Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs

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Grammatical Introduction to Verbs[edit]

This introductory section may be a bit overwhelming, but is an overall look at verbs. The majority of this section will be covered in later chapters. Nevertheless, looking over this chapter may help you to familiarize yourself with verbs.

Verbs are parts of speech which denote action. There are two main forms of verbs in Latin:

• Principal Verbs (the main verb which is found in every sentence. e.g.,: vir ambulat = the man is walking)

• Adjectival Verbs (also known as participles, gerunds and gerundives which describe the state of the described noun. e.g.,: vir ambulans = the walking man. The verb behaves as an adjective)

Every sentence must have a verb. In a sense, the principal verb is the sentence and all the nouns, adverbs and participles are only describing the scenario of the verb. Thus in Latin this constitutes a sentence:


If you want to explain 'who' is or exists, you add a nominative substantive:

Cornēlia est.

We now know Cornelia 'is'. But what is she? So we add an adjective.

Cornēlia est bona.

Now we can see that Cornelia is good, but to elaborate further we can add an adverb:

Cornēlia vix est bona.

Now we know that Cornelia is 'hardly' (vix: hardly, scarcely, barely) good.

Thus, in English, the shortest Latin sentence is:

You are.

in Latin:



These two examples will demonstrate the difference between an adjectival verb and a principal verb.

The resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples.
'resurrected' is a perfect participle (Adjectival) describing Jesus, while 'appeared' is the principal verb in the sentence.
The shocked disciples see Jesus.
'shocked' is a perfect participle (Adjectival) describing the disciples, while 'see' is the principal verb in the sentence.


EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. What is the difference between a principal and adjectival verb?
  2. What constitutes a sentence?
  3. Write a sentence in English, and Latin.
  4. Conjugate the verb 'to be' in the present tense in English and Latin (I am, You are, He is etc.)
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. Principal verbs are main verb which is found in every sentence. Adjectival Verbs are participles, gerunds and gerundives which describe the state of the described noun.
  2. a verb
  3. egō sum, I am
  4. sum, es, est, sumus, estis, sunt

Personal Endings[edit]

Verbs in Latin are inflected to reflect the person who performs the action. English does the same to some extent in the verb to be:

Latin English
sum I am
es You are
est (He/she/it) is
sumus We are
estis You (all) are
sunt They are

Latin, however, inflects all verbs, and is much more extensive than English, allowing writers and speakers of Latin to often drop the personal pronoun (as mentioned last lesson), as the performer of the action is understood by the formation of the verb. The Personal pronoun is only usually added for emphasis. In a way, the ending on Latin verbs are a type of pronoun.


EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. What do the personal pronouns indicate?
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. Personal pronouns (ego, tu, nos, vos, etc.) add emphasis. They are usually omitted (left out) because they are understood.
    Example: [ego] amō patrem meum et matrem meam.
    I love my mother and my father. (you don't have to write ego, it is understood)


There are several moods. Each has its own uses to convey certain ideas. The most commons moods are:

• Indicative • Subjunctive or Conjunctive • Imperative

The two moods we will first learn are the imperative (commands and orders) and the indicative (declarative statements and factual questions).


EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. List the most common moods.
  2. What two moods are we going to learn about in this lesson, and what do they let us construct?
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. Indicative, subjunctive (or conjunctive) and imperative.
  2. The moods we are going to learn about first are:
    Imperative: Which we use when we make orders.
    Go away. Fetch me the keys. Do not order me around!
    Indicative: Statements which are declarative, and questions concerning facts.
    John plays football.


There are two constructions verbs can have regarding voice.

Verbs can have either an active or passive voice.

E.g. 'I smash the car.' 'smash' is an active verb construct.

The passive is used when the nominative is affected by the verb.

E.g. 'The car is smashed by me.' 'is smashed' is a passive construct.


EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate
  1. What is 'voice'?
  2. What is active voice?
  3. What is passive voice?
  4. Construct a sentence in English using each of these voices.
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate
  1. Voice is how a verb is constructed.
  2. When the subject affects the verb
  3. When the nominative is affected by the verb
  4. Ex.- I carried, I am being carried.


Tense in Latin comprises two parts: TIME and ASPECT. Time reflects when the action is occurring or did occur: past, present, or future. Aspect refers to the nature of the action: simple, completed, or repeated. The "completed" aspect is generally termed "perfective" and repeated aspect "imperfective."

