Welcome to those who would like to acquire a good grasp of Latin. To encourage you: if you do what I am inviting you to do in what follows, you will already know more Latin than almost anyone today who has studied Latin for several years at school and even passed public examinations. I shall explain in future articles how this extraordinary situation has come about.
Here are the first two facts you need to know.
1. Nouns (‘a noun is the name of a person, place or thing’ – Gwynne’s Latin) and verbs (‘a verb is a doing or being word’– ibid) are words with variable endings. These endings indicate how the words are being used in any particular sentence. In Latin a noun normally has twelve endings, some of them overlapping, and a verb can have about two hundred different endings, by contrast with a typical English verb which has four (as in love, loves, loved and loving).
2. Because what a word is doing in its sentence tends to be easily identifiable by its ending, word order is less important in Latin than in English; but an important general rule is that a verb goes at the end of its sentence, rather than in the middle as in English.
Nouns are divided into five groups called declensions, each declension having similar endings. Similarly, verbs are divided into four groups called conjugations.
Your first task is to learn by heart the first declension noun mensa (= a table) and the present tense of the first conjugation verb amo (= I love). What you learn must include the meanings that the different endings convey. You have now completed that task? Here is the vocabulary you need for your very first test:
Girl = puella. Queen = regina. Woman =femina. Daughter = filia. I love = amo.
The test: Translate the following
- We love the girls.
- The girls love the Queen.
- The woman loves the daughter of the Queen.
- Reginam amas.
- Puellam regina amat.
- Reginae filias amatis.