frequently associated with prepositions are the
accusative and the ablative; the latter will be introduced in the next lesson.
*In fact, the case usage came first, to indicate some function (such as location or direction),
later the preposition was added for extra precision. But most prepositions are associated with a
particular case, and so it is simpler to speak of the preposition as taking that case. In most
Indo-European based languages the use of prepositions eventually became so common that the
case endings became superfluous, and ultimately disappeared from nouns. But the principle of a
preposition taking a case still holds with personal pronouns, so that, in English, a preposition
like between should be followed by the objective case. You will hear people say between you
and I, but technically the phrase should be between you and me.
Prepositions with the Accusative Case
Some prepositions indicating direction or motion towards an object are associated with (take)
the accusative case, including:
Ad: to, towards

ad locum

to the place

In*: into

in aquam

into the water

Trns: across

trns fluvium across the river

*In can also mean in or on, but not with the accusative case.
Many other prepositions are also followed by the accusative case, even without a sense of motion
or direction:
Circum: around

circum flis

around the sons

Contr: against

contr lgem against the law

Inter: between, among

inter amcs

among friends

Per: through

per forum

through the forum

Post: after

post mortem

after death

When learning prepositions as vocabulary words, it is important to memorize the case taken
by the preposition at the same time, so this information will be included in the vocabulary
section. At the moment, we are concentrating on prepositions that take the accusative case, but
that will change as we learn more cases.
Note also that prepositions can also be used as prefixes to form compound words, many of
which have come into English.
Contradict

speak against

Circumcision a cutting around

TERMS TO KNOW
Personal Endings (of verbs)
Adjective
Substantive
Preposition

VOCABULARY
1st Declension Nouns
Aqua, aquae, f.: water
nsula, nsulae, f.: island
Patria, patriae, f.: fatherland, homeland
2nd Declension Nouns
Equus, equ, m.: horse
Forum, for, n.: forum, marketplace
Locus, loc, m.: place, passage (in a book)
Servus, serv, m.: slave, servant
3rd Declension Nouns
Frter, frtris, m.: brother
Mter, mtris, f.: mother
Pater, patris, m.: father

international between nations


postpone

place after

Soror, sorris, f.: sister


ADJECTIVES
Bonus, bona, bonum: good
Malus, mala, malum: bad, evil
Miser, misera, miserum: wretched, poor, unhappy
Pulcher, pulchra, pulchrum: pretty, handsome, beautiful
Rmnus, Rmna, Rmnum: Roman
VERBS
1st Conjugation
Ambul, ambulre: walk
Navig, navigre: sail
2nd Conjugation
Dbeo, dbre: to owe, ought (to) + infinitive
Dle, dlre: destroy
3rd Conjugation
Curr, currere: run
Duc, ducere: lead
Mitt, mittere: send
4th Conjugation
Sci, scre: know
Nesci, nescre: not know
PREPOSITIONS
Ad (+ accusative case): to, toward
Circum (+ accusative case): around
Contr (+ accusative case): against

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In (+ accusative case): into


Inter (+ accusative case) between, among
Per (+ accusative case): through
Post (+ accusative case): after
Trns (+ accusative case): across

EXERCISES A-E
A. Grammar Questions
1.
2.
3.
4.

How do you find the present stem of a Latin verb?


What is unusual about the present tense forms of the third conjugation?
In what three respects does a Latin adjective agree with the noun it modifies?
For Latin 1st and 2nd declension adjectives that end in er (in the masc. nom. sing.), how
do you tell if the e- stays or drops through the rest of the paradigm?

B . Conjugate the following verbs in all six forms of the present indicative active:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Mitt, mittere
Dbeo, dbre
Ambul, ambulre
Sci, scre

C . Translate the following sentences into English.


1. Dx Rmnrum misers amat.
2. Ad nsuls pulchrs navigre potest, sed iter est contr lgs.
3. Lauds sorrs rgis; frtrs rgnae laud.
4. Montis flium malum: Nn dbs amcs dcis bon dlre!
5. Flis ad agrs patris dcimus; circum locum ambulre possunt.
6. Serv equs pulchrs trns fluvium mittunt.
7. Bene scs librum bonrum lgum.
8. Quand ventis ad forum Rmnum?
9. In fluvium equ rgnae currunt.
10. Inter frtrs et sorres bellum malum est.
D. Recite the Latin Sentences above to make a sound file for submission
E. Translate into Latin:
1. You (pl.) are running to the forum.
2. We ought to walk to the fields.
3. I ought to know the name of the mother.

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4. You (sing.) are sending servants to a bad place.


5. The wretched women cannot find a homeland.
6. They see the pretty sister of the handsome son.
7. The good sailor sends water to the island of the evil brothers.
8. The queen leads her mother into the forum.
9. The journey to the islands of the good terrifies the leaders.
10. The gods ought to destroy the evil ones after the war.