Linguophiles Anonymous


Lectio III:  First Conjugation Verb Forms


  • Unlike English, Latin does not require use of pronouns because the inflected verb endings tell you the subject; this may seem strange, but the same is true of many modern languages as well.
  • Can you Identify these First Conjugation forms?
    • cogito – I think
    • cantas
    • iteramus
    • donatis
    • obligant
    • rogat
    • numerare
    • spectatis
    • dono
    • cantamus
    • rogas
    • numerat
    • iterare
    • cogitamus


Lectio II:  First Conjugation Verbs

Now that we generally understand inflection, let’s take a GIANT step forward and start looking at verbs.

Verbs are categorized into “Conjugations,” and verbs from each Conjugation have slightly different patterns.

First Conjugation verbs:

  • -a/-ate for their command forms:  specta, cogita, numera, obliga, canta, roga, itera, dona.
  • How to Conjugate:
    • Start with the “infinitive” form (e.g. “spectare” – to watch)
    • Cut off the infinitive ending -re to get the verb stem (e.g. specta-)
    • Add the personal endings:
      • -o means “I”
      • -s means “you (singular)”
      • -t means “he, she, or it”
      • -mus means “we”
      • -tis means “you (plural)”
      • -nt means “they”
    • [for First Conjugation verbs ONLY:  drop the -a stem vowel; it’s specto, not *spectao]
    • This is what the final product should look like:
      • specto (I watch)                           spectamus (we watch)
      • spectas (you (s) watch)               spectatis (you (p) watch)
      • spectat (he/she/it watches)       spectant (they watch)
  • Is it important to learn the forms in order?  Yes, because most modern languages not only follow the pattern Latin grammarians created, but also their terminology (i.e. first person singular, infinitive, conjugation, etc.)
  • Sententia mea (in my opinion), the best way to learn them well is to conjugate aloud or write them.


Lectio I:  Inflection

You know that mantra I always refer to during class, “IN LATIN endings change, but the bases remain the same”?
That’s because Latin (like Greek, Sanskrit, German, Russian, and Old English) inflects more of its forms than English does.  In other words, we use only a handful of forms relative to highly inflected languages.

E.g. let’s look at the forms of the word “girl” in English for each possible function.  (singular/plural)

  • “Hey girl!/girls!  Long time no see!”  (direct address forms)
  • The girl/girls jumped out of the airplane.  (subject forms)
  • I could barely see the girl’s/girls’ book from where I was sitting.  (possessive forms)
  • The gods gave the girl/girls many natural talents.  (indirect object forms)
  • Margo scolded the girl/girls for being sassy.  (direct object forms)
  • I could not go to the dance on Friday because of the girl/girls.

Shall we look at the same noun in Latin?  (n.b. the goal here is to understand inflection; DO NOT memorize!)

  • Subject (nominative) forms:  puella/puellae (nominative inflectional endings:  a/ae)
  • Possessive (genitive) forms:  puellae/puellarum (genitive inflectional endings:  ae/arum)
  • Indirect Object (dative) forms:  puellae/puellis (genitive inflectional endings:  ae/is)
  • Direct Object (accusative) forms:  puellam/puellas (genitive inflectional endings:  am/as)
  • Adverbial (ablative) forms:  puella/puellis (nominative inflectional endings:  a/is)

There’s little variation, non e vero?

In other words, saying “puellam” (accusative singular) when you mean “puellae” (genitive singular) is about the same level of wrong as using “him” when you mean “his.”  Although people would be able to figure out your meaning, your language errors would make you sound like a child, or worse, a foreigner.  (Romans were not too fond of foreigners:  they conquered and enslaved them, as you know).