Latin/Introduction to Verbs (L3)

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Introduction to Verbs[edit]

Verbs in Latin, like verbs in English, are the "action words". "Go", "throw", "kick", "fly", "think", and "be" are all examples of verbs.

Verbs in Latin[edit]

Just like nouns, we can tell a lot about a Latin verb by looking at its ending. This is because verbs conjugate (remember, nouns decline). There are four groupings of verbs, called "conjugations". Like the declensions for nouns, each verb conjugation contains a group of verbs with similar endings.

We saw that nouns have three incidents. Verbs, however, have five. As a result, there is a vast number of forms that each verb can take. We'll start slow, of course. First, before we get into talking about verbs themselves, we should talk about what those five incidents are.


Verbs have three different moods - the indicative, the imperative, and the subjunctive. The indicative, from the word "indicate", is the mood that shows action happening. When Bob kicks a ball, "kicks" is a verb in the indicative because it tells us that something is actually happening. The imperative is a command. If I say to Bob, "Kick the ball", "kick" is in the imperative - I'm telling Bob to kick the ball, the ball isn't actually being kicked yet. Finally, Latin verbs have a subjunctive mood. This usually represents hypothetical action. "Bob might kick the ball" uses "kick" in the subjunctive mood.

We'll learn more about the indicative mood later in this lesson.


Just as in English, there are two voices that verbs can take. The active voice is used when the subject of a sentence (the nominative case noun[1]) is doing the action. Such as "Bob kicked the ball" - Bob is the subject and he is doing the kicking. But when we say "The ball was kicked by Bob", the ball is the subject of the sentence. The ball isn't doing anything though! In this case, the verb "was kicked" is passive - the subject has something done to it. Note that in English we need to use the auxiliary (helping) verb "was" along with our main verb "kick" to show the passive voice. In Latin, a form of "kick" is used that shows passive voice without needing an auxiliary.

We'll start off by focusing on the active voice.


We're familiar with tense in English - we can tell the difference between "Bob kicks the ball", "Bob kicked the ball", and "Bob will kick the ball". Those are just a few of the tenses that we use in English - the present, the past, and the future. Latin has a total of six tenses. We'll go into each of the tenses later (starting with the present in this lesson), but for now just know that there are six.


"I kick the ball". "You kick the ball". "Bob kicks the ball". What's the difference in these three sentences? The person of the verb. We all remember from our English classes the different points-of-view that can be used in writing. First person is the use of words that refer to the person speaking (I, me, we, us). Second person refers to the person being spoken to (you). Third person talks about someone else entirely (Julia, Bob, the girl, the poet). Note in the three sentences above the first and second person in English use "kick" while third person uses "kicks" - this is a vestige of the Latin conjugation system. In Latin, each of those three sentences would use a different form of "kick". The person of a verb is determined by the subject of a sentence.


Just like nouns, verbs have number. They can be singular or plural. The number of the verb is determined by the number of the subject of the sentence - if you have a singular subject, you need to use a singular verb. Multiple subjects require a plural verb. In English, we really only see this in the third person ("Bob kicks the ball" vs. "Bob and Julia kick the ball"). However, Latin has two different forms for each person.

First Conjugation[edit]

The first conjugation is the most regular of the four groupings of verbs. Both of the verbs we used in our last lesson belong to the first conjugation. Can you tell from the sentences what person and number those verbs were? How about tense, voice, and mood?

If you decided that they were third-person singular, you're right. Bonus points for present active indicative. Let's stay with the present active indicative for right now, and take a look at the different endings for person and number.

Present Active Indicative[edit]

Present active indicatives are forms of verbs that show a subject doing an action now. They can be translated into English either as simple presents (something happens) or as progressive presents (something is happening).

Person Number Latin Example English Equivalent
First Singular do I give, am giving
Second Singular das you give, are giving
Third Singular dat he/she/it gives, is giving
First Plural damus we give, are giving
Second Plural datis y'all give, are giving
Third Plural dant they give, are giving

Note that "you" in English can be singular or plural, so we will distinguish it here as follows: "you" - singular, "y'all" - plural.

The dat should look familiar because we used it in the last lesson. We also used amat. From looking at the chart above, can you guess what the other forms of amat are?