Theoretically, a verb could have nine tenses (combinations of time and aspect). However, Latin only has six, since some possible combinations are expressed by the same verb forms. Latin tenses do not correspond exactly to English ones.

Below is a rough guide to tense in Latin.

Present Future Past
Simple Present Tense
"I walk"
Future Tense
"I will walk"
Perfect Tense
"I walked"
Imperfective Present Tense
"I am walking"
Future Tense
"I will be walking"
Imperfect Tense
"I was walking"
Perfective Perfect Tense
"I have walked"
Future Perfect Tense
"I will have walked"
Pluperfect Tense
"I had walked"

As is evident, some Latin tenses do "double duty." The Latin Present and Future Tenses can either express simple or progressive aspect. Particularly difficult to grasp is the Latin Perfect tense, which can either express an action completed from the point of view of the present ("I have just now finished walking"), or a simple action in past time (its "aorist" sense, from the old Indo European aorist tense, which Latin lost but is still present in Greek).


EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate
  1. Copy out the above table.
  2. Study the table.
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate

Vide (see) the table above.


The infinitive (impersonal) is the form of the verb which simply means 'to (verb)' e.g. 'to do', or 'to be', or 'to love', or 'to hate' etc. All forms which are not in the infinitive are in the finite (personalised) form.

The infinitive has a -re at the end of the stem of the verb. The infinitive of 'to be' is an exception and is 'esse'.

dēbeō currere nunc = I ought to run now.

esse, aut nōn esse = To be, or not to be?


Answer these two questions about the infinitive and finite.

EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. What is the infinitive? Give an example.
  2. What is the finite? Give an example.
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. The infinitive is the verb-form that simply mean "to (verb)".
    To sing, to dance, to drink, to love.
  2. Every verb which is not in the infinitive, is in the finite.
    He smells, we plot, she had drunk, he pours.


Verbs which use the passive formation in an active sense are known as deponent. Verbs which don't have a form for every tense and mood are known as defective. You will meet a few words like this soon.


EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. What is a deponent verb?
  2. What is an irregular verb?
  3. What is a defective verb?
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. A verb which uses the passive voice in an active sense.
  2. A verb that does not follow the normal rules of conjugation.
  3. A verb missing forms for some tenses or moods.

Personal Pronouns[edit]

In case you do ever use a personal pronoun to emphasise the SUBJECT of the verb, you must remember that the personal pronoun must be in the nominative case and the number and person of the verb must match that of the subject. (Review Lesson 7 if unfamiliar with the terms person and subject).


EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate
  1. What case should the subject (performer) of the verb be in?
  2. What number should the principal verb be?
  3. What person and number is 'ego'?
  4. What person and number is 'I'?
  5. What person and number is 'we'?
  6. What person and number is 'thou'?
  7. What person and number is 'ye'?
  8. What person and number is 'vōs'?
  9. What person and number is 'nōs'?
  10. What person and number is 'tū'?
  11. What person and number is 'boy'?
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate
  1. Nominative case
  2. First person, singular.
  3. First person, singular.
  4. First person, singular.
  5. First person, plural.
  6. Second person, singular.
  7. Second person, plural.
  8. Second person, plural.
  9. First person, plural.
  10. Second person, singular.
  11. Third person, singular.

Principal Parts[edit]

When one looks up a verb in the dictionary, the principal parts are given. From these principal parts you can find the correct form of the verb for every circumstance.

Present Indicative Active 1st Person Present Infinitive Perfect Indicative Active 1st Person Supine
amō amāre amāvi amātum
Determines whether the vowel is dropped in the 1st person singular present. Gives the imperfect stem and infinitive Gives the perfect stem Allows you to form adjectival forms of the verb (Participles)


Answer this question about principal parts.

EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. What do the principal parts allow you to do?
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Answer
  1. The principal parts are the verb-forms you find when you look in the dictionary. E.g. if you look for the verb amō (love) in a dictionary you would find:
    amō • amāre • amāvi • amātum
These four forms will help you form every Latin verb you want.

Using the Dictionary[edit]

All nouns are given in the nominative, as well as the declension and gender of the noun. Verbs are alphabetized using the 1st person singular (the first principal part) and the infinitive is given. Supplementary principal parts are given if the various other principal parts do not follow the standard pattern of formation from the infinitive and 1st person singular.

Verbs: Conjugation in the Present Imperfect[edit]

The present imperfect is the simplest tense. To form the present imperfect all that is required is to place the personal endings at the end of the verb stem.

Thus, if you have the stem 'ama' (love), to make it 'I love' you place an ō at the end.

