In English, the basic grammar of a sentence is based on word order. If I say "Harry saw Sally" you know that Harry is the one who is doing and Sally perhaps didn't see anything. This difference in English is called Subject and Object. However, if I wanted to say that "Sally saw Harry" then I simply reverse the order of the words.
In Latin, Word Order does not affect the grammar of a sentence the way it does in English. Instead each word has a sound or set of sounds at the end of the word that informs us of the grammar of the word. We employ a little of this in English. We say "he" if the man is going to be the subject of the sentence but we say "him" if he is the object of the sentence. In English only pronouns do this and only in three cases. In Latin, almost every word does this and in as many as seven cases, but usually only five.
Even though Latin lacks grammar from word order and can put the words in almost any order at will, there are nonetheless some very common patterns that emerge. These patterns don't have to be followed exactly for the meaning to still come across but it helps as the listener will expect to hear the words in this normal order unless one of the words in the sentence needs to be stressed more than the rest.
In this book we will attempt to explore some of the most common sentence patterns, but outside of these rules, you should know that the logical sequence of words flows as follows. Do not worry if you do not understand all of what is initially written, you should come back to this at at later time and look it over again.
First is the Subject, but this need be expressed if it is understood. Nominative
Second is the Indirect Object if there is one. Dative
Third is the Direct object if there is one. Accusative
Fourth is any adverbs or adverbial phrases. These will include prepositions, ablatives and any adverbs.
Last is the verb. The verb functions as a kind of spoken period. When people hear the verb, they assume that the sentence is coming to an end. Now the verb does not absolutely have to go at the end of the sentence, but it is the normal way.
Besides these, there are also adjectives, and the semi-adjective case of the noun known as the Genitive, which will usually be next to the word they modify, and in some cases will stand in for the word they modify, leaving the substantive unexpressed. Since they can modify any noun, they can go anywhere in the sentence to be next to the word they modify.
Latin is not English
This seems odd to people to say as it seems like common sense but a lot of people get into a trap of understanding only a translation from the Latin instead of the Latin itself. Latin is not English written in a funny code. Latin words do not always mean what the English counterpart means. Latin sentences are not arranged as English sentences are and the normal thought pattern of a Latin speaker is different.
Latin is Logical
Compared to English, Latin is actually a very logical language. Its patterns of word derivation and sound change make Latin a pleasure once you know its secrets, and its grammatical richness, though occasionally leading to ambiguity, makes it subtle, powerful and expressive.
You have the rest of your life to learn Latin. Sure, some of you may have a test next week, or a deadline to be able to pronounce the Latin songs sung in the Church choir, but after that, will you give up?
When you finish High School and College, what then? Will you be like most and just forget your Latin? I say no. That is the dark path. If you do that, then all your work has been in vain. Sure you may benefit from understanding your English a little better, or know how to think critically but that is not the goal of Language. The goal of language is communication. You are here to learn to communicate in this language, if not with another human being then at least with God. Sure, God understand English, but he also understands Latin so if no one else will listen to you speak this beautiful language, then turn your words to the one who is always ready to listen and speak your Latin likes there's no tomorrow, because remember, one day that will be true.
Latin can be a drudgery if you make it that but why would you want to? She can also be a fun and wonderful lady that you can take with you in your mind. You must feel the Latin flowing through you. Even when saying things that in English would sound terrible, just let it flow and hear how Latin will make it just so beautiful.
In English we don't like to repeat what we say. So when the Catholic Liturgy comes to that point when it is said "Through my fault, through my fault, through my great fault" it sounds odd. Not only are we breaking a rule of English semantics, not to repeat, but also we are talking about how bad we are and no one likes to do that. But in Latin, she helps us to feel our remorse before God. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Language learning is over learning. In order to communicate effectively in a language, you need to know three times as much as you will need. Some even say that you will only ever use ten percent of the language that you know. How many times have you learned a new English word and understood it for just that one time it was encountered, only for it to be forgotten and never come into your life again? If you are well read, this should happen almost everyday. Yet, learning those words we will never use helps us to be better communicators in English.
Also, language has a sink in factor to it. You can not just memorize some grammar rules and some vocabulary and expect to be able to use a language. You have to practice and give it some time. It has to sink in and you can not control how fast your brain will let that happen.
However, you can encourage by reviewing constantly. You should be going over the basics, over and over again, from the Alphabet to the Ablative.
Don't just learn a poem or a prayer, memorize it and know what every word means and why.
Speak Latin everyday. Learn a new word everyday. Read some Latin everyday and pray in Latin everyday. For how long? For the rest of your life. People who learn English as a second language never quite get to the point where they don't have to pick up a dictionary and look a word up so why should we be any different taking Latin on as a second language.
Get a good dictionary. Use it until it is used up and then get another one. No joke. If you don't know a word, look it up. In this book I will not be providing so much as a vocabulary list as a word list for you to look up in your dictionary.
Many teachers teach that Latin does not have articles the way English does. This is wrong. Latin does have articles, we just don't use them. Or rather, they went out of normal use but were then recycled and are now used differently. The word that used to mean "the" now is used as a pronoun and rarely will be used in Article Substantive combination unless in certain set idioms like "eo tempore" "in the time". The words for "this" and "that" in Latin also have a tendency to be used almost like an article but this is resisted. For the most part, you should not worry about articles in Latin. In English they are required; in Latin they are optional, and in fact usually avoided if at all possible.