Person Number Latin Example English Equivalent
First Singular amo I love, am loving
Second Singular amas you love, are loving
Third Singular amat he/she/it loves, is loving
First Plural amamus we love, are loving
Second Plural amatis y'all love, are loving
Third Plural amant they love, are loving

If that's what you came up with, you did well.

Dictionary Entries[edit]

The dictionary entry for a Latin verb has four "principle parts". Once we get into the later lessons, you will need all four parts to be able to fully conjugate (i.e., list all the forms of) a verb. For now, only the first two are important. They are the first-person singular present active indicative and the present active infinitive. We'll talk more about infinitives, and why they don't have person or number, later. The dictionary entries for the two verbs we've used so far are:

do, dare, --, -- To give.
amo, amare, --, -- To love.

The "--"s will be filled in later when we learn the rest of the principle parts.


Notice anything similar about the two entries? The second part (the infinitive) of each ends in -are. Any time that you see that ending for the infinitive, you will know that the verb is first conjugation. To find the stem of the verb, you simply slash off the -re from the infinitive. This holds true for all four conjugations. What are the stems of our two verbs?

dare --> da-
amare --> ama-

Personal Endings[edit]

What can we do with this stems? Well, to get each of the person/number combinations we simply add a "personal ending" to the verb's stem. The endings are:

Person Number Personal Ending
First Singular -o
Second Singular -s
Third Singular -t
First Plural -mus
Second Plural -tis
Third Plural -nt

One issue you might notice is in the first-person singular. Take a look at the stem of amare. It is ama-. If we were to add the first-person singular ending to that, we would get ama- + -o = amao. But we know from our dictionary entry that the first-person singular is amo. What's up? In Latin, sometimes certain vowels get "consumed" by other vowels that are stronger. This is what has happened in this case: the -o is a strong enough sound that it simply obliterates the "a" in the stem. Because all first conjugation verbs have stems that end in "a" (remember that for a verb to be first conjugation, the infinitive must end in -are and so cutting the -re will always leave -a-), every first conjugation verb will exhibit this change.

Missing Subjects[edit]

Often in Latin, you will see sentences that have no noun in the nominative case. Don't panic; there is still a subject for that sentence. Let's take a look at an example. The sentence "Sapientiam amo" has an accusative (sapientiam) and a verb (amo), but no nominative. You can find the subject by looking at the verb - amo is the first-person singular. There is really only one option for who subject is. It has to be "I" because "I" is the only subject that will use a first-person singular verb ("we" uses a first-person plural"). Therefore, the sentence translates to "I love wisdom". You can use the same logic easily with second-person verbs as well. Third-person is a bit trickier because it has more options, but the singular is "he", "she", or "it" and the plural is "they".


Let's learn a new verb now. How about this one:

laudo, laudare, --, -- To praise.

What is the stem? What is the third-person singular? The second-person plural?

Person Number Stem + Ending Form English
First Singular lauda-o laudo I praise, am praising
Second Singular lauda-s laudas you praise, are praising
Third Singular lauda-t laudat he/she/it praises, is praising
First Plural lauda-mus laudamus we praise, are praising
Second Plural lauda-tis laudatis y'all praise, are praising
Third Plural lauda-nt laudant they praise, are praising


In addition to the three verbs you learned earlier in this lesson, add this one to your memory:

culpo, culpare, --, -- To blame

Let's add another couple of nouns as well. How about the proper nouns "Rome" and "Italy"?

Roma, -ae, f. Rome
Italia, -ae, f. Italy


  1. Romam amo.
  2. Puellae poetas culpant.
  3. Julia sapientiam dat.
  4. Italiam amas.
  5. Poetam amatis.
  6. Juliam laudamus.



You now know what a verb is, what conjugation means, and how to conjugate the present active indicative forms of first conjugation verbs. Your noun vocab is expanding, and you've learned your first four verbs. You can translate sentences with subjects, direct objects, and present tense verbs. You can even fill in gaps when the subject of a sentence is missing by looking at the verb.

In the next lesson, we'll learn about the dative case and indirect objects. We'll finally discover to whom Julia is giving those tables!

Lesson 2 - First Declension | Latin | Lesson 4 - Dative Case and Indirect Object

L3 Word List