I love  =  amō (amaō*)
we love =  amāmus
  • Latin drops the 'a' in amaō forming amō.

Latin could add personal pronouns, however only for added emphasis and in conjunction with the corresponding person ending on the verb. Otherwise the sentence will not make sense. For example:

ego amō = I (not you) love

nōs amāmus = We (not you) love

but that would be for special emphasis: It's I, not you, who loves.

Here are the forms of the verb 'porta', carry, in the present imperfect tense:

portō     I carry                     first person singular
portās    thou carriest, you carry    second person singular
portat    he, she, it carries         third person singular 
portāmus  we carry                    first person plural
portātis  you (all) carry             second person plural
portant   they carry                  third person plural

'porto' can also be translated 'I am carrying' (present imperfect), 'I do carry' (present emphatic). 'I carry' is known as the 'present simple' tense in English.. Again the 'a' gets dropped when the 'ō' is placed on porta. Porta, and ama are known as 1st conjugation verbs; in other words, verbs which have a stem ending in 'a'.

There are three other conjugations, and below are some examples of verbs from each of the four conjugations (present imperfect tense):

porta, carry (1st. Conj) mone, warn (2nd Conj) rege, rule (3rd Conj.) audī, hear (4th Conj)
portō, I carry moneō, I warn regō, I rule audiō, I hear
portās, thou carriest monēs, thou warnest regis, thou rulest audis, thou hearest
portat, he/she/it carries monet, he/she/it warns regit, he/she/it rules audit, he/she/it hears
portāmus, we carry monēmus, we warn regimus, we rule audimus, we hear
portātis, ye carry monētis, ye warn regitis, ye rule auditis, ye hear
portant, they carry monent, they warn regunt, they rule audiunt, they hear

Each verb uses the same final letter or letters to indicate the 'subject' - I, thou, he/she/it, we, you, they.

Before these final letters, the first conjugation has an 'a' (although when an 'o' is placed, the 'a' is often dropped), the second an 'e', and the third and fourth usually an 'i'. The third person plural forms in the third and fourth conjugations have a 'u'. These verb forms really should be learned by heart.

The most common verb of all is irregular (see next lesson). Here is a table of the verb 'to be' in Latin, English, and four Romantic languages (French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese)

esto: be
Latin English French Spanish Italian Portuguese
sum I am je suis yo soy sono eu sou
es thou art tu es tú eres sei tu és
est he/she/it is il/elle est él/ella es è ele/ela é
sumus we are nous sommes nosotros/-as somos siamo nós somos
estis ye are vous êtes vosotros/-as sois siete vós sois
sunt they are ils/elles sont ellos/-as son sono eles/elas são

The personal endings are the same as in the four regular conjugations.


Conjugate (find how a verb is in different forms) the verb 'amõ'.
EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate

What form of the verb 'amõ' (hint: amõ is conjugated like portõ in the table above) would the following words use to become the suffix:

  1. ego (I)
  2. tū (thou)
  3. puer (the boy)
  4. nōs (we)
  5. vōs (ye)
  6. puellae (the girls)
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate
  1. [ego] amõ (I love)
  2. [tu] amās (thou lovest pl., you love pl.)
  3. puer amat (the boy loves)
  4. [nos] amāmus (we love)
  5. [vos] amātis (ye love pl., you love pl.)
  6. puellae amant (the girls love)

Imperative Mood[edit]

The imperative mood conveys an order (e.g. Go!, Run!, Away Now!). The imperative mood is formed by simply using the stem of the verb. If the order is to a large group of people, or you are trying to show respect, you must use the -te suffix.

amō eum = I love him.

amā eum = Love him!.

amāte eum = Love (respectful, or plural) him!

currō casam = I run home.

curre casam = Run home!

currite casam = Run (respectful, or plural) home!

regō prudente = I rule wisely.

rege prudente = Rule wisely!

regite prudente = Rule (respectful order) wisely!


  • Translate Latin verbs:
EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate

Translate the following verbs:

  1. portāmus • regunt • monēs • estis • audītis • monent • regō • portās • sunt
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate
  1. we carry • they rule • thou warnest • ye are •ye hear • they warn • I rule • you carry • they are
  • Translate sentences into Latin:
EXERCISE • Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate

Translate Into Latin:

  1. I carry my book.
  2. You do not kill.
  3. They hear music.
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 3-Present Verbs • Translate
  1. meum lībrum portō.
  2. interficis nōn.
  3. mūsicam audiunt.